UK government outlines development assistance priorities to Parliament

At the parliamentary committee on international development, the UK secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, highlighted his government’s four broad priorities for development assistance:

  1. Tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity;
  2. Driving economic development;
  3. Supporting girls' education; and
  4. Ensuring an end to preventable deaths of mothers, babies, and children by 2030.

When pressed by the committee on what would be deprioritized, Sharma stated that no decisions had been made ahead of the government spending review and that with a growing development assistance budget, there may not be any cuts to other spending item areas needed. Sharma said ensuring that UK development assistance retains its primary objective of alleviating poverty and delivering value for money for British taxpayers is a priority.

Sharma gave reassurances to the committee that the government would maintain its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income on official development assistance. He also gave his personal support for maintaining an independent department for international development, noting that he had seen the high-standing and extensive influence of the department around the world.

On Brexit, Sharma noted that his department was already planning how the UK could deploy any additional funding as a result of a no-deal exit including expanding the UK's bilateral portfolio. Sharma was keen to stress that the government aims to maintain a constructive relationship with European partners.

Video - Secretary of State parliamentary evidence session

At legislative period's midpoint, civil society organizations criticize German development policy as insufficient and incremental

Civil society organization ONE and VENRO, the foremost network of German NGOs, gave their assessments of the German government's development policy efforts as the current legislation period reaches its midpoint. Both organizations gave mixed reviews and criticized Germany for failing to spend the target 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on development.

ONE praised Germany's health expenditures, which have increased by 18%. Generous contributions to the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were seen as a good sign for the upcoming replenishment cycle of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. ONE sharply criticized Germany's spending on educational projects, however; Germany is only planning to allocate €37 million (US$42 million) to the Global Partnership for Education, while civil society has called for a contribution of €100 million (US$112 million), in keeping with the size and strength of its economy.

VENRO criticized the government as too slow and conservative in its policies on a host of issues including climate protections, gender equality, labor rights, and refugee rights. Overall VENRO urged the government to maintain a clear focus on poverty alleviation in low-income countries and demanded more engagement in and funding for initiatives that seek to ameliorate the above policy concerns.

Press release – ONE (in German)

Press release - VENRO (in German)

Partisanship increasingly complicates Australian foreign policy and development assistance discussions

Speeches at the annual conference of the Australian Institute of International Affairs demonstrated the increasingly polarized partisan views on defense and development assistance. Australia’s overseas development and Pacific affairs minister, Alex Hawke, said Australia would maintain a "ruthless and pragmatic focus" on its interests. ASPI says Hawkes’ ministerial portfolio brings together defense and development assistance and that the government should see that development spending is the "soft end of defense".

Blog - Australian Strategic Policy Institute


UK conditions contributions to World Bank's IDA on stronger efforts on climate, gender, poverty

The UK government has made the size of its future contribution to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), the Bank's concessional loan facility for countries in financial difficulty, conditional on the institution doing more to channel money into tackling the climate crisis, improving gender equality, tackling fragility and ensuring vulnerable countries can pay their debts. Speaking at the World Bank and IMF’s Annual Meetings, the UK secretary of state, Alok Sharma, noted that as the single biggest donor to IDA, the UK government would seek to leverage its financial contribution to the forthcoming nineteenth replenishment round.  

Sir Suma Chakrabati, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and former high-ranking UK civil servant, has said that the UK could be doing more to influence the World Bank given the size of its financial contribution and called for more senior roles within the Bank to be given to British nationals.

Alok Sharma used the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings as an opportunity to have a productive meeting with the new World Bank President, David Malpass and to meet with the Bank’s infrastructure team.  The UK permanent secretary to the Department of International Development, Matthew Ryecroft, also spoke at the  WB’s Global Health Security Roundtable on combating anti-microbial resistance and tackling pandemic threats.

News article - The Guardian

United Kingdom Global health

Spain to provide €50 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela

During a trip to Colombia and Cuba, Josep Borrell, the Spanish minister of foreign affairs, European Union and cooperation, announced a €50 million (US$56 million) pledge for the next three years to respond to the refugee and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Borrell also took the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Colombian peace negotiations, underlining the Spanish government’s strong support for the peacekeeping operations.  

Press release – Cooperación Española (in Spanish)


Italy and the European Commission organize first humanitarian meeting on Libya

On October 20- 21, 2019, the Italian ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation co-organized with the European Commission's directorate-general for humanitarian aid and civil protection (ECHO) the first humanitarian meeting on Libya. The technical meeting will focus on the coordination of humanitarian assistance in the country.

Vice-minister of foreign affairs Emanuela del Re, in her opening speech, denounced the recent attack on civil infrastructures and called for respect for international humanitarian law to protect displaced civilians in the country. Del Re also decried the living condition of migrants in the detention centers in Libya, saying that the first priority for Italy is to replace the detention centers with facilities that respect the basic principles of law and judicial proceedings. 

Press release – Ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation

EU Italy

Australian individuals rank highly in charitable giving; Australian government ranks ever-lower

The World Giving Index, compiled by the UK-based Charities Aid Fund, ranked Australia as the fourth most generous nation, behind the US, Myanmar, and New Zealand.  

However individual taxpayers gave away an average of only 0.42 percent of their taxable incomes to tax-deductible charities in 2016- 2017.  Between 2011 and 2017, the number of taxpayers donating to charities also fell by more than 400,000. The Australian government's foreign assistance has been reduced for the sixth year in a row. Australia is now ranked nineteenth out of twenty-nine donor countries.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald


Germany expands the scope of its support to Bangladeshi textile industry safety monitoring

German development minister, Gerd Müller, met with the foreign minister of Bangladesh, Abul Kalam Abdul Momen, to discuss ongoing cooperation in improving working conditions in the Bangladeshi textile industry. As part of this project, Müller launched the “Green Button” initiative in September, in partnership with the National Association of Textile Production and Export (BGMEA).

The Green Button is a certification for textiles whose production meets German-backed labor and ecological standards. In order to be eligible for the Green Button, companies must comply with a minimum wage requirement for textile workers, forego any child labor in production, and prove that their manufacturing process does not involve certain chemicals and air pollutants.

After the deadly 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation partnered with the International Labour Organisation to invested €7 million (US$8 million) to train inspectors for labor conditions, and to improve the control of fire and safety measures in textile production sites.

Press release – Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation [BMZ] (in German)

Germany Global health

Passage of EU long-term budget stalls amid Brexit chaos and deep divisions amongst European leaders

On October 10, 2019, the newly elected European parliament affirmed the previous legislature’s positions on the 2021- 2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), the EU’s next long-term budget, in an effort to avoid delaying the negotiation process at the European Council. The resolution supports an MFF of €1.32 billion (US$1.5 billion), representing 1.3% of the EU’s 27 member states’ gross national income (GNI) (excluding the UK), an increase from the current MFF’s proportion of the EU’s 28 member states (with the UK) of 1.03% GNI (1.11% including the off-budget European Development Fund), or €1.1 billion (US$1.3 billion).

However, heads of state failed to agree at the European Council summit on October 17-18, 2019, stalling the full passage of the budget. The summit was heavily dominated by discussions on Brexit and leaders abandoned their objective of reaching an MFF agreement by the end of the year. Instead, the summit concluded that the presidency should submit a revised ‘negotiating box’ (the negotiating document for the draft MFF legislation) by the end of 2019.
Member states remain divided on the size of the overall budget, how to prioritize spending areas, and whether to create new ‘own resources’, or sources of income for the EU. The more frugal countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, have been pushing for a smaller budget than that put forward by the European Commission’s proposal, and are advocating for permanent ‘rebates’, and the establishment of a link between EU funding and respect for the rule of law. Many countries in southern and Eastern Europe, such as Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain, favor a higher overall budget, at least at the level of the Commission’s proposal. Greece supports the Parliament’s position of a budget at 1.3% of GNI. 

The Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU has proposed a compromise budget size of 1.055% of the 27 EU member states’ GNI. This proposal would strike a middle ground between the European Commission’s (EC) proposal of 1.11% of the EU27’s GNI, and the position of the more frugal countries which are advocating for an overall budget of 1% of GNI. The deep divisions could mean a potential delay in reaching an agreement beyond the beginning of 2021.  
News article - Warsaw Business Journal

Resolution - European Parliament

Summit conclusions - European Council


Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine on track for WHO approval

The European Medicines Agency has recommended a conditional marketing authorization for the rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, originally developed in Canada. This authorization is an important step towards the European Commission's decision on licensing and the World Health Organization (WHO) prequalification of the vaccine. Licensed doses are expected to be available mid-2020. 

Key funders of the randomized control trial conducted by the government of Guinea and WHO in 2015 included the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada's International Development Research Centre and Global Affairs Canada. Noway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Wellcome Trust, the UK government and Médecins Sans Frontières also helped to fund the studies’ volunteers, researchers, and health workers in Guinea.

News article - The World Health Organization