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King’s Medal for saving millions of lives

- Doctor Tore Godal cured politicians of their paralysis. No single Norwegian has ever saved as many lives, Minister Ulstein said in honor of the man who today received the King’s Medal of Merit for his work for global health.

Ladies and gentlemen, 
Dear friends, 
Dear Tore Godal, 
The crucial connection between health and development should be self-evident. 
And yet – for many decades – it was not. 
It took a real medical doctor to perform the reality-check we all needed.  
Together with others who are present here today – Tore Godal drew a simple analysis, and cured politicians and bureaucrats of their paralysis.    
Tore proved that – if you want real progress – you have to identify real problems – attack them head on – while picking the ultimate team of real players. 
Tore showed us that strong individuals can be more effective than systems – provided they know the system – and how to use it.  
While others were discussing whether to use public or private funds – which we all do, time to time – Tore went ahead, combined them – and multiplied them.   
He established unique public-private partnerships (PPP) – and brought on board the most influential private partners of them all.   
Health has been part of development policies since the early beginnings. 
But it is possible to detect a turning point where its real potential as a tool against poverty was not only perceived – but also put into practice:  
The global development aid for health trebled during his tenure at the GAVI Vaccine Alliance. 
 
***
 
We have to base our acts on facts – especially in times like these. 
And Tore has shown us how. 
But there is one fact I am willing to accept – without any deeper and thorough investigation: 
No single Norwegian citizen has ever saved as many lives as Tore Godal.
Imagine how many school exams have been passed – how many jobs created – how many new ideas conceived – by the people who are alive today thanks to him.    
 
***
 
There is no way we can reach our supreme goal – eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 – if we fail to apply the lessons of Tore Godal and his fellow pioneers.     
We can only succeed if we sharpen the tools that have proven to work the best: 
The tools that sow the seeds of growth – and kill the weeds that kill growth. 
Chief among the seeds of growth are education, job creation, access to clean energy, human rights, good governance – and good health. 
Chief among the weeds that block development are climate change, corruption, human rights abuses and diseases. 
We must apply the tools that lead to the most enduring kind of development – the development that countries create themselves. 
However, education and job-creation will be of little use if you fall seriously ill. 
There will be one bread-winner less in the house, and one co-fighter less in our collective quest to win the 2030 race.  
That is why goal number 3 – good health – is the docking station of all the other sustainable goals.  
We stand firm on previous commitments and achievements – and on the foundation created through decades of investment and innovation.    
We have had some tremendous successes – not least thanks to many who are here today.   
Millions of people prosper and live longer. 
Your achievements are only outmatched by the challenges still ahead – and, hopefully – by the achievements of the future.  
Far too many are still left behind. More than 6 million children die every year from preventable diseases. 
That is why Norway will continue to stand by GAVI, UNITAID and the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). 
That is why we still need new and dynamic approaches.  
We need change-makers and idea-makers. 
 
***
 
Some weeks ago, I visited Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen. 
Without any request from the government, they have dispatched their surgeons and nurses around the world in order to make a difference.
When they came to Ethiopia in 2001 – a traumatic head injury from a car accident was considered a death sentence. 
There was no formal training of brain surgeons in this country of 100 million people. 
So Haukeland established this training.
Now – there are 38 skillful Ethiopian brain surgeons – who received their training at a total cost of less than 3 million dollars. 
 
***     
 
Also governments can take new steps – as they must. 
Yesterday, Norway became the first country in the world to launch a global strategy on combatting non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing countries.
The silent killers – tobacco, air pollution, alcohol, unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity – cause 70 percent of premature deaths. Yet the battle against these killers receive only 1 percent of global funding.  
Our work will be inspired by the formidable progress made by all of you on communicable diseases – and we will continue your work – while taking this necessary next step in our fight for global health.    
This is our global response to the global present.     
 
***
 
We can only reach our goals if we attend that other docking station of all other goals: 
Saving our climate.  
According to the World Health Organization, climate change will be the biggest threat to health this century. 
We must reach Paris. 
But the farmers and villagers of the poorest countries are affected already. 
That is why Norway has made climate preparedness and adaptation a central part of our development strategy.  
We have also just launched new incentives with guarantees for investments in renewable energy.
These will be suitable for small-scale solutions in villages that are as far away from the main electricity grids as they are from the grid of globalisation.    
This will lead to cleaner air, better health and more jobs. 
 
***
 
The outbreak of Ebola in 2014 was a reminder of how vulnerable, inter-connected and poorly prepared we are. 
At the same time – the reaction of the world also shows what is possible – once we wake up to the cruel facts – and act with the urgency of now.    
In less than a year – an effective vaccine came about. 
The minuscule money spent by the Norwegian government on developing the vaccine goes to show how much we can achieve for little – as long as an eco-system of experts on medicine stands ready to turn pocket money into gold. 
In order to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases – Norway took part in establishing the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI). 
It was not established in the spirit of Tore Godal. 
It was established on the initiative of Tore Godal.  
 
***
 
Now – Tore – I know that looking back is not your favorite sport. 
But I hope you will indulge us – because I am really looking forward to learn more from you and your fellow pioneers on how we can use the experiences of the past to get us through that last lap in the race towards 2030.    
Tore was effective because he looked beyond bureaucratic limitations. But he would never have done what he did without the networks of experts and organisations that have been established since 1945. 
He showed us how to be partners in development.   
Our collective effort to improve the health of the poor must be as organic as the human body itself. 
From doctors and midwives to donors and decision-makers. 
We must also resist all attempts to weaken the bodies of international cooperation – be it on health, peace, trade or otherwise. 
We must constantly look out for deficiencies in our combat for global health – while keeping well-operating muscles in top shape. 
We must never rest on our laurels – but stand on the shoulders of Tore Godal – as we act on the global present towards a global future.
  
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