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A Big Baby Step Forward:
The Muskoka Initiative on
Maternal, Newborn and Children’s Health

John Kirton, G8 Research Group
June 26, 2010 15:30

See also Money Mobilized by the Muskoka Initiative

The G8 Muskoka Summit has taken a big baby step forward to support its top priority on maternal, newborn and children’s health. Its challenge was to mobilize the $30 billion estimated by the United Nations to save the lives of the 30 million children and about 2 million mothers who would otherwise unnecessarily die by 2015.

At its Muskoka pledging session on Friday, June  25, 2010, all the G8 countries contributed $5 billion of their own money, while others chipped in to expand the pool to $7.3 billion. Canada led by offering an additional $1.1 billion and promised to keep spending its existing $1.75 billion, despite the fiscal constraints it faced. All other G8 members chipped in as best they could at the moment, with some signalling they would do more later on. Also putting money on the table were the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Korea, Spain and Switzerland, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UN Foundation. Altogether this produced enough new money to save the lives of 1.3 million children and 64,000 mothers.

Many were understandably disappointed that the G8 did not come up with the full $10 billion that so many hoped for. However, to raise the $30 billion over the five years between 2010 and 2015 would mean mobilizing an average of $6 billion each year. This is less than the $7.3 billion the G8 raised at Muskoka on June 25. The G8 leaders would have a chance to expand the pool the next day, when they came to Toronto to meet with the rest of the G20 countries and the many international organizations that would be there too.

At Muskoka the G8 leaders also admirably agreed to continue their accountability self-assessment next year, focusing on maternal and children’s health and on the integrally related area of food and nutrition. This would give them the chance to add more money if need be. Before then the G8 can mobilize more money at the UN millennium review conference in September, which is dedicated to meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 — on children’s and maternal health respectively — as well as the other MDGs. They can also do so at the next G20 summit, which will take place in Seoul, Korea, on November 11-12, 2010, where the host will add development to the agenda in a major way.

Finally, the Muskoka Accountability Report and process emphasizes the effective accomplishment of the intended results. It could thus discover how to save the lives of all the mothers and children in a more efficient and less expensive way than the UN had thought was possible when it first issued its $30 billion estimate.

However, to hit this happy target the G8 must build on its strong start at Muskoka over the next five years. The baby has taken its first big step to start walking, but it must watched over and nurtured by the global family, lest it fall and die.

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