12 May 2010

Secretary-General's press encounter after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [updated]

SG: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen of the press.

I have just had a fruitful conversation with Prime Minister Harper. It is wonderful to be in this beautiful city of Ottawa and in Canada, a long-time leader and supporter and pioneer in many areas of the United Nations' work.

Prime Minister Harper and I covered a full range of issues, including the upcoming G8 and G20 Summits, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change, the situation in Haiti and Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

I also had a good meeting with Development Minister Oda and Finance Minister Flaherty.

The upcoming G8 and G20 summit meetings here in Canada provide an opportunity to deliver for the world's poor and most vulnerable people.

Canada must provide leaders of the G20 and G8 can and must a new resolve to meet previous global pledges to the poor.

Leaders of the G20 and G8 can and must:

- galvanize progress on women's and children's health by concretely supporting the Joint Plan of Action we launched in New York last month; I am very encouraged by, and welcome, Canada's commitment to push G8 countries towards bold, focused, coordinated action on maternal health and all health MDGs. I can confirm that Prime Minister Harper is very committed to this issue.

- provide full funding for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- the highly proven instrument that converts dollars into lives;

- they also should deliver on previous commitments to double aid for Africa, and fund the L'Aquila food security initiative;

- they should also deliver “fast track” climate financing to meet immediate needs in developing countries and maintain negotiating momentum.

I urged Prime Minister Harper to play a vital leadership role in mobilizing G8 and G20 countries on all these issues.

I thank Canada once again for its role as a major supporter of the United Nations' work.

Thank you.

Q: Should abortion be part of maternal health plans? Is it a problem that the host of the G8, Canada, is opposed to it? Did you discuss Mr. Harper's position on this?

SG: We discussed reproductive health issues. I believe that the goal of achieving universal access to reproductive health was part of the consensus agreement reached by governments, including Canada, at the International Conference on Population and Development, in 1994 in Egypt. The agreement states that family planning services should be improved and expanded to prevent unwanted pregnancies and that abortion should not be promoted as a method of family planning. Universal access to reproductive health is recognized worldwide as an effective means to improve maternal health. The UN does not promote changes in the legal status of abortion, which are decision-making processes that are the preserve of countries. Where abortion is legal, it should be safe.

Q: On the Omar Khadr case, do you understand why Canada refuses to treat Omar Khadr as a child soldier and would you like to see his repatriation to Canada?

SG: First of all, the issue of child soldiers is a crime. And we totally reject any [inaudible] practices of children being used as soldiers. This is a crime. And we hope that this will never happen and whoever is involved in recruiting child soldiers [inaudible] must stop now.

Q: Do you consider Omar Khadr a child soldier?

SG: I am not here to mention anything on this specific issue.

Q: [inaudible on Canada's position on reproductive health and G8]

SG: I believe and I think the G8 leaders are going to discuss the maternal health issue and child and newborn health issues as a priority. The United Nations and the G8 leaders [know] that this is the slowest moving target of our Millennium Development Goals and this must be given full support-- political, material and financial support. That is what the leaders are doing. I have already answered on the question of abortion issue. I would like to urge the leaders of the G8 to see a broader picture. It is just unacceptable and it is a social injustice that a woman dies every minute because of complications of pregnancy or child birth. This is preventable one. We must stop this to save lives. This is what the G8 leaders are going to discuss and I am sure the G8 leaders will come out with concrete action, supporting the joint action plan initiated by the United Nations last month.

Q: [inaudible]

SG: [inaudible]