Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

Speaking Notes for the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, for the maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) plenary

November 21, 2011

Ottawa, Ontario

Good morning, bonjour et merci, Margaret.

Before I start my remarks, I want to take the opportunity to thank WHO and our staff at CIDA. We would not be here at these meetings without their hard work.

I am happy to greet, once again, our distinguished guests, leaders, and health specialists from Canada and 21 other countries here, in Canada, and in Ottawa.

I hope you enjoyed last night.

I would like to welcome again the Honourable Hadji Hussein Mponda, Tanzania's Minister of Health and Social Welfare.

It's an honour for me to co-host this meeting with Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO. It is an honour for Canada to have the opportunity to bring so many of the world's top experts in women's and children's health here to Ottawa.

I could tell from the buzz in the room last evening that we have a focused, committed, and dedicated group, and when you feel the energy... as I said last evening, I think we are in good hands.

As you know, last year Canada brought the slow progress of Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 to the attention of the G-8 countries. This was followed by the UN's Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health at the UN Summit.

Since then, Canada has worked closely with WHO and our long-standing partners in Tanzania as Co-Chair of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health.

I want to let you know that Prime Minister Harper values the opportunity he had to work with Tanzania's President Kikwete on the commission because the need is so great and because it is important that our work produces real, tangible results—a goal shared by all.

The commission's report, Keeping Promises, Measuring Results, represents a significant step towards that goal and the objectives of the Global Strategy.

The report asked us to make concrete ten action-oriented recommendations to focus our next steps. These recommendations include improving the partnerships of all partners—donors, governments, and communities—working together to improve health information systems at the global level and the country level, to track resource flows, as well as to establish an accountability cycle of monitoring, action, and review that leads to continuous improvements and ongoing learning.

We must keep a clear focus on the job ahead. Canada is committed to doing just that. Our collective efforts saw the international community pledge unprecedented resources, which include commitments from developing partner countries, multilateral agencies, civil society, and the private sector.

In just over a year our partners made more than 200 commitments to the Global Strategy, a remarkable achievement and encouraging step.

Now in times when global economic pressures put increasing stress on these commitments, accountability for results is even more important. This means doing more with less, increasing our effectiveness wherever possible, and targeting low-cost, proven solutions that achieve real results.

As many people said, it means doing more, doing it better and doing it faster. This means we must work smarter, implement our initiatives together, and make every dollar and every effort count.

If this is our mandate then we need to track our investments and the results achieved.

We need better information on whether our efforts are timely. We need to know what works and, more precisely, we need to know where we must focus our work to maximize its impact.

With better information we can monitor better. We can know how many mothers give birth with skilled attendants present, how many newborns make it through their first year, and how many children under five live beyond infancy. When we can answer these questions—using a limited, manageable number of relevant indicators—then our work will be even more effective in delivering results. That's why we are here in Ottawa to discuss delivering results for women and children.

As a backdrop for the next two days I offer a couple of personal observations for your consideration. First: cooperation, coordination, cohesiveness, collaboration, harmonization, sharing the load, and division of labour. These are all different words and phrases that I have encountered over the past five years as the Minister of International Cooperation. We all know they refer to how our work should be done but each word or phrase can be interpreted in a different way, particularly when the overall intent needs to be realized and implemented in-country and on the ground.

For too long, we talked the talk of greater cooperation; now I believe we have to walk the talk.

The second observation that I want to make is about sustainability: if we do not firmly incorporate sustainability into our work, then whatever progress we make together will not have the resiliency to withstand threats and challenges that come from a variety of sources.

This means not only supporting government health policies and plans, but helping governments build their capacity and incorporating key interventions, such as nutrition, into those policies and plans.

Let's ensure that our focus on healthier mothers and children will have the foundations needed to last within strong health systems that can adapt to changing needs and to new approaches in the decades ahead.

I wish you all a very productive session as you set out on your work and there is no one better suited to lead our work than Margaret Chan.

As I said last night, her leadership is inspirational and her relentless dedication always motivates us to work harder.

I know that each and every one of us shares the goal of effectively improving the health of women and children globally.

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