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Harper’s maternal health summit and the SDG agenda

Photo: Karunananthan presents to the Open Working Group at the UN, May 7, 2014.

Photo: Karunananthan presents to the Open Working Group at the UN, May 7, 2014.

CBC reports, “Looking toward 2015, there is the question of whether Canada will wield any influence on the [global] development agenda. In 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced a 27-member, high-level panel to advise him on what issues should be focused on post-2015. Canada has no one represented on that panel.”

“Aniket Bhushan, an aid analyst with the North-South Institute in Ottawa, [says] Canada is still deliberating its position, one that it ‘can stand by publicly’ when the time comes to reveal the new [sustainable development] goals. …’You can bet your bottom dollar that [maternal, newborn and child health] will be a part of that.'”

Perhaps towards that end, the Harper government is holding a three-day maternal, newborn and child health summit in Toronto starting today that features speakers including Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, the Aga Khan, and representatives from the United Nations and the World Bank.

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Blue Planet Project campaigner Meera Karunananthan have stated, “The Harper government has opposed the recognition of water as a human right and promotes the privatization of water services while Canadian mining companies destroy watersheds throughout the world. If Stephen Harper is serious about maternal health and child health, he needs to recognize that healthy mothers come from healthy communities. And healthy communities require strong public services and a clean environment.”

Earlier this month, Karunananthan addressed the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations in New York. She highlighted that the human right to water and sanitation should be included in the SDG framework document and challenged “the SDG agenda’s push for greater private sector partnership through multi-stakeholder global partnerships”.

Today’s CBC report notes, “Diana Rivington, a former director in the Canadian International Development Agency, [points] out that Canada is still a member of the UN open working group on sustainable development goals — a forum with about 70 member states.”

The Harper government should publicly support the right to water and sanitation at the Open Working Group which will be meeting next month and again in July. Their final report will go to the General Assembly in September and a summit of world leaders will adopt the new sustainable development goals in September 2015.