New study says Canada leads G8 in keeping promises made at summits

OTTAWA – A new report ranks Canada first when it comes to G8 countries fulfilling pledges made at international summits.

The G8 Research group study comes as G8 leaders met Friday at U.S. President Barack Obama’s Maryland retreat of Camp David.

Each summit ends with a declaration by Canada, the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K., Russia and the European Union on a set of steps they’ve agreed to take on issues ranging from development to security.

Among the highlight’s of last year’s summit in Deauville, France, was a pledge to assist new democracies in the Arab world.

The research group, based at the University of Toronto, found that countries were making good progress toward those goals.

“Canada has supported the democratization of Partnership Countries, but has not taken clear measures to support their economic modernization,” the study said of Canada’s efforts.

But countries have been stymied in another pledge: returning the frozen assets of fallen dictators throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

That had been one of the key demands of new leadership in those countries.

“If you give (the assets) back to the private sector, immediately you get private sector jobs and growth,” said John Kirton, director of the research group.

“There’s a total meeting of the minds on that.”

But the study suggests only France and the U.S. have actually returned any money, while Canada, the E.U. and U.K. are still working on the problem.

The other countries have taken no steps at all.

The study also reviewed promises from past summits, including the one hosted by Canada in 2010.

At the Muskoka summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper brokered an international deal on maternal and child health that saw G8 leaders pledge $7.3 billion in new funding over five years for related programs.

The initiative committed countries to disbursing enough of their aid to meet three specific goals by 2015: reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds, reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters and achieving universal access to reproductive health.

That commitment was further renewed in Deauville.

But the report finds that last year, only half of the countries made progress on their pledges.

The reasons cited for those who failed to keep their promises ranged from economic turmoil in Italy to political gridlock in the U.S.

“The Muskoka Initiative will help save the lives of mothers and children around the world,” said Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for the prime minister, in an email.

“And we therefore encourage all partners to meet their commitments.”

The leaders are expected to leave this year’s summit without making any major financial commitments to new global initiatives, given the precarious economy situation they are each facing.

On Friday, they announced a new alliance with African countries and the private sector to fight food insecurity.

“As a continuation of our international leadership on food security and agriculture, we are pleased to support the New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security,” Harper said in a statement.

“The New Alliance is a partnership based on mutual accountability, aimed at unlocking the enormous potential of Africa’s agricultural sector and improving nutrition outcomes.”

Canada’s commitment to the new alliance is $219 million over three years, but only $50 million of that is new money.

In 2009, the G8 pledged $22 billion toward food-security programs worldwide and that funding commitment expires this year.

Canada was the first country to pay its share of that pledge and there were calls Friday for funding levels to be maintained.

“We are pleased to see the G8 leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, take a significant step to keep food security and nutrition a top priority and help lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty,” said Sherry Arnott, the food security expert with World Vision.

“But the leaders won’t be able to claim success in 10 years if this alliance grows economies but not healthy children.”