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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's remarks at press conference with Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, and Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania

Toronto, Canada, 30 May 2014

It is a pleasure to be here as Secretary-General of the United Nations, to participate in this very important initiative on Every Woman Every Child. I would like to express my sincere and deepest admiration for your leadership, Mr. Prime Minister, and also President Kikwete.  Both have shown great leadership in promoting the health and well-being of the world’s women and girls.

In a world of great knowledge and wealth, no child should die from preventable illness, and no mother should lose her life while giving birth. Yet too many women and girls are being left behind.

We are here together today to send a strong message to the world: There is no better investment in the world’s future peace and prosperity than the health of women and children.  With simple, low-cost interventions, we can save millions of lives and advance development by leaps and bounds. 

It is crucial for governments to continue to fight for key goals after 2015, and I thank again the Government of Canada under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper for announcing a new commitment of $3.5 billion for maternal and child health.

In recent days we have also seen other tragic incidents in which women have been the targets of appalling violence – from Pakistan to India to California and Nigeria. 

The world will never find true peace and prosperity if half the population face discrimination and exploitation.  The United Nations is strongly committed to equal rights and the empowerment of women and girls everywhere.

I would like to thank again Prime Minister Harper and President Kikwete for their commitment to this effort.  As co-chairs of the Commission on Information and Accountability for women’s and children’s health, they helped ensure that our strategies and partnerships produce tangible and measureable results.  Accountability will be an important part of the new development agenda, and the insights of the Commission can help advance the current deliberations of Member States of the United Nations.

As we accelerate our work to meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals and shape a new development vision for the post-2015 period and strive to adopt a new global agreement on climate change, the role and needs of women must be at the front and centre.

Thank you very much.

Q: Hello, Prime Minister; hello, Secretary-General and President. Prime Minister, no one can argue that $3.5 billion is not a lot of money. As far as overall Canadian development spending, it stands well below the 0.7 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) figure that’s often quoted; Margaret Chan referred to it this morning. You’re going forward for the G-7 for moral support. Britain has already met that 0.7 percent target and they seem to be doing a little less well economically than we are. What do you think about this overall debate about 0.7? Some people say it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul if you don’t hike the overall spending. How do you see it? How do see that affecting you when you get to your pal, David Cameron, telling him to pony up? And Secretary-General Ban, if you want to weigh in, and President Kikwete, that would be great.

SG: [speaking after the Prime Minister] I would like to say a few words as the United Nations Secretary-General about official development assistance (ODA). While we have very good visions like the Millennium Development Goals and many initiatives, if these initiatives are not accompanied, supported by the funds, financial support, these are not able to be achieved. When leaders adopted and announced the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, they also agreed to provide 0.7 percent of GNI (gross national income) by 2015; that was quite a strong commitment.

Unfortunately, at this time, there are only five countries who are meeting this target. Some countries are even doing one percent, meeting above the target. I sincerely hope that the countries of OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and particularly the G-7 should lead by example. Overall, I am very much grateful to the Canadian Government and people for their generous support and engagement and contribution in many, many initiatives – for humanitarian assistance to Syria and many other places. But this overall target should be met. I hope that all the countries should accelerate their efforts. Member States are working very hard on how these Sustainable Development Goals, which will be our future agenda, could be and should be supported. This is a very important issue at this time, and again I count on developed world leaders to meet their targets.

Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, I would like to hear you about what should be done with developing countries that need more help from countries like Canada or the United Nations programmes to help prevent abortions, illegal abortions, that are done in horrible conditions, 22 million a year that end up in almost 50,000 deaths.

SG: Let me answer about the United Nations position. The United Nations does not promote abortion as a method of family planning.  We accord the highest priority and support to voluntary family planning to prevent unwanted pregnancies so as to eliminate recourse to abortion. The UN does not promote changes in the legal status of abortion, which are decision-making processes that are the preserve of countries.  Where it is legal, it should be safe. Thank you.