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EU foreign ministers endorse new Africa-EU Partnership Strategy

EU foreign ministers have endorsed a new joint EU-Africa Strategy that seeks to strengthen mutual engagement, address security, and promote sustainable, inclusive economic African development. The Strategy Communication, launched in May 2017, identifies two strands for these objectives. First, the strategy aims at building more resilient states and societies, with a focus on 1) preventing conflicts, address crises and peace-building, 2) strengthening governance systems; and 3) managing migration and mobility. Second, it aims at creating more and better jobs, especially for youth, with a focus on 1) attracting investments, 2) promoting renewable energy, 3) transforming African agriculture and agro-businesses, and 4) improving knowledge and skills in the African continent. The European Council’s endorsement underscored the importance of human rights, gender equality, and sexual and reproductive health and rights in the work to be supported by the new strategy.

Press release - Council of the EU

British PM Theresa May reappoints Priti Patel as minister for international development

The embattled British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has reappointed Priti Patel as minister for international development during May’s cabinet reshuffle, after May’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in the June 8 general election. Patel was first appointed Secretary of State for the Department of International Development (DFID) in July 2016. The UK’s leading aid organizations together welcomed Patel’s reappointment. A joint statement released by Save the Children highlighted that “British aid and leadership in tackling poverty and hunger are needed more than ever,” while urging the UK to resist “any temptation to act unilaterally” in the face of four countries facing famine, and the world’s largest refugee crisis since WWII.

News – Reuters 

Press release – Save the Children 

United Kingdom

Lancet Journal and LSHTM launch new series on health in humanitarian crises

The Lancet and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have released a series of four papers that highlight gaps in the understanding of the health impacts of humanitarian crises.

The papers call for aligning humanitarian interventions with development programs, for more timely and robust health-information distribution, and for improvement in leadership and coordination to ensure that interventions are more efficient, effective, and sustainable. In addition, the papers call for action to ensure the protection of humanitarian workers. The series brings together lessons learned from "recent failures in humanitarian crises" and "to provide recommendations to improve a broken system".

Website – The Lancet

Assistance found to direct benefit firms and workers in the UK alongside its primary poverty-reducing objectives

An Overseas Development Insitute (ODI) briefing paper, published in May 2017, finds that UK's direct bilateral assistance of US$5.9 billion in 2014 increased the country's exports by almost US$1.3 billion, creating 12,000 jobs in the UK. The analysis also shows that for every US$1 of direct bilateral assistance, there is an increase in UK exports of US$0.22. 

ODI's report concludes that while development assistance increases exports and employment within the UK, funding to developing countries should continue to be motivated by a moral imperative and be focused on poverty reduction, economic transformation, and other actions that promote economic and social development.

Briefing note - ODI

United Kingdom

UK think tank highlights shift in British development strategy to more closely align with national interest

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a UK think tank, has released a report that charts how the country is increasingly shifting its use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) toward supporting national economic interests. It also highlights criticisms including from other organizations that this will weaken the UK’s emphasis on poverty alleviation, due to the difficulties inherent in reconciling the promotion of national interests with poverty reduction. IFS projects that the UK’s ODA will increase by about £1 billion (US$1.5 billion) by 2021, given continued commitment to the 0.7% ODA/GNI spending target. However, ODA is increasingly channeled through entities beyond the Department for International Development (DFID), such as the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This is in line with the conservative government’s 2015 policy change of ensuring ODA also serves security and commercial interests. To quantify this accelerating shift, in 2016 more than 25% of the ODA budget was spent outside DFID, up from 14% two years earlier.

Website – Institute for Fiscal Studies

United Kingdom

UK NGOs fall silent ahead of June election

The UK’s NGOs, development organizations, and other advocacy groups are expected to refrain from media and other public appearances ahead of June elections for fear of running afoul of a 2014 law requiring special registration of groups that could be considered to be campaigning, according to Devex. Under the law, widely known as the Lobbying Act, anything “that could reasonably be perceived as being intended to influence an election” counts as campaign activity. This may include things such as a published report, an event, or a social media campaign. Such activity requires registration as a campaigning group, which comes with limits to organizational spending during the campaign period, and would be applied retroactively, up to one year before an election. According to organizations, this complicates compliance especially in a snap election. One influential conservative MP, Lord Robin Hodgson, however, asserted his conviction that organizations and charities will be safe as long as their activities adhere to their official public benefit objectives, for which "[they] are entitled to lobby".

Web article – Devex

United Kingdom

MPs recommend actions to improve awareness of SDGs in UK

The UK's House of Commons' Environmental Audit Committee has closed a month-long inquiry on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK. In its report, which incorporates feedback from a range of stakeholders including government and think tanks, the committee notes that the UK has already outlined its SDG implementation approach, but argues for more action to raise awareness and address an identified accountability gap. Recommendations from the report include working with the BBC, providing the public with more direct opportunities for involvement, enshrining the SDGs in law, incentivizing or requiring private sector involvement, and a series of measures around monitoring and reporting.

Website – Bond
Full report – House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee

United Kingdom

House of Commons' financial watchdog questions DFID’s level of reported fraud

The United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons’ financial watchdog has released a report challenging the levels of fraud officially reported by the Department for International Development (DFID). Released by the Public Accounts Committee, this report argues that DFID's recorded financial losses as a result of fraud (equaling 0.03% of its budget) are significantly lower than other UK departments, at a time when Official Development Assistance (ODA) had increased significantly. Further, ODA targeted “some of the most corrupt states in the world,” which carries with it elevated risks of fraud.

The report also argues that counter-fraud activities from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and British Council “do not yet match the risks they face,” urging a broadening of anti-fraud efforts to NGO partners as well.

Media report - the Guardian
Government report - Public Accounts Committee

United Kingdom

UK MPs urge DFID to focus more on education

UK members of parliament (MPs) have urged the Department for International Development (DFID) to boost its Official Development Assistance (ODA) for education. The House of Commons' International Development Committee submitted an 11-page letter to Priti Patel, International Development Secretary, in lieu of a full report from a nine-month inquiry. The inquiry was cut short by the snap June elections called by Prime Minister Theresa May in April. While praising DFID for its leadership in the education sector, the parliamentary committee also urged the department to increase funding from 8% of overall ODA to 10%, suggesting a reduction in the amount of money allocated to other departments to achieve this new level. The committee also called for enhanced focus on early-childhood education, education in humanitarian crises, teacher effectiveness, and addressing inequalities in access to education.

Website – House of Commons International Development Committee

United Kingdom

Amid speculation of dropping 0.7% target, May insists it will stay

Calls for a snap election and what some see as waffling on the UK’s development commitments have prompted Prime Minister Theresa May to affirm that current targets will remain, according to British and international media. In the days after May called for new elections ahead of Brexit negotiations, doubts grew that a conservative UK government would continue its current commitment of spending 0.7% of national income on Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Devex argued May offered evasive answers when asked during a parliamentary visit whether ODA benchmarks would remain, while the Guardian reported that May’s office refused to say whether the 0.7% pledge would be included in election manifestos, which prompted a rebuke from billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. But May responded to the speculation with an unequivocal statement: “Let’s be clear – the 0.7% commitment remains and will remain,” reported the Guardian.

Media report - the Guardian

Media report - Devex

United Kingdom