NEWS

PM Harper, John Baird focus on maternal health at UN today

09/25/2013 09:36 EDT | Updated 11/25/2013 05:12 EST
Forced marriage and maternal health are among the issues that will be tackled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today at the United Nations, as Canada continues its focus on women's rights around the world.

CBC News will carry Harper's maternal, newborn and child health event live at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Harper is co-hosting a UN meeting looking at the major health challenges facing women and children, part of the followup to his 2010 G8 commitment to focus on maternal and child health around the world.

Baird's session, at 3:30 p.m. ET, covers early, child and forced marriage, an issue he has spoken out against in the past.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development announced earlier this week that the government is funding a website intended to help women connect and share best business practices, according to a news release.

The global Knowledge Gateway for Women’s Economic Empowerment "will support women’s economic opportunities and leadership and further their contributions to local economies," the release said.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) developed the site, empowerwomen.org.

Harper's meeting on women and child health is listed on a UN website as, "The unfinished agenda of the MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] in support of Every Woman Every Child." It's a 90-minute session with the presidents of Tanzania and Nigeria, as well as the prime minister of Norway, the director general of the World Health Organization, and Melinda Gates, on behalf of the foundation she runs with husband Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is the event's other co-host. Harper and Kikwete have worked together since 2010 on making international aid more accountable.

Harper took advantage of Canada hosting the G8 meeting in 2010 to steer leaders toward a focus on maternal, newborn and child health, pledging $1.1 billion for Canada until 2015. The UN has set 2015 as the deadline for hitting its Millenium Development Goals, a series of targets for reducing global poverty.

The MDGs include goals to reduce mortality for children under five by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, to cut maternal deaths by 75 per cent over the same time period, and to achieve universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

Wednesday's event is included in a nine-day series of events focused on women and children, part of an initiative called Every Woman, Every Child. The short session is for leaders and government representatives of UN member states, as well as international aid organizations and the private sector, "to explore how to accelerate action in the next 825 days" before the MDG deadline, and to look at "the importance of women's and children's health in the post-2015 development agenda."

"High-level discussions will focus on key interventions and the importance of accountability, including civil registration and vital statistics, as we look to the long-term goal of improving women's and children's health," says a summary of the session available on a UN website.

The goal of Every Woman, Every Child is to save 16 million lives by 2015, according to a release from the Prime Minister's Office.

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