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G8 Leaders To Discuss Economic Policy, Developing World, Maternal And Child Health, Haitian Rebuilding

Ahead of the G8 summit, which begins Friday in Canada, “leaders engaged in a series of dueling letters and interviews that exposed their conflicts” in how to foster global economic recovery, the Associated Press reports. The G8 – comprised of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – are also set to “discuss proposals to increase support for maternal and child health care in poor nations” and meet with leaders from seven African countries.

According to the news service, G8 countries are “struggling to resolve major differences over reform of the financial system.” Obama sent a letter to the G20, due to meet in Toronto after the G8 meeting, cautioning against “removing the massive government stimulus … But [Canadian Prime Minister Stephen] Harper sent out his own letter urging establishment of firm deficit reduction goals,” the AP reports, adding that Britain, Germany, France and Japan also support deficit reduction (Crutsinger/Aversa, 6/25).

Summit To Address Donor Countries’ Commitments To Developing World

Although the summit is expected to address G8 nations’ “economic troubles,” the group “wanted to carve out some time to discuss problems facing poor countries, G8 officials said,” Reuters reports. “Canada, host of the G8 and G20 meetings, wants to ensure that donor countries follow through on their commitments,” according to the news service. In addition to its maternal and child health initiative, Canada wants the group to focus on the Haitian reconstruction effort.

“The G8 will discuss progress toward meeting the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, on poverty by 2015. The group will also review the $18 billion shortfall in reaching the $50 billion total pledged in 2005 at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland,” Reuters writes (Wroughton, 6/25).

“At the Muskoka summit, I will join my fellow G8 leaders to take action on some of the world’s most pressing problems,” Harper said in a message to delegates, Agence France-Presse reports. “We will make a real difference and deliver results.” President Barack Obama said it was time for “a new era of engagement that yields real results for our people – an era when nations live up to their responsibilities and act on behalf of our shared security and prosperity,” according to AFP, which notes the focus on aid pledges and the recent G8 accountability report (Biddle, 6/24).

“While the G8 meeting usually involves discussions about global economic issues, this year’s gathering will include special sessions devoted to peace and security in South America and development issues in Africa,” the Globe and Mail notes. G8 leaders have “set aside about three hours today to talk to leaders from Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and a group of African countries,” according to the newspaper (Waldie, 6/25).

Though “a small hand-picked group of African leaders” is invited to the G8 summit every year, “this year African campaigners are hoping to secure a firmer platform from which to make themselves heard,” Sapa-AFP/Times LIVE reports. The article notes Africa’s involvement in the G20 and outlines the challenges associated with the continent’s lack of representation on the G8 (6/25).

The Toronto Star examines how international organizations are highlighting global hunger ahead of the summit. “The food crisis hasn’t gone away, it’s been compounded,” David Stevenson, policy director of the U.N. World Food Program, said. Of the G8’s $22 billion food security initiative, Stevenson, who is addressing a youth summit on the sidelines of the G8 meeting, said, “leaders must stay the course … And they should know that 80 percent of food (aid) beneficiaries are mothers and children” (Ward, 6/24).

In a separate article, the Toronto Star reports on the “polite” protest activity in advance of the summits. Victoria Harnett, the G8/G20 coordinator for Oxfam Canada, said, “There are a thousand women around the world who die every day in pregnancy and childbirth. … The message we want to get across today is that it is absolutely essential that G8 leaders start keeping their promises” (Brennan, 6/24).

Media Outlets Look Ahead To G20 Summit

The G20 is expected to approve “Canada’s plan to pump billions of dollars into maternal health programs in poor countries … but leaders are still struggling to find common ground on all-important economic measures,” CTV News reports (6/24).

Furthermore, a “leaked final version” of a G20 communique for the upcoming summit, showed the group “will expand its narrow focus on the economy to include plans for tackling global poverty,” the Globe and Mail writes. “Should the essence of the draft, which is dated June 11, hold true until Sunday, it would be a clear sign that the G20 is poised to further eclipse the G8, which has made foreign aid the focus of its agenda in recent summits,” the newspaper writes before looking at advocates’ attitudes towards the G20’s evolving role (Curry, 6/24).