DEAUVILLE, France — The G8 Summit opened today with little sign of global health on the agenda, a huge and disappointing change from the G8 Muskoka in Canada where maternal, child and reproductive health was one of the signature issues.
The heads of state are arriving as I write this — Russia and Canada arrived last night and the rest are on their way now — and global health is nowhere visible on the agenda, neither in the French presidency’s official agenda on the website, or in the more detailed agenda we are now seeing here in Deauville.
We have heard that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the champion of the 2010 Muskoka Initiative and the co-chair of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, plans a presentation on the commission’s newly-released report “Keeping Promises, Measuring Results,” but we have no details yet on where and when this will be done.
Oxfam International and the ONE Campaign both called it a “whitewash,” Action Aid said it was “deeply embarrassing” and Malaria No More UK was disappointed at the lack of clear information.
Member organisations of Global Call to Action Against Poverty and Coordination SUD, an alliance of 130 French NGOs, put out a statement deploring the lack of transparency. “Even though preliminary meetings were held between the government and civil society, neither the working documents, nor the report draft, were provided to the NGOs and unions ahead of this meeting, thus reducing any possibility of serious discussion on the content of the report,” an English translation of the statement said. “In addition, whereas the report is meant to outline the efforts undertaken to implement G8 commitments, the NGOs and unions stress its weak points.”
In an editorial, the New York Times said the G8 “seems determined to fudge the numbers rather than admit to a broken promise.
Avocat pour la Santé dans le Monde, a French NGO advocating for global health, told us they met the G8 health experts from the UK and Germany and they were not very optimistic about getting anything on health in the final G8 communiqué expected to be released on Friday.
Again, this is in striking contrast to the final communiqué of the G8 Muskoka, which devoted a significant amount of space to health.
However, we in global health are nothing if not idealistic and we hope that these discouraging signs turn out to be incorrect. It is noon now in Deauville and the summit is just starting.