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From: Katherine McDonald, Executive Director, Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)

"Please find below the Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD) Call to Action, for both our international and domestic colleagues. Please use the information to write letters. Contact your MP. Make some noise. Please contact me, Katherine McDonald, Katherine@acpd.ca for further information. We are setting up a special website to provide updates."

Note from ARCC-CDAC: This Call to Action was issued just before Harper and the Conservatives apparently started backtracking on their refusal to commit to family planning measures as part of the G8 maternal/child health initiative. However, it's important to keep the pressure on, as the Conservative position is by no means clear or established, and funding of family planning (through IPPF or otherwise) is still an issue. Plus we need more than just condoms or "natural family planning" - it has to be a full array of family planning options. Abortion has mostly fallen off the table as too politically sensitive, but ARCC-CDAC insists that safe abortion care where it's legal is also essential, as well as quality post-abortion care in settings were abortion is illegal. Please mention this in your letters, as these are also G8 commitments that the Harper government had already agreed to.


Call to Action: Maternal and Child Health at the G8 Summit

Prepared by ACPD – March 17, 2010

Background

On June 25-26, 2010, leaders from some of the world’s most powerful countries[1] will gather in Huntsville, Canada, for their 36th annual G8 Summit. The G8 meeting will be followed by a meeting of G20 leaders[2] in Toronto, Canada (June 26-27, 2010).

Earlier this year, on January 26th, 2010, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, announced his intention to make maternal and child health a development priority for the upcoming G8 Summit. He said that “Canada will champion a major initiative to improve the health of women and children in the world’s poorest regions.”

The details of the initiative have yet to be spelled out. At this point, we know that:

· In Prime Minister Harper’s announcement, he said that the solutions to making a difference in maternal and child health include: “clean water, inoculations and better nutrition, as well as the training of health workers to care for women and deliver babies.”[3] Other potential priorities of the initiative have not been mentioned to date.

· Canada’s Minister of International Co-operation, Ms. Bev Oda, has reportedly said that Canada’s focus on maternal and child health “will not address unsafe abortions in developing countries or support access to family planning and contraception.”[4] It has also been reported that a spokesperson in Ms. Oda’s office said that the Prime Minister has set out several specific areas that will be the focus of funding, “but that family planning measures were never part of that group.”[5]

· Finally, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lawrence Cannon, recently said that family planning programs will not be included in the G8 maternal and child health initiative. On March 16, 2010, he said that, “[i]t does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed, the purpose of this is to be able to save lives…”[6]

Canada’s official opposition party has called on Prime Minister Harper “to assure Canadians that he won’t change Canada’s long-standing tradition of recognizing women’s reproductive rights and access to contraception as part of his maternal health initiative.”[7]

We are calling on our international colleauges to work with your governments to help ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly access to family planning - including contraception - will be part of the G8 maternal and child health initiative. We are calling on our domestic colleagues to please write letters to the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Cooperation, and your MP.

The Importance of the G8

The G8 Summit provides an opportunity for some of the world’s most powerful economies to address fundamental international development issues and marshal the resources necessary to tackle some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.

The G8 Summit will come at a critical time. In addition to the G8 and G20 gatherings happening in Canada this June, world leaders will gather at the United Nations in September 2010, to take stock of progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 5, for instance, is a global commitment to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015. This is the Goal toward which the least progress has been made by governments. The maternal and child health initiative must be situated within the broader strategy toward achievement of the eight MDGs by 2015.[8]

The Need to Build on last year’s G8 in Italy

In July 2009, at the meeting of the G8 in Italy, the G8 heads of government agreed that maternal and child health was one of the world’s most pressing global health problems. They committed to “accelerat[ing] progress…on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning.” They also announced support for “building a global consensus on maternal, newborn and child health as a way to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals for both maternal and child health…”[9]

At the upcoming G8 in Canada, we are calling on G8 leaders to build on – not backtrack on - previous commitments. Sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially access to family planning, including contraception, must be part of the initiative.

The Need for a Major Financial Commitment

This year, G8 leaders will be expected to go one step further and support their commitment from last year with new funds and resources to accelerate progress on maternal and child health. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health estimates that it will take a doubling of current funding to maternal, newborn and child health initiatives to meet the targets set by the MDGs.[10] As written in a Lancet editorial on March 6, 2010:

“A tremendous increase in the rhetoric about MDG 5 and the health of women in recent years has not been accompanied by major donor commitments specifically to this goal. Although funding for maternal health is increasing gradually, a doubling of donor aid for maternal health is needed, as well as for reproductive health, especially family planning.”[11]

The Importance of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Particularly Access to Family Planning, Including Contraception

There are a number of important interventions, along the continuum of care, that are needed to improve maternal and child health.[12]

It is widely recognized that greater international support for sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially family planning information and access to contraception and reproductive health supplies, is essential to the success of the G8 initiative on maternal and child health. Recent research by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows that maternal deaths in developing countries could be slashed by 70 percent, and newborn deaths cut nearly in half, if the world doubled its investment in family planning and maternal and newborn health care.[13]

Women around the world need access to family planning - and that includes counseling, services and supplies. Research shows that 215 million women who would like to delay or avoid childbearing do not have access to modern contraception. A dramatic improvement in access to family planning, including contraception, would sharply reduce the number of unintended and unplanned pregnancies, which in itself means fewer pregnancy-related deaths and complications.

Evidence shows that access to family planning alone could prevent as many as one in every three maternal deaths by allowing women to delay motherhood, space births, avoid unsafe abortions, and stop childbearing when they have reached their desired family size. After giving birth, family planning can help women wait a healthy period of time (at least two years) before trying to become pregnant again, thereby reducing newborn, infant and child deaths significantly.

There is also evidence showing that investments in family planning boost the overall effectiveness of the dollars spent on pregnancy-related and newborn health care. For example, the Guttmacher/UNFPA report argues that combined investments in family planning and maternal and newborn services can achieve the same outcomes for $1.5 billion less than investing in maternal and newborn health services alone.

Requested Action:

We are calling on our international colleauges to work with your government to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights - particularly access to family planning, including contraception - will be part of the G8 maternal and child health initiative. Advocacy with all governments is important – even if they are not members of the G8.

(We are calling on our domestic colleagues to please write letters to the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of International Cooperation, using points from this Call to Action. See addresses below.)

Immediate action is needed. Two key meetings are planned for March and April:

March 29-30, 2010 - G8 Foreign Ministers, as well as representatives from the European Union, will meet in Gatineau, Quebec.
April 26-28, 2010 - G8 Ministers responsible for International Development, as well as representatives from the European Union, will meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A major focus of this meeting will be the maternal and child health initiative.

We call on you to contact your government’s foreign ministry and arrange a meeting with the person responsible for the G8 and/or G20 summits. We encourage you to ask them to write a letter to the Canadian government expressing support for a comprehensive approach to addressing maternal and child health, with explicit reference to the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly access to family planning, including contraception. If you have difficulty locating the name of your government official, please write to Katherine@acpd.ca as we may be able to help. We also encourage you/your organization to write personal letters to G8/G20 leaders. We would appreciate it if you could keep us informed of any actions that you take and the response of your government.

In addition to the points raised above, key elements of a letter could include:

The importance of situating the G8 maternal and child health initiative within the broader strategy toward achievement of the MDGs. MDG 5 is a global commitment to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters, and MDG 5.B is a commitment to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015.[14] A comprehensive health systems approach to maternal and child health includes recognizing the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly access to family planning, including contraception. Such an approach will contribute to the achievement of several MDGs. For instance, not only will it reduce maternal and child mortality, it will also improve the educational prospects for children (especially girls), help stem HIV transmission, and contribute dramatically to gender equality and poverty reduction goals.[15]

The need to build on – not backtrack on – last year’s G8 commitments in Italy, and the importance of marshalling the resources needed to accelerate progress on maternal, newborn and child health.

The importance of advancing a human rights approach to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity. In June 2009, Canada co-sponsored a landmark resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council recognizing maternal mortality and morbidity as a pressing human rights concern.[16] As well, U.N. human rights treaty-monitoring bodies have recognized that all States have human rights obligations to ensure access to contraception and reproductive health services, including comprehensive family planning programs and policies.[17]

The fact that many people in developing countries do not have access to basic reproductive health supplies and commodities, essential for preventing unintended pregnancies, ensuring healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries, and preventing and treating sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.[18]

The fact that an international consensus was adopted at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in which 179 governments - including Canada - committed to provide by 2015 universal access to a full range of safe and reliable family planning methods and to related reproductive health services which are not against the law.

The fact that this year is the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action where governments from around the world – including Canada – reaffirmed that “reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health…”[19]

And finally, the fact that Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly stressed that accountability will be a focus of the Canadian G8.[20] Given this priority, we hope that accountability will indeed apply to Canada’s past promises and commitments (e.g., at last year’s G8, at the United Nations Human Rights Council, at the ICPD, at the Fourth World Conference on Women, etc.)
Addresses of Canadian Government Officials:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca
Fax: 613-941-6900
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A2, Canada

The Honourable Beverly J. Oda
Minister of International Cooperation
Email: Oda.B@parl.gc.ca
200 Promenade du Portage, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0G4, Canada

The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Email: Cannon.L@parl.gc.ca
Fax: (613) 992-6802
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2, Canada

Appendix – Selected Media

Tabatha Southey, Mr. Harper, ‘maternal health’ isn’t very healthy without choice, The Globe and Mail, February 19, 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/mr-harper-maternal-health-isnt-very-healthy-without-a-choice/article1474941/

Elizabeth Payne, Don’t Ignore Reproductive Rights, Ottawa Citizen, February 11, 2010. http://www2.canada.com/ottawacitizen/views/bios/story.html?id=513e01a2-a01b-4928-a9bf-798e4e267d2d

Katherine McDonald, Use What Works, The Mark, February 10, 2010. http://www.themarknews.com/articles/934-use-what-works

Allison Auld, Abortion not part of maternal-health initiative, development minister says. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/abortion-not-part-maternal-health-plan-development-minister-says/article1472837

Susan Delacourt, Bruce Campion-Smith, Michael Ignatieff challenges PM to back aid for abortion, The Toronto Star, February 3, 2010. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/759753--michael-ignatieff-challenges-pm-to-back-aid-for-abortion

Juliet O’Neill, PM’s G8 initiative must include abortion: Ignatieff, The Montreal Gazette, February 3rd, 2010. http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/canada/initiatives+must+include+abortion+Ignatieff/2516996/story.html

Susan Riley, A Motherhood Issue, The Ottawa Citizen, January 29, 2010. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/personal-tech/motherhood+issue/2497247/story.html

Making the World Safe for Childbirth (Editorial), The Globe and Mail, January 27, 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/making-the-world-safe-for-childbirth/article1446879/

Geoffrey York, Maternal Mortality: Why It’s a Crisis, The Globe and Mail, January 29, 2010. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/maternal-mortality-brwhy-its-a-crisis/article1449826/

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, G8 Agenda: Focus on Human Welfare, The Toronto Star, January 26, 2010. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/755721

Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. http://www.who.int/pmnch/en/

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References

[1]The G8 countries are: France, United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada.

[2]The G-20 is made up of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States of America. The European Union, who is represented by the rotating Council presidency and the European Central Bank, is the 20th member of the G-20.

[3] http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/755721--g8-agenda-focus-on-human-welfare

[4] http://embassymag.ca/page/view/oda-02-10-2010

[5] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/abortion-not-part-of-maternal-health-plan-development-minister-says/article1472837/

[6] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/birth-control-wont-be-in-g8-plan-to-protect-mothers-tories-say/article1502796/

[7] http://www.liberal.ca/en/newsroom/media-releases/17427_liberals-ask-harper-to-keep-ideology-out-of-maternal-health-initiative

[8] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

[9] Paragraph 122 of the conclusions from the 2009 G8 reads: “We promote a comprehensive and integrated approach to the achievement of the health-related MDGs, also maximizing synergies between global health initiatives and health systems. We will accelerate progress on combating child mortality, including through intensifying support for immunization and micronutrient supplementation, and on maternal health, including through sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning. We warmly support building a global consensus on maternal, newborn and child health as a way to accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals for both maternal and child health, through (i) political and community leadership and engagement; (ii) a quality package of evidence-based interventions through effective health systems; (iii) the removal of barriers to access for all women and children, free at the point of use where countries chose to provide it; (iv) skilled health workers; (v) accountability for results. We encourage the work of the WHO, WB, UNICEF and UNFPA are doing to renew international efforts on maternal and child health.” See: http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/G8_Declaration_08_07_09_final,0.pdf

[10]To learn more about the Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health that was adopted by The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) in September 2009, see: http://www.who.int/pmnch/topics/maternal/consensus_12_09.pdf

[11] www.thelancet.com International Women’s Day 2010, volume 375, March 6, 2010, page 777.

[12] For details on the key interventions required, please see The Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (see link at footnote 9). For more details on maternal health specifically, please see: http://www.womendeliver.org/assets/MDG_CARDS.PF2.pdf

[13] http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/addingitup.pdf

[14] Indicators include: the maternal mortality ratio, the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel, contraceptive prevalence rate, adolescent birth rate, antenatal care coverage and unmet need for family planning.

[15] http://www.unfpa.org/icpd/mdgs-icpd.cfm

[16] http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/11/L.16/Rev.1. UN Human Rights Council Resolution 11/8 entitled, “Preventable mortality and morbidity and human rights” recognizes “that preventable maternal mortality and morbidity is a health, development and human rights challenge that also requires the effective promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls, in particular their rights to life, to be equal in dignity, to education, to be free to seek, receive and impart information, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, to freedom from discrimination, and to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health” [emphasis added].

[17] For a thorough overview of the international human rights obligations of governments with respect to maternal mortality and reproductive health, see: Center for Reproductive Rights, Bringing Rights to Bear: Preventing Maternal Mortality and Ensuing Safe Pregnancy, 2009 at http://reproductiverights.org/sites/crr.civicactions.net/files/documents/BRB_Maternal%20Mortality_10.08.pdf

[18]See: http://www.rhsupplies.org/about-rh-supplies.html

[19]Paragraph 223 of the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women.

[20]At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (Jan. 2010), speaking about the Canadian G8, Prime Minister Harper said, for instance, “we must be pragmatic, focused, and above all, encourage accountability….The Group of Eight must live up to their promises.” See: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?id=3096