UK faces calls to take global leadership on ending preventable child deaths

UNICEF has published a new report calling on the UK government to take global leadership on ending preventable child deaths. The UK Secretary of State for International Development, Alok Sharma, is already on record saying that the UK will prioritize investments to end preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and children by 2030. To achieve this goal, UNICEF urges the UK to invest in building strong primary health care services.

The UNICEF report identifies five central challenges that must be addressed in order to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five:

  1. Limited access to quality primary health care, which causes 7,000 newborn deaths every day;
  2. Unequal access to vaccines, which results in the deaths of 1.5 million children under five every year;
  3. Pneumonia, which is the main infectious disease-causing death among children under five;
  4. Malnutrition, which leads to nearly half of deaths for children under five; and
  5. Diarrhea which is the fifth-leading cause of death among children under five.

While the world has made major progress toward reducing child mortality rates, 53 countries (predominately in sub-Saharan Africa) are still not set to meet their commitments for ending preventable deaths of newborns and children.

News article - Devex

Report - UNICEF

UK Parliament elects new Chair of International Development Select Committee

Sarah Champion, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Rotherham, has been named the new Chair of the International Development Select Committee (IDC). The IDC is an influential parliamentary committee that scrutinizes the policies, spending, and administration of the Department for International Development (DFID) and its associated bodies. 

Champion has promised to defend the UK’s commitment to delivering 0.7% of its gross national income as official development assistance. She has a long history of campaigning on issues including human rights, violence against women and girls, child protection, global health, and poverty reduction, both locally and internationally. She replaces Labour party member Stephen Twigg, who stood down as IDC chair in 2019.

Tom Tugendhat, Conservative representative for Tonbridge and Malling, has been reappointed as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. This committee is responsible for overseeing the Foreign and Commonwealth office. He has held the position since 2017, during which time the committee has focused on issues including the UK's strategic engagement in Africa, the government's 'Global Britain' policy, and the future of the UK's diplomatic relations with the European Union.

News article - The House Magazine

News article - Devex

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UK confirms support for sexual and reproductive health services and rights

The UK Development Minister, Baroness Sugg, attended the UK’s International Planned Parenthood Federation annual meeting and confirmed that support for sexual and reproductive health services and rights will continue to be a priority issue for the Department for International Development (DFID).

During the same week, the Countess of Wessex, a member of the UK Royal Family, visited a DFID project in Sierra Leone to learn about the UK's work to improve access to family planning services and reproductive health education in Sierra Leone, where one in five girls aged between 15-19 are pregnant or have a child.

Twitter- Baroness Sugg,

Twitter - Royal Family

UK prime minister orders review of ODA spending

Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, has reportedly ordered a government review of how the UK spends its £14.6 billion (US$19.1 billion) official development assistance (ODA) budget. It is believed that Johnson wants to explore ways to better align  Britain’s ODA with the government’s foreign policy objectives. 

According to various British newspapers, civil servants have been asked to explore new ways of spending the UK's ODA budget while still abiding by the international definition of ODA, set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). One of the areas being explored is whether more research from British universities, on subjects like clean technologies, could qualify as ODA, given the potential benefit of the research to partner countries.

News article - The Daily Mail

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UK parliament ratifies withdrawal bill from Europe; EU approval expected

The UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which sets out the terms under which the UK will leave the EU, has been passed into law in the UK, after being ratified by the UK Parliament and given royal assent on January 23, 2020. The European Parliament and Council now need to approve the WA to enable the UK to officially exit the EU on January 31, 2020.

The Parliament will vote on the WA on January 29, 2020. Given that the committee responsible for the resolution recommended that members of the European Parliament consent to the agreement, a majority in favor of approving the WA is expected.

The Council will then need to conclude the process with a qualified majority vote, to be held on January 30, 2020. The WA has already been approved by member states’ leaders in the European Council and, as such, the Council vote is regarded essentially as a formality.

Press release - European Parliament

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UK government and JP Morgan commit additional US$15 million to expand FinTech accelerator

The UK government and JP Morgan, the US-based investment bank, have committed US$15 million to expand the Catalyst Fund, a financial technology (FinTech) accelerator that supports inclusive FinTech startups in partner countries. The fund was established in 2016 to promote FinTech innovation and financial inclusion. The expanded funding will be used to support 30 new startups in emerging markets for FinTech, including Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Mexico.

The UK government supports the fund through its international development assistance budget.

Press release - JP Morgan

United Kingdom

UK government announces US$1.9 billion in initiatives at first UK-Africa Investment Summit

The UK government announced £1.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) worth of initiatives to boost trade and investment, create jobs and mobilize an additional £2.4 billion in private investment during the first UK-Africa Investment Summit. £400 million (US$523 million) of initiatives relate to the UK's international development assistance budget.

The summit was opened by the UK Prime Minister and attended by high-level representatives from 21 African countries, UK businesses representatives and government ministries, and members of the UK royal family. The summit was publicized as the start of a new, post-Brexit partnership with Africa based on trade, investment, shared values, and mutual interests.

Development assistance programs announced include:

  • A new facility to develop local currency bonds in Africa with the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC);
  • £200 million (US$262 million) to support basic trade infrastructure in southern Africa;
  • £38 million (US$50 million) for a Climate Compatible Growth Fund to help African governments access UK expertise to enable a shift to more sustainable power sources; 
  • £45 million (US$59 million) to improve digital access and skills and support female employment; and
  • New funding to boost the flow of private financing into African projects supporting girls’ education, healthcare and climate resilience.

The summit was criticized by some for its focus on the UK's trade opportunities, for lack of transparency, and for insufficient involvement of civil society. Critics also questioned whether it was appropriate for Department for International Development (DFID) to have invested a reported £15 million (US$20 million) in hosting the summit, given its focus on trade. 

The Labour party’s shadow international development secretary, Dan Carden, wrote a highly critical piece in the New Internationalist magazine, noting that the summit indicates UK development assistance policy will not be driven by evidence of how to best fight global poverty, but by "naked free-market ideology and the interests of British business".

News article - Devex

Op-ed - The New Internationalist

Press Release - DFID

United Kingdom

UK bans use of international development assistance for coal projects

During his speech at the UK-Africa Investment summit Prime Minister Boris Johnson commited to stop using UK development assistance and export credits for coal-related projects in partner countries. Environmental groups have welcomed the announcement while also calling for the government to go further and commit to not funding oil and gas related projects.   

News article - Inews

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To understand ramifications of potential UK development assistance merger, look to Australia's history, warns former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister

Alexander Downer, former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, argued against the amalgamation of the Department of International Development (DFID) with the UK Foreign Office, a move currently being considered by UK government officials.  He reccomended that DFID, if placed under the Foreign Secretary, should remain a separate institution.

Downer drew a parallel between the UK's possible restructuring of its development assistance mechanisms and the 2013 merge of Australia's development assistance agency, AusAID, and its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This move, Downer says, did not improve Australia’s foreign policy or its delivery of development assistance, as proponents claimed it would. Instead, it involved substantial disturbance and the loss of many talented development officials. Downer was Minister for Foreign Affairs for 12 years. In that role, he was responsible for Australia's development assistance program.

Letter to the editor - The Times

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UK experts argue for continued collobration with EU on development assistance

As part of an inquiry led by the UK House of Lord’s Sub-Committee on EU External Affairs into how the UK should work with the EU post-Brexit, experts argued passionately for continued collaboration between the UK and the EU on international development. They cited the considerable mutual benefits of sharing respective expertise, spheres of influence, and resources

Mikaela Gavas, Co-Director of the Center for Global Development, and Simon Maxwell, former Director of the Overseas Development Institute, said that the UK and the EU need to start by agreeing on shared priorities for their future collaboration and then decide on the appropriate implementing vehicle.

They proposed two possible arrangements for future collaboration: the parties could negotiate an ambitious and wide-ranging partnership, including a shared vision, objectives, and common resources, but maintain separate implementing organizations to avoid governance and accountability issues; alternatively, they suggested that the UK and the EU could pool resources towards a common aim by establishing a joint EU-UK development assistance trust fund with its own governance arrangements. 

Blog post - Centre for Global Development

UK House of Lords - Sub-Committee on EU External Affairs Evidence Session

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