What happened to the G8’s commitment to maternal, newborn & child health?

Amy Boldosser is Senior Program Officer, Global Advocacy, at Family Care International.

When the G8 Summit wrapped up in Deauville, France last week, many maternal, newborn and child health advocates were left saying, “What a difference a year makes.” 2010 was a year full of new commitments for improving maternal, newborn and child health. The G8 launched the Muskoka Initiative and committed US$5 billion for maternal, newborn and child health with promises to raise an additional $10 billion by 2015; the African Union hosted a Summit on Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development which resulted in new commitments including the Africa wide launch of the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA);  and the MDG Summit included the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health by the UN Secretary-General and 90+ stakeholders who together made US$40 billion in commitments to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world.

At the 2011 G8 Summit hosted by France, however, maternal, newborn and child heath was nowhere on the official agenda and warranted only one paragraph in the final 25 page declaration. In that paragraph, the G8 leaders reaffirm their commitment to “improving maternal health and reducing child mortality, most notably through the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health launched in 2010,” and assert that, “We are delivering our Muskoka commitments.” While advocates welcomed the reaffirmation of the G8 commitments on maternal, newborn and child health, questions remained about whether the G8 governments are indeed delivering on those commitments. Advocacy groups and mainstream media criticized the G8’s 2011 Deauville Accountability Report which was meant to review the progress member countries made in meeting their commitments on food security and global health. Advocates from ONE and Oxfam called the report a “whitewash,” since a review of the numbers indicated that, after accounting for inflation, the G8 was actually $19 billion away from meeting $50 billion target it claimed to have met.  The New York Times wrote in an editorial , “It is disheartening to know how low a priority the wealthy countries still put on development in the poor world. What’s more, the sleight of hand by the G-8 is unlikely to inspire much confidence in future promises.”

As noted by our colleagues at the Global Health Council in their official statement, there were a few bright spots for global health in general. The G8 did reaffirm its commitments to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and the GAVI Alliance, which works to expand access to vaccines in the poorest countries. The G8 also indicated that it will implement the recommendation of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health which is tracking pledges to the Global Strategy and the Muskoka Initiative. Dr. Carole Presern, Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health welcomed this announcement saying, ”The G8 members are playing a key role in seizing the opportunity afforded by the Commission recommendations to ensure that commitments to women and children are honored, and the resources are used in the most effective ways to prevent deaths and save lives.”

Commenting on the outcomes of the Summit, FCI’s President Ann Starrs summed it up best. “The G8’s reaffirmation of the commitments they made last year at Muskoka is welcome, as is their support for the recommendations of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. But these statements really amount to nothing more than a promise to keep a promise. Meanwhile, women, newborns, and children in developing countries are dying every few seconds from causes that are routinely prevented or treated in the G8 countries. To make a real, lifesaving difference, the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies must move from simply making statements supporting accountability to delivering the investments they have promised in the high-impact, low-cost interventions that prevent needless maternal and child deaths.”

For more updates from global health advocates at the G8 Deauville Summit, click here

1,000 economists call for financial tax to support development efforts

In a letter  released yesterday, a thousand eminent economists from more than 50 countries called for the establishment of a global Financial Transaction Tax.

Writing to finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) countries, representing the world’s leading economies, and to Bill Gates, who has been asked by the G20 to examine innovative ways to fund development and climate change, the economists wrote:

This tax is an idea that has come of age. The financial crisis has shown us the dangers of unregulated finance, and the link between the financial sector and society has been broken. It is time to fix this link and for the financial sector to give something back to society. Even at very low rates of 0.05% or less, this tax could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually and calm excessive speculation… This money is urgently needed to raise revenue for global and domestic public goods such as health, education and water, and to tackle the challenge of climate change.

Together with advocacy partners from a range of health and development issues, FCI has been working for two years to build support for a tax on financial transactions (widely known in the U.K. as a “Robin Hood Tax“), with proceeds going to fund global health and poverty efforts. While the effort has not yet picked up steam, or attracted government support, in the U.S., there is significant momentum in Europe, where both France (host to this year’s G20 summit) and Germany have expressed strong support for the idea.