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U.N. Secretary-General Discusses G8, G20 Commitments During Ottawa Visit

On Wednesday, ahead of a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed several topics in a “speech warning that leaders of the G8 and G20 countries should not use global economic and financial difficulties as ‘an excuse’ to neglect previous pledges of billions of dollars for the world’s poor – for doubling aid to Africa, food security, malaria and AIDS programs and maternal and child health care,” Canwest News Service/Calgary Herald writes (O’Neill, 5/12).

“I’m going to ask the Prime Minister Harper, as chair of the G8, that he must make sure that G8 leaders come … with their commitment delivered. I hope Prime Minister Harper will work on the phones before they come,” he said, the Associated Press reports (Noronha, 5/12).

Ban “praised” the focus of Canada’s G8 initiative, which aims to improve maternal and child health, but he “avoided an opportunity, provided in a question from an audience member, to criticize Harper for not providing funds to maternal health programs that provide abortions,” according to the Canwest News Service/Calgary Herald (5/12).

The Toronto Star reports that while Ban said that the G8 should ensure women in the developing world have access to safe abortions in countries where the procedure is legal, Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for Harper, “said the issue of abortion never even came up in a 45-minute discussion that focused in part on Canada’s signature initiative for the G8.”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who supports abortion access being a part of Canada’s maternal health initiative, said of his meeting with Ban, “He made it pretty clear to me that if we’re going to maintain those Millenium Development Goals, we have to offer the full range of reproductive health services for women” (Woods, 5/12).