Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been named co-chair of a new United Nations commission that will track pledges and resources for maternal and children's health in developing countries.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the new UN commission will ensure countries live up to their pledges to provide more aid for maternal and children's health in developing regions. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) )

In a statement Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Harper and his co-chair, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, will work to build an accountability framework "that will link resources committed to women's and children's health with the results they are intended to achieve."

Harper said the new commission will help ensure that countries follow through on the commitments they made at this summer's G8 summit in Canada and the Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York and that resources are spent in an "effective and responsible way."  

"I look forward to working with other members to improve the health of women and children in the world, improve how vital health information is registered, collected and shared, and find the best ways of tracking resources and investments at the global and country levels," the prime minister said in a statement.  

"This work must be accomplished as soon as possible so that resources are allocated quickly and effectively where they are most urgently needed."

As host of the G8 summit in June, Harper pledged $1.1 billion to Canada's global initiative on maternal and child health for developing countries, and called for improved accountability reporting on whether the pledges were being kept.  

The five-year, $5-billion G8 initiative was aimed at galvanizing global support for dramatically reducing the number of women in the developing world who die in childbirth, as well as the number of children who succumb to preventable diseases.

But the Conservative government's decision not to include abortion as part of its G8 initiative triggered criticism from international health organizations and women's groups, which argued access to safe abortions is a critical part of maternal health practices.