Just in time for Christmas, Stephen Harper and the UN Secretary General have opted to give the world a gift that has some goodness and purpose in it. Last week, Ban Ki-moon announced the establishment of a special commission designed to push those nations that made commitments to child and women’s health to keep up their end of the bargain. All too often promises made at G8 and G20 summits chronically under-deliver, but with maternal health showing the worst advancement of all the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary General believed it needed some serious work and follow-up.
His selection of the Canadian PM to co-chair the commission along with President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, is an attempt to throw a lifeline out to the entire MDG process. Announced with great fanfare, these goals were a joint effort to rid the world of some of its most brutal poverty. But most donor nations have fallen short, including Canada, leaving the success of the entire effort unsure. Our PM was a sensible choice, since he opted to front the entire child and maternal health initiative at the Toronto and Muskoka summits last June. The commission will develop an accountability framework to help countries monitor where resources go and how they are spent, and will provide the evidence needed to show which programmes are most effective to save the lives of women and children and will hold its first meeting on 26 January next year, presenting its final report by May.
In September, stakeholders committed $40 billion in resources to a global effort to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. In addition, the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health called for the World Health Organization to establish a process to determine the most effective international institutional arrangements for global reporting, oversight and accountability for women’s and children’s health.
I have spent some time with various officials from the United Nations lately, with most expressing concern over this country’s loss of influence in key areas of the world, from Africa to the Middle East. Confusion appears to abound over what kind of presence Canada wishes to have and exert around the globe, but by selecting child and maternal health as his focus for the G8/G20 summits, Stephen Harper has taken a clear step towards providing sufficient and accountable aid to the world’s most vulnerable women and children. Credit is due for his effort.
As it is for Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations leadership. The UN personnel I recently spoke to say that the Secretary General and many of his underlings have opted to use the carrot approach to draw Canada back to its worldwide possibilities through the UN framework, in everything from aid and trade, to peacekeeping and public service. The challenge of climate change has been exempted because of Canada little interest in the file.
So here we have it. Two key individuals, working together for the sake of the most vulnerable in the world. It’s not exactly a match made in heaven, and the Secretary General’s concern over our loss influence is compelling and widespread. But in staking his own personal commitment to the child and maternal health initiative, Stephen Harper deserves a clear shot for assisting the UN to at least partially succeed in meeting its most troubling goals. In return, Ban Ki-moon has tossed Canada a lifeline once more, calling on us to up our game, not only for our own reputation, but for the sake of a needy world. It could be an effective teaming of resources and we should commend both sides of the equation for their determination.