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NEWS: Harper pledges less for maternal health than spent on summits

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just pledged less for maternal health for the next five years than he has spent on this 16-hour summit weekend.

Harper has promised $1.1 billion to a global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries, but the G8 and G20 summits this weekend are expected to cost more than $1.24 billion.

The Council of Canadians has argued that these summits of 8 or 20 ‘leaders’ should be scrapped and that global issues should be tackled by the G192.

The United Nations is more inclusive and democratic and its annual budget is about what the final costs of these summits is expected to be.

The CBC reports that, “Harper said G8 members have committed $5 billion over the next five years to the so-called Muskoka Initiative and that other countries will pitch in more than $2.3 billion for a total of $7.3 billion.”

Commenting on the funding pledge, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “We need much, much more at this time” and expressed concern about countries following through on these pledges.

“Economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has called on leaders to honour earlier funding commitments, saying implementation of previous G8 initiatives to fight hunger, poverty and disease has fallen short.”

By its own accounting, the G8 has failed to deliver on $10 billion of its past pledges. Other estimates put that shortfall at $20 billion or more.

“Harper said the government will also renew $1.75 billion in existing spending” on maternal health, though it is not clear how Harper came up with that figure.

And while recognizing the human right to water and sanitation is a vital aspect to addressing maternal health and infant mortality, the Harper government continues to refuse to recognize this fundamental right.

The CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/06/25/g8-g20-huntsville-leaders.html.