World Vision: G-8 Leaders Taking Baby Steps in Right Direction

International Christian NGO World Vision believes the recently concluded summit of the Group of Eight countries will be rightly hailed for the launch of the Canadian-led Muskoka Initiative, but tainted by low promises and expectations.

"[Canadian Prime Minister Stephen] Harper and the other G-8 leaders have recognized the importance of child and maternal health, particularly the lack of progress that's being made, and they've promised to do more to reduce the number of children and mothers who die every year," reported Dave Toycen, CEO of World Vision Canada.

Harper had announced late Friday that the leaders of the Group of Eight major industrial countries had pledged to contribute $5 billion over the next five years to an initiative to support health care for mothers and children in poor countries.

He said Canada's contribution was $1.1 billion and the White House announced the United States would contribute $1.35 billion over the next two years, subject to congressional approval. Japan announced a pledge of $500 million over five years.

"We believe child health is the greatest silent emergency of our time, so we're pleased to see the G-8 leaders have taken it seriously this year," commented Toycen.

"But for the 24,000 children under the age of five who are dying today, the sense of urgency is missing," he added.

Still, Toycen noted how the leaders have taken some "important steps in the right direction of accountability" by increasing their commitment to transparency.

The G-8 leaders have pledged to annually publish their aid figures and the results that those dollars are achieving, making it easier for voters and civil society to hold them to account.

But the emphasis and dialogue must now translate into action, remarked Sue Mbaya, Director of Advocacy at World Vision Africa.

"Looking forward, success is not in communiqu├ęs or meetings. It's in the delivery, of strong health services, of more health workers, of immunization programs and of healthy meals for children," she stated.

"This G-8 has promised to save 1.3 million children. We will work to ensure this happens - and will continue to push them to address the remaining millions still at risk," she concluded.

Following the conclusion of the two-day G-8 summit on Saturday, G-8 leaders moved to Toronto for discussions in the larger Group of 20.

The G-20 summit concludes Sunday.