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National Post: On the Agenda: A Look At the Plans for the G8 and G20 Summits

Author: Kathryn Blaze Carlson
June 19, 2010


Kathryn Blaze Carlson examines the issues topping the agendas of the 2010 G8 and G20 summits taking place in Canada June 25-27.


Accountability is both a signature agenda item at the G8 and a general theme at both leadership summits. The Harper government has emphasized that the summits will be less about new commitments and more are about ensuring progress on past commitments. To that end, the recently created Accountability Working Group will present a report on G8 action on development-related commitments since the 2005 Gleneagles Summit. The report will evaluate commitments on a country-by-country basis, and is expected to be particularly embarrassing for Italy and Germany, which have poor track records on compliance and who pushed for a less damning summit-by-summit assessment. “I don't think the intention was to name and shame, but that will inevitably happen,” said Alan Alexandroff, co-director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. In the lead-up to the summit, G8 leaders said they are open to adopting a comprehensive accountability mechanism that could monitor future commitments, although it is unclear whether they will be able to agree on the details.

Maternal and child health is the issue Canada is bringing to the G8. Deemed the “Muskoka Initiative,” these discussions on efforts to improve maternal and child health in the world's poorest regions are expected to set the tone for the upcoming United Nations summit on Millennium Development Goals. Although firm financial commitments have so far not been tallied ahead of the G8 summit, Canada and Britain are expected to commit somewhere between $1 billion and $1.4 billion each to the cause, while the United States appears willing to commit double that amount. “The lead actor on this is definitely Canada, and the US is walking lock step with us on this,” said Teresa Chiesa, CARE Canada's program manager for Africa. It will likely be difficult for the summit to secure big sums from austerity-focused countries like Italy, Germany and Japan — a challenge that may overshadow any success paved by Canada. Outside the G8, meantime, countries like Norway, New Zealand and the Netherlands have committed large sums, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a $1.5-billion commitment. The Initiative was initially overshadowed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to include support for family planning and abortion services, but the furor has largely quieted. “I think everyone will respect each other's positions, and will stay focused on averting maternal and newborn mortality,” Ms. Chiesa said.

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