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Trudeau urges world to pledge more money for AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis

Justin Trudeau, centre, hosts a luncheon for the African heads of delegation at a conference for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in Montreal on Sept. 16, 2016.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

Justin Trudeau urged world leaders to fund the fight against major diseases in a speech in Montreal that helps burnish Canada's image as a global player ahead of the Prime Minister's trip to the United Nations General Assembly next week.

Mr. Trudeau was speaking on Friday as host of an international conference in Montreal aimed at boosting contributions to the Global Fund, an international partnership dedicated to fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

"Canada is challenging you to step up," he told participants. "We must lead by example and we must work together, because when we do, we show the world what can be accomplished when we unite in common purpose."

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The conference, hosted by Canada for the first time, drew figures such as UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, rock star Bono and philanthropist Bill Gates.

But its tough work unfolds behind the scenes in securing funding from governments to tackle the world's three most deadly infectious diseases.

Mr. Trudeau urged donors – mostly governments, but private contributors and companies as well – to back the funding effort in an appeal reflecting the Liberals' bid to reclaim a more visible role for Canada on the world stage.

Organizers have set a target of $13-billion (U.S.) to replenish the fund for the next three years, an amount they say would save eight million lives. Canada has already announced a contribution of $785-million (Canadian), a 20-per-cent increase over its previous pledge, made three years ago. Other countries are hiking their contributions even more; Germany on Thursday announced a pledge of 800-million Euros ($1.2-billion Canadian), a 33-per-cent increase over its previous donation.

The global push comes amid concerns that government austerity programs and political instability caused by terrorism and the refugee crisis could jeopardize nations' commitments. Participants are waiting to find out the level of contribution from the United Kingdom, which has been rattled by its referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Mr. Trudeau urged leaders to continue the fight, which he said had a disproportionate impact on girls and women.

"Poverty is sexist," he said, adding that women routinely face social and political discrimination. "As a feminist, as a father and as a human being, I know that it is not normal."

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Canada won praise for its leadership.

"Canada is taking a stance against these strong political dynamics that we're seeing in many parts of the world," said Seth Faison, spokesman for the Global Fund. "There is a lot of social and political upheaval these days, with fear and isolationism, so we believe that global engagement is the way to go."

The tally from the replenishment meeting, which is held every three years, will be announced on Saturday.

According to the Global Fund, which was created in 2002, its programs have provided antiretroviral therapy for HIV to 9.2 million people, testing and treatment for tuberculosis to 15.1 million people, and 659 million mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

Mr. Trudeau heads to New York on Monday for a two-day trip that includes addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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