UNITED NATIONS—Canada will spearhead the creation of an international fund housed at the World Bank to encourage private donors and developing countries to finance concrete steps to boost maternal, newborn and child health, the Star has learned.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who four years ago took up the cause of championing a global push to meet the United Nation’s millennium development goals of improving the health of women and children, will announce what’s called a global financing facility at the UN Thursday.
It’s essentially an investment strategy, a mechanism that will draw in and pool funding from different sources that can then be leveraged to pay for, for example, systems to register birth and death statistics, boost vaccine rates or provide nutritional support or health services for women and children in developing countries.
Several non-governmental organizations familiar with the plan told the Star it is a welcome step that builds on Harper’s huge pledge in May to spend another $3.5 billion over five years. Canada’s contribution to the effort will come from that budget.
It will be structured in order to improve co-ordination of global fundraising efforts, and to mobilize “sustainable” financing from countries that will benefit from the initiatives, in order to build their capacity and encourage “ownership” of the programming.
A secretariat would be housed at the World Bank in Washington, and the hope is to have it operational by next year’s United Nations General Assembly.
Rosemary McCarney, of Plan Canada and chair of Canada’s Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, praised Harper’s move, saying he has driven momentum on “a clear foreign policy priority for Canada which is unprecedented. They’ve stuck to their guns. It’s been more action than talk.”
“They have put this issue clearly on the global agenda.”
She said, for example, projects to collect and register births, deaths and other health data need money and are “fundamental.”
“Unless you’re registered at birth you’re invisible” to governments that must make decisions on where to target resources.
World Vision Canada’s Dave Toycen said it is a mechanism that “can be very helpful as long as it’s integrated with local authorities . . . and as long as it doesn’t put more economic burden on their backs so that it’s not sustainable over the long haul.”
Toycen recalled when the World Bank in the past told some local authorities they needed to cut costs “in order to get more in line economically, in a bid to make these governments more responsible, what did they do? They cut back education, they cut the health system and they bought more guns.”