Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on delegates at a UN summit on global poverty to turn their attention to reducing child mortality and improving maternal health around the world.

In a short speech delivered at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday afternoon, Harper told delegates that "much remains to be done."

It has been 10 years since the formation of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty around the world. Goals number four and five in the document address child and maternal health.

"It is a sad reality that each year, hundreds of thousands of mothers die in pregnancy, and nearly nine million children die before their fifth birthday," Harper said. "It does not have to be this way. Progress is possible, but only if we are all willing to take collective action."

During his speech, Harper hailed the adoption of the Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at last spring's G8 Summit north of Toronto. Harper said that the initiative aims to generate $10 billion over five years from world leaders, private foundations and other donors.

"When we speak of the Millennium Development goals, it will be critical that our words here today ultimately translate into simple realities, like food on the tables, improved health and a better life for children around the world," Harper said. "Together we must keep our promises and work towards practical, durable solutions."

Harper also announced that Canada will boost its contribution to the replenishment of the UN Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the years 2011 to 2013. The government's contribution will be about $540 million.

The prime minister is on the campaign trail at the United Nations this week to press Canada's bid for a seat on the powerful Security Council.

That Muskoka Initiative could prove the key to getting votes for Canada to assume one of the council's temporary seats, CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife told Canada AM.

"We're running against Germany and Portugal, but countries feel we are confident because of what we're doing today," he said. "People are confident we're going to win this (but) it's not in the bag yet."

Harper is also to address the General Assembly on Friday. However, the prime minister's UN campaign will be interrupted by domestic politics.

Harper raced back to Ottawa immediately after Tuesday's speech in order to be in Parliament for Wednesday's gun registry vote.

Fife reported Tuesday night the vote on Tory MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill to kill the long-gun registry is expected to be close.

"If all MPs show up for the vote, party sources say the Conservative attempt to kill the long-gun registry will fail by a vote of 153 to 151," Fife said late Tuesday.

"A word of caution though. Opposition party sources say it's still possible that some MPs who opposed the gun registry and flip-flopped may get cold feet, they may get the flu and the Conservatives are hoping that some of those Liberal MPs from Newfoundland will stay home to help their constituents deal with the flooding from Igor."

No matter the vote's outcome, Harper will return to New York to deliver his first speech to the UN General Assembly in four years.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said Canada's chances of winning the vote for a seat on the Security Council have been hurt by the prime minister ignoring the UN for most of his time in office.

It has been a decade since Canada held a seat on the Security Council.

The 192 UN ambassadors will vote on the seat on October 12 in a secret ballot.

Canadians boycott Ahmadinejad speech

Harper's speech came hours after Canadian diplomats at the UN boycotted a speech by the president of Iran.

Western diplomats, including those from Canada, have in recent years made a show of walking out on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whenever he addresses the UN General Assembly.

Catherine Loubier, spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, says the boycott was intended as a protest against Iran's human rights record and controversial nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad told the assembly that capitalism is facing defeat and is calling for an overhaul of the "undemocratic and unjust" global decision-making bodies.

He called on world leaders, thinkers and global reformers "to spare no effort" to make practical plans for a new world order.

He's proposing that the UN call the current decade the Decade for Joint Global Governance.