Only global solidarity can save us from COVID-19, warns German Development Minister

German Development Minister Gerd Müller called for increased support to low-income countries and global solidarity in tackling COVID-19. Germany pledged €20 million (US$22 million) to partner countries to support the detection, containment, and prevention of COVID-19. With a contribution of €75 million (US$83 million), Germany is also the largest donor to finance the World Bank's Pandemic Emergency Unit.

Müller further pointed to the importance of robust early-warning systems and called on the community of states to respond to the World Health Organization's (WHO)’s drive to raise US$675 million to fight the global coronavirus pandemic. He also called for economic stabilization packages for low-income countries to mitigate the current economic downturn.

Müller additionally emphasized the global responsibility to implement pandemic controls in international supply chains, especially in the food industry, as an important step to prevent future pandemics.

News article – Tagesspiegel (in German)

Germany Global health

With all eyes on COVID-19, UK's integrated review of foreign, defense, development capabilities temporarily scales back

In a joint letter to the respective chairs of the UK parliamentary Select Committees for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and International Development, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said the  UK’s review of its foreign, defense, and development policy is being temporarily scaled back as civil service resources were being redeployed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson said the government would keep them updated on the new timetable.  

The International Development Committee's inquiry into the effectiveness of UK development assistance, which was due to feed into the review, has announced that it will pause oral submissions in parliament; however, it is still accepting written submissions.

Twitter - International Development Committee

United Kingdom Global health

Once a proud leader in global health, US is all but absent from international pandemic response efforts

Following last week's passage of the massive US$2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which was largely focused on domestic economic and health concerns, the US development community has started to push for a more robust US global response. Historically, the US has been a leader in global pandemic response, but the current situation has been marked by a stark lack of US involvement on the global stage in either coordination efforts or high-level funding.

Development stakeholders say that some lawmakers are already starting to think about the necessity for additional funding bills that address global health security, food insecurity, and other areas of need. There is concern, however, about the appetite for more significant spending in light of the size of the appropriations bill just signed and the conservative government's attitude towards multilateral cooperation at large.

News article - Devex

United States

South Korea, widely wiewed as model for COVID-19 response, publishes planning resources and financial measures, invests in further vaccine development and economic relief packages

Upon the request of the World Bank, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (in partnership with the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ministry of Health and Welfare) published South Korea's health, quarantine, economic, and financial measures on COVID-19 in English and made it publically available online. South Korea will cooperate with the World Bank to support low-income countries on health and medicine and to develop and share preventive and quarantine measures that make use of ICT technologies. It has also received requests to provide diagnostic kits as humanitarian assistance from over 50 countries.

South Korea has been continuing its drive to combat COVID-19 domestically and internationally. President Moon Jae-in stressed during the G20 2020 virtual summit on March 26, 2020, the need for G20 countries to support low-income countries with weaker healthcare systems to strengthen their capacity to combat epidemics such as COVID-19. South Korea will contribute to the global effort toward developing a vaccine for COVID 19 and to improve the economic stability of low-income countries.

In terms of international cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in its 2020 policy plan that South Korea will contribute US$3 million annually from 2020 to 2022 to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for the first time. South Korea will also be sharing information on COVID-19 response strategy.

Domestically, the South Korean government will also invest an additional KRW6 billion (US$5 million) in Korean pharmaceutical companies developing therapies and vaccines, in addition to the KRW1.6 billion (US$1 million) initially invested in January of 2020 for the cause.

Korea is also launching a program dedicated to putting vaccines into practical use this year. The 2020 budget of this program is estimated to be around KRW12 billion (US$10 million), much of which will be used for COVID-19 vaccine development. In addition to the supplementary budget, President Moon also announced on March 30, 2020, that it will implement a one-time conditional cash transfer program entitled 'emergency disaster relief money' to alleviate the economic impact of COVID-19 on Korean households. The payments are conditional, based on the household income level to ensure that those with a relatively lower level of income benefit. He also explained the government's proposal for the second supplementary budget, which is to be deliberated by the new members of the national assembly after the general election on April 15, 2020.

Press release – Ministry of Economy and Finance

News article – Yonhap News

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

COVID-19 spending must not come from development budget, says Dutch parliamentary majority

On March 26, 2020, the Dutch parliament approved by majority a motion to preserve the Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation budget from financing a part of the €15.0 billion (US$17.0 billion) package for the domestic response to the COVID-19 crisis in the Netherlands, which had been announced by the Minister of Finance earlier that week. 

The motion, spearheaded by Mr. Van der Staaij from the SGP party, made special emphasis in preserving the ODA funding to global health and food security. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)


With eye towards refugee populations, German development agency looks to design program to mitigate COVID-19 effects in crisis areas, restructures budget

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is currently developing a program encompassing immediate measures to combat COVID-19 and its economic consequences in low-income countries, and especially in regions hosting refugees. Therefore, the BMZ’s budget will be significantly restructured, according to Development Minister Gerd Müller.

Müller further emphasized the need to show solidarity with the most vulnerable in this crisis and stated that the COVID-19 pandemic must not further disadvantage the poor.

News article – Stern (in German)

Germany Global health

German Development Minister calls for debt remission for low-income countries to free resoures in fight against COVID-19

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has called on donor countries to cancel debt repayments from low-income countries to free resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

While announcing his support for the G20 leaders’ recently approved COVID-19-response package of US$5 billion to support the global economy, Müller emphasized the need to include a debt cut for the world’s poorest countries to ensure their ability to act. The G7 and G20 countries should, he said, bring forward a comprehensive stabilization package to mitigate the economic downturn in low-income countries.

News article - RND (in German)

Germany Global health

Sweden reallocates US$11 million to COVID-19 efforts

In response to a recent appeal from the UN to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has allocated SEK 100 million (US$11 million) from its humanitarian reserve toward efforts against COVID-19 in low-income countries. The funds will be made available mainly to organizations within the UN system that have adequate logistical capacity and are able to rapidly scale up their operations.

"We now see it as extremely important that early efforts should also be made to prevent the spread of the virus. That's why we earmark around SEK100 million that can be used to strengthen health care facilities with equipment and medicine, but also to strengthen their capacity to isolate infected people," says Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, Head of Humanitarian Aid at Sida.

Through Sida’s Rapid Response Mechanism, approval of funds for humanitarian organizations can be granted within 24 hours. To date, COVID-19 projects have already been approved for Red Cross operations in South Africa, Pakistan, and Iran. In addition, Sida has reallocated funds toward COVID-19 projects in three of its partner countries: Afghanistan, Palestine, and Sudan.

Sida’s humanitarian reserve has a total allocation of SEK500 million (US$53 million) in 2020.

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish)

Sweden Global health

European Commission to alter long-term EU budget proposal to address COVID-19

The European Commission plans to propose changes to the EU’s long-term budget, the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), to better enable the EU to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and potential economic crisis. Proposed changes will include an economic stimulus package that ensures that cohesion within the Union is maintained through solidarity.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for further discussions on the next MFF and the European Parliament’s budgets committee has called on the Commission to produce a new MFF proposal in light of the COVID-19 crisis. 
The announcement of the Commission’s plans to adjust the MFF proposal also follows French President Emmanual Macron's call for more European solidarity, either through a common debt instrument or by using the EU budget to help member states most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. 
Press release - European Commission
Press release - European Parliament

EU Global health

Dutch umbrella NGO talks with Minister Kaag on COVID-19's effects in development sector

On March 23, 2020, the Dutch NGO umbrella organization Partos met with the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, to relay their asks back to her ministry. These recommendations were compiled by Partos members, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and included the following:

  • Provide existing NGO programs with enough flexibility to respond quickly to COVID-19 and address the greatest needs of the most vulnerable;
  • Allocate additional funding to fight COVID-19 in developing countries and ensure continuity of current programs aimed at supporting health care; and
  • Keep supporting existing civil society strengthening programs for their critical role both addressing the current crisis as well as preserving civic spaces affected as a result of the political measures taken in some countries. 

The Minister promised to ensure flexibility of the use of current funds to NGOs and noted the Ministry is working on a framework towards this goal. Kaag also shared her concerns about Human Rights and the need to maintain ongoing and future programs in support of local organizations in developing countries. 

On March 28, 2020, Kaag expanded upon the importance of supporting the most vulnerable populations in developing countries in a panel discussion in the Dutch TV Op1 show (from Minute 35, in Dutch only).

Press release - Partos (in Dutch)