National News

Ban urges G7, Canada to boost foreign aid

By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - The secretary general of the United Nations is calling on Canada to boost its overall foreign aid budget to meet an ambitious international target.

Ban Ki-moon urged Canada and all G7 countries to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas development spending, significantly more than the 0.3 per cent threshold Canada currently meets.

Ban called for the increased spending Friday while standing alongside Harper at the final press conference wrapping up a three-day international child and maternal health summit in Toronto.

Canada targets its foreign aid spending at programs that produce results, Harper said.

"It's the philosophy of our government and, I believe, of Canadians more broadly that we do not measure things in terms of the amount of money we spend, but in terms of the results we achieve."

On Thursday, the prime minister committed $3.5 billion in additional spending on child and maternal health over the next five years.

Ban said he is grateful for that contribution, and for Canada's continuing support in humanitarian crises such as the civil war in Syria. But he said he nonetheless believes it is within Canada's grasp to match the spending threshold.

"This overall agreed target should be met," Ban said. "I sincerely hope that the countries of the OECD and particularly G7 should lead by example."

Ban and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete heaped praise on Harper as the trio wrapped up the summit, a centrepiece of the prime minister's long-standing efforts to tackle the issue of mother-child health around the world.

"I go back home totally satisfied that I've been to a very successful summit, a very useful summit," Kikwete said.

He said he is "excited that from now on there is going to be acceleration and beyond 2015 we're going to see more robust interventions to finish the unfinished business."

The two men thanked Harper for his commitment to maternal and child health, and his promise to galvanize the world community to further support the cause.

Harper himself will do just that next week when he meets his fellow G7 leaders in Brussels, where he is expected to push for further global support of his efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health.

But he indicated he's sensitive to the fact that some of his G7 partners are in worse economic shape than Canada.

Overall, Harper's efforts won broad support from the many international leaders who participated in the Toronto summit.

"In a world of great knowledge and wealth, no child should die from preventable illness, and no mother should lose her life while giving birth — yet too many women and girls are being left behind," Ban said.

"There is no better investment in the world's future peace and prosperity than the health of women and children."

Much remains to be done, because even one child's death from a preventable cause is one too many, but progress has indeed been made, Harper added.

"The significant successes already achieved through relatively inexpensive and innovative techniques suggests that the goal reflected in the name of this summit — 'Saving Every Woman, Every Child' — is indeed within reach."

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