Muskoka Initiative to 'Move Forward,' but G8 Falls Short of Commitments

28/5/2011 – Despite renewed commitments to improve maternal and child health in the developing world, G8 leaders have fallen behind foreign aid pledges.

The leaders of some of the world’s largest economies met for the G8 Summit in Deauville, France. The commitments made at Deauville have now been released.

In recognition of “Arab Spring,” a combined total of $40 billion has been pledged to support the economic and political stabilization of Tunisia and Egypt, who ousted their leaders earlier this year. The World Bank and other global financial institutions will provide $20 billion of the funding, while the Gulf and G8 countries will supply $10 billion each in bilateral aid to complete the sum.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted that Canada will not contribute to bilateral programmes, but will maintain its commitment to multilateral funding channels.

The PM has not sidelined commitments made regarding child and maternal health at the summit in Muskoka last summer. In Muskoka, G8 members agreed to contribute $5 billion (over five years) to maternal, newborn and child health in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Every year, 8 million children and 350,000 women die of easily preventable causes. An estimated 925 million people go to bed hungry every day.

Programmes for Africa and Asia geared specifically at women and children in Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Mali and Afghanistan were unveiled by the PM. G8 leaders have reaffirmed their support for the cause.

“All leaders are united in moving forward with the Muskoka Initiative,” said Mr. Harper.

Still, summit reports have noted that countries have fallen short of commitments made years ago at Gleneagles, L’Aquila in 2009 and last year in Muskoka.

According to a report by the Globe and Mail, the shortfalls in aid commitments – such as those to health and food security in Africa – are coming particularly from countries who are facing debt and fiscal constraints, still recovering from the global economic recession.

Of course, not all countries have pledged the same amount. Canada has pledged $1.1 billion to maternal health over 2010-2015. Britain has pledged $3.4 billion and the US has pledged $1.3 billion. The UK’s contribution amounts to almost half of the entire pledge.

2015 is also the target date for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At current rates of progress, the United Nations suspects that the goals related to maternal and child health are the least likely to be met. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) note that the G8 can have a large impact on developing countries’ ability to meet these programs, as G8 countries still contribute most of the world foreign aid.

The G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto, noting the impact of the recession on the G8’s ability to come through on their commitments, gave G8 member countries a B-grade in making good on their promises.

Other NGOs have been more critical, citing the pressing need to address development and humanitarian concerns, including food security, agriculture, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and neglected tropical diseases.