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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the Saving Every Woman, Every Child: Within Arm’s Reach Summit in Toronto May 30, 2014.

Aaron Harris/Reuters

Canada and other wealthy countries should increase their foreign aid budgets to meet global spending targets, the Secretary-General of the United Nations says.

Speaking at the close of a three-day summit on maternal and child health, Ban Ki-moon said many countries have committed to spending about 0.7 per cent of their gross national income on development assistance by 2015. "Unfortunately, at this time, there are only five countries who are meeting this target," Mr. Ban said.

Mr. Ban's comments came one day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would commit $3.5-billion to maternal and child health in low-income countries over five years. Mr. Harper did not comment on whether Canada's overall aid budget, which stands at about $5-billion a year, would increase.

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Canada spent 0.27 per cent of its GNI on foreign aid last year, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The figure puts Canada well behind several Nordic country donors and Britain, all of which are meeting the 0.7 per cent goal.

Asked about the spending target during a press conference on Friday, Mr. Harper said foreign aid should not be measured by how much money has been spent.

"It's a philosophy of our government, and I think of Canadians, that we do not measure things in terms of the amount of money we spend but in terms of what's been achieved," he said.

Ottawa has made maternal and child health its top foreign aid priority in recent years and Mr. Harper said he would push for the cause to remain on the global development agenda after 2015 and would call on other countries to renew spending commitments.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article said incorrectly that Canada spent 0.28 per cent of its gross national income on foreign aid last year. In fact, the figure was 0.27 per cent .

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