PM delivers remarks at a panel discussion on women's and children's health

New York, New York
25 September 2013

Thank you, Nora.

Thank you very much for that kind introduction.

And I want to give greetings also to my fellow panellists, to the Deputy Secretary General, who really has been among his many duties a great champion of what we’re discussing here today.

Of course, President Kikwete, Jakaya, in spite of his modest descriptions of the progress that he’s been making, leads a government that is truly a positive force, not just in this particular area of international development, but in international relationships more broadly, a great partner of ours and of the international community.

Melinda Gates, leading the Gates Foundation, which is also a tremendous partner for Canada, not just in the area we’re talking about today, but many areas of international assistance.

Very pleased to have Melinda here.

And Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization.

Margaret has really been a driving force of what the WHO has been doing on this, and also, I assure you, is never late, today being… We just all got here early, I think.

Margaret’s a tremendous ball of energy.

Also want to great my colleagues who have joined me from Canada today.

Minister Paradis, International Development.

And also Minister Yelich, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular.

They’re here today, as a number of my colleagues are, as part of our efforts in New York this week to highlight various aspects of our work in the international community, but in particular I’m here to talk about what is really a key, and in many ways, the flagship priority of Canada for international engagement, and that is this whole area of child and maternal health, and I’ll try and be brief.

As everybody in this room knows, the Millennium Development Goals identified one of the world’s great tragedies, and that is the shocking mortality of mothers and their young children in developing countries.

But as you all know, there’s an even greater tragedy, and that tragedy is that the deaths of these women and children mostly from victims of disease, poor nutrition and inadequate care, these are often entirely preventable situations.

That’s why, as Nora mentioned, the leaders of the G-8 at the Muskoka Summit in 2010 decided to champion improving maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries, and of course, it was not long after that, through the leadership of the Secretary-General, that the Muskoka Initiative was soon amplified by the United Nations’ global strategy.

Over $7 million has been committed to the Muskoka Initiative by governments and philanthropic organizations, like that of Melinda Gates, represented here today.

The $7 billion committed at Muskoka has now been bolstered to $20 billion through further pledges, from the more than 200 partners of the Secretary General’s global strategy for women and children’s health.

I’m very proud today just to announce in passing that a significant portion of the funds that we’ve committed at Muskoka will support nine important projects around the globe.

These cover a range of issues in this particular area that will improve the health of mothers and children, and will strengthen immunization efforts in developing countries.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I think the most important thing to note about what happened at Muskoka wasn’t simply the monies pledged.

But those monies were pledged also around a framework, a framework based on a firm condition that delivering on such commitments is what is actually important.

Thus at Muskoka, the G-8 leaders also agreed to develop unprecedented new standards of accountability for the pledges that we were making.

Since then, it’s been my honour to work with President Kikwete on the United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health.

We tabled our final report, entitled “Keeping Promises, Measuring Results” in 2011, when I last participated in this particular forum.

And as we all saw at the G-8 Summit in Lough Erne this year, in fact, the G-8 process of accountability reports is continuing.

That report has shown, this year's report, has shown the progress made by G-8 members, including Canada, toward meeting their financial commitments under the Muskoka Initiative.

Canada, with two thirds of our commitment already distributed, will fulfill our Muskoka pledges by 2015.

Because of this unprecedented attention on the part of the G-8 and the international community, significant progress has been made on women's and children's health.

Nevertheless, as has been mentioned, even with this unprecedented focus on newborn, maternal and child health, it remains unlikely that the Millennium Development Goals in this area will be fully met.

Now, obviously there’s a lot of individual things that everybody here and many people outside this room need to do, given that reality.

Two things, however, are broadly important.

First, it is imperative that in the two years that remain, that we not simply resign ourselves to incompletion.

We must stay the course and continue to push strongly towards these goals.

We have to remember that to the world’s mothers and children, what we are working for here is… these goals are literally vital.

Degrees of failure are not measured in dollars.

They are measured in thousands of lives.

So there can be no excuse for complacency.

The second thing is that as the United Nations and the international community set new development goals beyond 2015, we must not lose sight of the goals for women and children’s health that we have established at Muskoka and beyond.

In particular, the efforts spearheaded by President Kikwete and me within the commission have also revealed substantial shortcomings in global and national information systems.

Therefore, just as accountability for our pledges must remain a core principle going forward, it’s also essential that we set up the systems that assure accountability in terms of the delivery.

And specifically essential that there are to be the proper allocation of resources to vital statistics so that these can be accurately registered.

Frankly, if we are to know how much of a difference we are actually making, it’s imperative that we have these facts, that every birth be registered, every death be recorded.

Next year as part of the initiatives I’m announcing today, Canada will host a meeting of key partners on this vital issue of civic registration.

Now, let me just conclude with this one thought.

We should absolutely remain focussed on the problems we are facing, but we also need to be reassured and encouraged by our successes.

So we have to bring these two things together.

First, we should obviously keep squarely focused on the problems that are before us, on the shortcomings that we still face, but we should also take heart from our success, and as President Kikwete mentioned, there are some maternal deaths are dropping, death rates are dropping worldwide.

Millions more children are celebrating their fifth birthday.

And therefore, as you all know, much more likely to reach maturity.

And we may be sure of this:

Among all those thousands who are being born now and who, in another era would have died, there are some who will not only live, but who will gladly bear on their shoulders responsibility for their fellow countrymen and women, as teachers, as businessmen and -women, and also, ultimately, as leaders.

It is, then, very good work that we seek to do, and despite the shortcomings, we should not become weary in the doing of them.

Therefore, before 2015, and in pursuit of what are urgent and noble Millennium Goals, therefore let us give one final vigorous and decisive effort.

Thank you.