The trouble with Canada’s approach on maternal health

By Valerie Percival

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proud of Canada’s engagement on maternal health. The Muskoka Initiative, launched during Canada’s G8 presidency in 2010, has committed US$7.3 billion (with $2.85 billion from Canada) to address maternal mortality and child health. During the current election campaign, the Prime Minister refers to it as an example of Canada’s leadership on the world stage. Supporters include Melinda Gates and Ban Ki-moon. The money has undoubtedly shone a light on a key global health issue and saved lives.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that we don’t want women and girls just to survive. We want them to thrive. Canada’s current approach to maternal health may keep girls and women alive, but it does not promote a context that improves their life chances. It’s simply not good enough. Not for a country like Canada.

A scroll through the list of projects funded by the Muskoka Initiative reveals a clear focus on the provision of health care services: Canada builds delivery rooms, provides equipment, and trains health care workers.

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The Health of Our Global Community: Canada’s Responsibility at Home and Abroad

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By Sarah Kennell

Health is prominently featured in the Sustainable Development Goals – and rightly so. It affects us all. From developing strategies that address the Ebola crisis to ensuring healthcare systems meet the needs of all people, health is a human right and central to positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages includes a cross-cutting set of targets on maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, and environmental impacts. Health is also integrated as a target across a number of goals, including those related to gender, the environment, poverty and consumption – implicitly recognizing the interlinkages necessary to health. Such an approach signals a shift from how development was conceived in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (three separate goals), toward the new integrated development framework of the SDGs, which aspires to be grounded in a human rights-based approach.

One area where such a shift is clear in the SDGs is around sexual and reproductive health – and the Government of Canada with its focus on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, can play a leadership role on this, at home and abroad.

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Canada and Climate Change: Earning a Seat at the Global Table

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By Dale Marshall

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted a week ago today at the United Nation’s General Assembly, contain all the needed elements for Canada and the world to take meaningful action on climate change. It could also give momentum to the UN climate summit, happening this December in Paris.

The climate change goal in the SDGs, Goal 13, and its targets are certainly comprehensive enough to capture the major challenges that countries need to address. If all nations were able to integrate climate change measures across national plans and priorities, boost resilience and their ability to adapt to rising climatic impacts, and build their awareness and capacity on both tackling the root causes and the effects of climate change, then we would be well on our way to overcoming this enormous challenge.

That being said, elements of the climate change goal could have been stronger. For example, including either a global goal for the reduction of carbon emissions or a commitment to phase out fossil fuels in the medium-term, would have further focused the attention of world governments on the root of the problem. We also know that the commitment to mobilize $100 billion annually to assist developing countries to address climate change is dwarfed by the cost of the impacts these nations are facing.

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Election 2015: Devising new defence platforms (Part 3)

By Steve Saideman

A couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated that the major parties had not articulated Defence platforms so I wrote one for the Liberals and then one for the NDP, and then the Liberals came out with their statement.

I left the Conservative platform for last.  Why?  Because it is the hardest to write.  Why?  Because it could simply be “more of the same” but the government has been beaten up many times over the past nine years for procurement problems and for never developing a significant defence review despite changing world circumstances.

The (imagined) Conservative defence platform:

Under the Conservatives, Canada has acted to defend itself and support its interests in a very dangerous world.  Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Iran, and other threats to Canada’s security means that Canadians should continue to support the experienced team that we have put together.  Keeping the proven team in place will also help us build upon the Canada First Defence Strategy.

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How to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals: The Trillion (and More) Dollar Question

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By Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy

The introductory blog for this series makes a compelling case for why Canada and Canadians should pay attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, it would be a shame if these SDGs are not fully embraced (and implemented) here at home, and by the international community writ large.

After all, it took years of consultations and negotiations to get where we are today: 17 SDGs (and 169 targets within them) to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a focus not just on the social aspects of development but also other issues such as peace and security, income inequality, and the environment and climate change.

It is also time to stop reminiscing about whether we could have come up with a simpler (shorter!) list of goals. At this point, such discussions can only be counterproductive at best. Let us not forget that even the eight MDGs were once seen as unrealistic and overly-ambitious; so it does not seem that having fewer goals (10 is a number that came up regularly in this debate) for Agenda 2030 would have calmed the critics (and I admit, myself included).

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Time to Process the New UN Global Goals

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By Fraser Reilly-King

This week world leaders will meet in New York to adopt Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda includes a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire this year. Most people might think that this “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” is the major outcome of the past few years. It is. But I would argue that the process is also a major outcome in and of itself. Why?

Good process matters. It can build ownership, garner input and lived experience, including from those most affected, and build on policy and practice. The United Nations (UN) is conscious of this. In 2012 it initiated a series of more than one hundred national and thematic consultations on the post-2015 agenda. These reached an estimated million people, creating space for interested stakeholders to contribute ideas and proposals. The My World Survey solicited responses from 7.7 million people on a range of topics. Expert groups were convened on the broad agenda, on financing, and on data, among other things. And the inter-governmental negotiations on both the goals and final agenda opened up new space to a broader range of civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders.

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