Read more about: Norwegian Priorities
Global health is one of the main priorities of the Norwegian government. The white paper on Global health in foreign and development policy (2011) states three main priorities for engagement in global health:
1.Mobilising for women’s and children’s rights and health
2.Reducing the burden of disease with an emphasis on prevention
3.Promoting human security through health
The white paper defines The Millennium Development Goals as a framework for these priorities, particularly the goals on reduction of child mortality (4), improvement of maternal health (5), and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (6). The target of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger (1c), the goal of promoting gender equality and empower women (3) and the target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation (7c) are also important for engagement in global health. Further, the white paper puts forward that efforts on disease reduction should be focused on vaccination, communicable diseases, strengthening health systems, the health workforce, non-communicable diseases, food security, water, hygiene and sanitation. The last of these are also important for efforts to prevent climate change. The importance of integration of health objectives into foreign policy, pandemic preparedness, access to pharmaceuticals and the fight against sexual violence is also raised in the white paper. Norway considers universal access to health services as crucial for reducing social disparities, as well as prevention of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Consequently, the policy document promotes access to health services for these groups, and the establishment of services geared to their needs.
How do we engage in global health?
In 2014, the Norwegian government invested more than 415 million USD in global health. Out of this, 185 million USD was direct funding to the vaccine alliance GAVI. GAVI is the most important tool for achieving MDG 4 on reducing child mortality. By the end of 2015, GAVI will have vaccinated more than 500 million children. Nearly eight million deaths have been prevented as a result of these vaccinations.
The government also donated 77 million USD to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Global Fund has ensured access to life-saving AIDS medicines for more than six million people in poor countries, the diagnosis and treatment of nearly 12 million cases of tuberculosis, and the distribution of more than 400 million malaria nets.
Being at the world’s health capital, The Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva is a key part of the implementation team for the Norwegian health priorities. The mission participates actively in the governing of the global health organizations; World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund and UNITAID. The mission represents Norway in governing body meetings, multilateral negotiations as well as in formal and informal settings related to global health. The Foreign Policy and Global Health initiative, consisting of seven countries, is also an important venue for Norwegian engagement and collaboration. In 2013, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution proposed by the initiative, bringing up partnerships for global health. This year, the seven countries in the Foreign Policy and Global Health initiative are proposing a resolution for the UNGA about protection of health care workers.
Current issues the Norwegian Mission actively engages in
The Ebola outbreak in 2014 has made it clearer than ever, that rapid response and proper leadership is crucial to in order to avoid unnecessary deaths. WHO needs to reform in order to ensure that capacities are in place to both respond and coordinate a quick response. Norway believes that the WHO should take the lead in such efforts, in addition to facilitating country preparedness beforehand. A number of evaluations of the Ebola response are ongoing, and Norway will continue to be a strong advocate of reform, to ensure that WHO can meet the expectations of the future.
Health and the environment
This year in May, the resolution on “Health and the environment” was adopted by the World Health Assembly. The resolution, that was facilitated by Norway, gives the WHO a strong mandate to work on mitigating the effects of air pollution on health and considerably scale up its activities in the area. A roadmap for an enhanced global response to the issue will be submitted to the WHA in 2016, and Norway will maintain its full commitment to the issue.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) contribute to a large share of the global disease burden, and increasingly so in low- and middle income countries. Some of the major risk factors like tobacco and alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity, are highly preventable with the use of effective policy measures. Norway was the first Party to sign the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and is now planning to implement plain packaging nationally as a next step in tobacco control. As part of the Global Action Plan on NCDs, member states will start setting national targets to measure progress. Furthermore, many other NCD-related work streams like the Global Coordinating Mechanism on NCDs, remain prioritised by Norway.
Anti-microbial resistance (AMR)
AMR is now emerging as a significant threat to public health, where rapid, comprehensive and decisive action is needed. The Global Action Plan on AMR that was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May sets out important actions, but the task of actually implementing the recommendations still remain. The challenges of AMR demand collective solutions in order to secure continued access to antimicrobials, responsible use and innovation of new antimicrobials. Norway therefore supports exploring options for both a global stewardship framework, and new economic models that delink sales volume of antimicrobials from profits.