G20 Leaders Agree to Discuss International Development Issues

By: Janna Oberdorf, Communications Manager for Women Deliver

On Sunday, the G20 Summit, a group of government leaders from 20 countries, followed up on the outcomes of the G8 meetings the day before that promised $7.3 billion to maternal and child health. The G20 usually focuses on matters pertaining to the international financial system, while the G8 talks about broader development issues like solving global poverty. For the first time ever, the G20 agreed to set up a working group on international development issues, giving itself a formalized a role in helping poor countries.

There were two key paragraphs that will affect the maternal and child health communities in the communiqué that was released by the G20:

  1. “We recognize that 2010 marks an important year for development issues. The September 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) High Level Plenary will be a crucial opportunity to reaffirm the global development agenda and global partnership, to agree on actions for all to achieve the MDGs by 2015, and to reaffirm our respective commitments to assist the poorest countries.”
  2. “Narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to our broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all.  In this regard, we agree to establish a Working Group on Development and mandate it to elaborate, consistent with the G-20’s focus on measures to promote economic growth and resilience, a development agenda and multi-year action plans to be adopted at the Seoul Summit.”

This is an exciting step. Since poverty is a global problem, it makes sense that a broader global coalition of leaders than the G8 should begin to tackle it. And now it’s our challenge to make sure that maternal health stays on the agenda for both the G8 and the G20 next year.

As our colleagues at Plan Canada wrote: “Investments in development are about much more than charity, and maternal and child health is a clear example. If women are able to live through childbirth, and children are able to grow into productive adults, families can feel more secure, economies can grow, and societies can break the cycle of poverty and begin to prosper. Healthy women enable huge economic returns. Each year an estimated US $15.5 billion in potential productivity is lost when mothers and newborns die.”

It’s true. And here’s what we know about women’s contributions to economic survival:

  • Women operate most small businesses and farms in developing countries.
  • Women are the sole income earners for a 1/4 to a 1/3 of all households.
  • Women carry 2/3 of all goods that are transported in Africa and produce 60-80% of all staple foods.
  • Women feed Southeast Asia, providing 90% of the labor for rice cultivation.
  • Women manage homes and care for children, unpaid work that equals about 1/3 of the world’s GNP.

Leaving Toronto and the G8/G20 meetings, we’re proud of the world leaders for finally realizing that they simply can’t afford to let mothers die anymore. But we also know that we have a long way to go – a long way to meeting our full financial ask to prevent maternal deaths, and a long way to providing the comprehensive care, including safe abortion, that is necessary to curtail deaths and disability.

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