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Stephen Harper wants G8 to honour past promises, not make new ones

Davos, Switzerland - Stephen Harper is proposing a new major role for the G8 as co-ordinator for aid. As the host of G8 and G20 summits this year, it offers a chance to re-shape Mr. Harper's image, too. But the Harper twist is this: to warn the focus should be on keeping past promises, not making new commitments.

The Prime Minister has already said that at the G8 summit in Muskoka in June, Canada will champion the cause of improving the health of pregnant mothers and children - one of the millennium goals the United Nations set in 2000, but one on which progress is scarce.

But there, and at the G20 summit that will follow in Toronto, Mr. Harper will call for countries to live up to the promises they've already made on aid and financial reforms, rather than start making new ones, his spokesman says. Mr. Harper will make that clear when he outlines his agenda as summit host in a speech in Davos, Switzerland, today.

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"The discussion should be less about new agreements than accountability for existing ones," said Dimitri Soudas, Mr. Harper's press secretary.

At the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, G8 leaders promised to double foreign aid, but some, like Italy, have failed to meet the pledge.

And for the broader G20, which has taken over the G8's previous role of economic co-ordinator, Mr. Harper is expected to emphasize the need for G20 countries to live up to commitments to strengthen their own national financial regulation. Others, notably French President Nicolas Sarkozy, called for tight global co-ordination on common regulation, but Mr. Harper has been less than enthusiastic.

G20 leaders decided at a Pittsburgh summit in September to embark on strengthening national regulations, with a system of review by an international board.

(Photo: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

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