Live From the G8: 1,744,128 Voices Can’t Be Wrong

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By: Amy Boldosser, Senior Officer, Global Advocacy Program, Family Care International

Amy Boldosser, a member of Family Care International’s global advocacy team, was in Toronto from Thursday through Sunday, for the G8 and G20 summits.  Amy’s coverage of the summits is being posted on Blog 4 Global HealthRH Reality Check, and the MHTF Blog.

(June 25, 2010) Canada, the host country for both summits, has declared that maternal and child health will be a central focus of the G8 agenda. FCI and our advocacy partners from around the world are working to ensure that this is far more than a symbolic step — that the G8’s discussion leads to concrete financial commitments, and that governments are held accountable for delivering on these commitments and saving women’s and children’s lives.

Civil society organizations from across Canada and six continents today invited an additional 1,744,128 people to the G8 and G20 negotiating tables. More than a dozen civil society networks brought petitions signed by almost 2 million individuals from around the world conveying the message to global leaders that it’s time for action. The various petitions call on the leaders to make meaningful commitments on the Maternal and Child Health initiative, to honor the pledge to help developing countries adapt to climate change, to agree on a concrete plan to sustain HIV/AIDS treatment programs and deliver on promises for universal education.

In addition to the petitions, a statement released by students’ organizations around the world, including the Canadian Federation of Students, representing over 150 million students called for a commitment to education and public services. The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (  delivered a letter to G8 leaders signed by 14 million health workers, urging G8 leaders to double official development assistance (ODA) for maternal, newborn and child health to fill the 3.5 million gap of health workers in countries where women often give birth alone or without professional help.

All of the petitions were presented to Canadian Prime Minister Harper’s office, although in the interest of saving trees the groups did not print out what would have amounted to 72,000 sheets of paper filling 18 boxes but rather presented the petitions on CD.

Dorothy Ngoma, Executive Director of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi, said that it is immoral that 350,000 or more women are dying each year during pregnancy and childbirth. The question, Ngoma said, is “why have the world leaders in the G8 failed to protect women’s lives?”  She continued, “Who is going to protect these women? World leaders promised to cut maternal deaths by 75% by 2015 but we don’t seem to be making much progress.”

All of the speakers at the event highlighted the broader issue of accountability. Ngoma mentioned the promises made by the G8 at the Gleneagles Summit in 2005 which included G8 governments committing to an increase in overall Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) by around $50 billion a year by 2010 as well as an increase in ODA for Africa by $25 billion by 2010. While aid has increased since 2005, there is still a shortfall of $18 billion to meet these commitments.  The G8 itself has recognized the need for greater accountability for its commitments.  At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, the leaders committed to “strengthen our accountability with respect to G8 individual and collective commitments with regard to development and development-related goals.” The Muskoka Accountability Report released by the G8 prior to the Summit this week noted that some governments are meeting some commitments some of the time but that “countries are $10 billion behind the five-year, $50 billion commitment they made at their 2005 Summit in Scotland.”

As we wait for first news reports on commitments from the G8 Summit currently underway, civil society is keeping the focus on these very large commitments which have already been made but not met.  We don’t need more promises from the G8 today, we need action on existing commitments to reduce poverty and specific concrete financial commitments to The Muskoka Initiative for maternal and child health that will actually be delivered upon. We’re adding our voices to those 1,744,128 concerned citizens, and many others around the world who are watching today, in calling for change.