G8 agenda: Focus on human welfare
TheStar.com – Opinion – G8 agenda: Focus on human welfare
Published On Tue Jan 26 2010. Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
This week, many global leaders and members of the international business community will meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, Canada will set out its plans as president of the G8 and host of the G20 Toronto summit in June. We remain committed to working with our partners to keep our commitments – including fully implementing government stimulus measures and opposing trade protectionism.
The G20 has emerged as the world’s premier forum for fiscal and economic cooperation. Its members include developed and developing nations alike. Previously, this responsibility belonged to a club of developed nations, the G8. Going forward I believe the smaller, but still influential, G8 will focus on security concerns and human welfare. It is incumbent upon the leaders of the world’s most developed economies to assist those in the most vulnerable positions.
The plight of the people of Haiti concerns us all and the world’s response has been uplifting and encouraging. Within hours of the devastating earthquake demolishing the capital, governments around the world mobilized and coordinated a massive relief effort. Soon after, donations began pouring in as people opened their hearts and wallets to help. It serves as a reminder of the innate human kindness we hold toward one another.
Yet, it should not take a natural disaster to turn our attention to the less fortunate. The world’s poor have been hit hardest by the global economic downturn and in these difficult times we must address their pressing needs.
Indeed, all too frequently, tragedy strikes those who can least afford it. The lack of the most basic services can lead to dire consequences, especially for the world’s most vulnerable populations. Each year, it is estimated that 500,000 women lose their lives during pregnancy or childbirth. Further, an astonishing 9 million children die before their fifth birthday.
This is simply not acceptable. The United Nations had hoped to reduce the number of deaths related to pregnancy by 75 per cent by 2015 as part of its Millennium Development Goals. It now appears this target will go unfulfilled. What makes it worse is that the bulk of the deaths during pregnancy – experts claim as many as 80 per cent – are easily preventable. There is a pressing need for global action on maternal and child health.
As president of the G8 in 2010, Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions. Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health and Canada will be making this the top priority in June. Far too many lives and unexplored futures have already been lost for want of relatively simple health-care solutions.
The solutions are not intrinsically expensive. The cost of clean water, inoculations and better nutrition, as well as the training of health workers to care for women and deliver babies, is within the reach of any country in the G8. Much the same could be said of child mortality. The solutions are similar in nature – better nutrition, immunization – and equally inexpensive in themselves.
As its contribution to this G8 initiative, Canada will look to mobilize G8 governments and non-governmental organizations as well as private foundations. Setting a global agenda for improving maternal and child health is an ambitious plan. But working with other nations and aid agencies on the ground where the need is greatest makes it an achievable goal.
There is other business to be transacted at the G8 as well as informal discussions on security, nuclear proliferation and the environment. But our focus on maternal and child health will be a priority.
As the Haitian emergency demonstrates, our humanity spans borders as developed nations coordinate efforts to help the sick, people lost under rubble and those left hungry by tragedy. Together, we must do so again. As leaders of the most developed economies of the world, we have an obligation to assist those who are most vulnerable to hardship. Canada hopes members of the G8 will rally together on this.
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