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Historical archive

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg

Speech at the Kavli Prize Science Forum

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Office of the Prime Minister

Oslo, 3 September 2012

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Webcast of the speech at Kavli Prize Science Forum

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to welcome you to Norway and to the Kavli Prize week.

The Norwegian Government is proud of its cooperation with the Kavli Foundation and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

It is a great pleasure to congratulate this year’s Kavli Prize laureates. You are all distinguished scientists. And I am truly impressed by your achievements.

Long before the Kavli Prize was founded, Fred Kavli had gained recognition for a very successful business venture.

But instead of resting on his laurels, he has dedicated his energy and wealth to advancing science to benefit humanity, and to recognize outstanding achievements in astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

Kavli has said that he was “fascinated by the very biggest, the very smallest and the thing you need to understand both of them – the human brain.”

His focus on basic science reflects his long-term commitment and approach.

Time, hard work, and persistence are essential for achieving advances in basic science.

Great discoveries are dependent on researchers having the freedom, curiosity and the means to pursue challenges.

Nobody commissioned the X-ray machine, which is so essential in medicine today. 

It was Wilhelm Röntgen’s hard work and curiosity that led to the discovery in 1895.

Nobody commissioned penicillin.

It was Alexander Fleming’s creativity and hard work that led to the discovery in 1928.

Nobody commissioned the polio vaccine, which has virtually eradicated the disease.

It was John Enders’ and Jonas Salk’s persistence that led to the discoveries in 1948 and 1952.

There can be no doubt that basic science has brought immense benefits to humanity.  

But we must remember that there are years of hard work behind every medical breakthrough.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

The topic of this year’s Forum is very close to my heart.

My Government has made global health a key priority in its foreign and development policy.

With limited resources and available knowledge we can save millions of lives. 

Universal access to health services is a fundamental human right.

But it is also smart economics.

Investing in health ensures a healthier population, a more productive population, and in turn higher growth and wealth creation.

Three of the UN Millennium Development Goals deal specifically with health.

Norway is at the forefront of efforts to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality.

The efforts of the international community are paying off.

Despite population growth, the number of deaths of children under five has fallen by nearly 40 per cent – from 12 million in 1990 to 7.2 million in 2011.

But still, millions of women and children die from medical conditions that could easily have been prevented and treated.

For only a few cents – not even dollars – many lives could have been saved with medicines that stop dangerous bleeding and infections.

The situation is simply unacceptable.

Norway welcomes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s efforts to rectify this through his “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health”.

Under this strategy, I have had the honour to co-chair the UN Commission on Life-saving Commodities together with the President of Nigeria.

We will launch our report in New York on 26 September.

The Commission has identified a number of essential but overlooked medicines and life-saving commodities for women and children.

We will recommend 10 innovative actions to rapidly increase both access to and use of these commodities.

It is estimated that this alone will save more than 6 million lives by 2015.

Let me give you just one example. Research has shown that Zinc is an effective treatment for childhood diarrhoea, but this is not widely known.

We have estimated that over a million young lives can be saved by 2015 by scaling-up the use in high burden countries.

Vaccination is another simple way of improving the health of millions, and one of the most cost-effective ways of fighting child mortality.

Immunising a child against the most common diseases costs only 20 US dollars, or about the price of two McDonald’s Happy Meals in Oslo.

The Norwegian Government will continue to be a major contributor to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the GAVI Alliance.

The Alliance has delivered results – more children are being vaccinated, which means that more children are surviving and thriving.

More than 300 million children in low-income countries have been vaccinated with vaccines they previously had no access to.

In sub-Saharan Africa, deaths from measles have been reduced by over 90 per cent.

But there is no reason to slow down our efforts.

More than 1.7 million children still die every year from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.

We must support research that leads to new and better vaccines.

We must make sure these vaccines are produced.

And we must make them available to people who still do not have access to vaccination.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s revolution in the Life Sciences provides us with enormous opportunities. It provides the basis for developing new and ground-breaking medicines.

But at the same time we must ensure that this revolution does not create even greater disparities in access to health care. 

There is a stark contrast between the personalised medicine that is emerging in the developed world, and the continuing need for mass vaccinations to prevent common diseases in the developing world.

Only 10 per cent of global expenditure on health research is devoted to health problems that mainly affect the poorest 90 per cent of the world’s population.

Therefore, we also need to give priority to research that benefits all people around the globe.

Norway will continue to support such research.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s panel is well chosen to address these topics. I am convinced that by the end of this afternoon, the participants of this seminar will both have gained new insights and become aware of new challenges.

Thank you.   

 

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