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Short on development credentials, White House pick for next USAID head raises eyebrows

When Mark Green, the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, announced his resignation, most assumed that the Deputy Administrator would take the helm. Instead, a relative unknown to the development community, John Barsa, currently the assistant administrator for USAID's Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, has been named.

Well-connected within the Trump Administration, Barsa served in the Department of Homeland Security and as a member of Trump's 'landing team' before coming to USAID. Although some have praised Barsa for his political and management skills, others expressed concern about his stark partisanship, as well as his work to cut funding to efforts against violent extremism and  his role in controversial migration issues with Central America. Barsa will serve until a permanent head has been confirmed by the Senate, but this is unlikely to happen before the November 2020 presidential election. 

No transition plan has yet been detailed.

News article - Devex

United States

Head of USAID announces resignation

The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, announced that he will leave the agency at the end of March of 2020.

During his tenure, Green led USAID's 'journey to self-reliance' in which the agency has sought to realign the US relationship with partner countries with the goal of ending the need for foreign assistance.

Green, who has led USAID since August of 2017, is expected to take over the McCain Institute for International Leadership. The current number two at USAID, Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, will take over as the acting administrator.

Press release - USAID

News article - Politico

United States

German pharmaceutical “CureVac” guarantees global access to potential COVID-19 vaccine, following high bids from the United States to secure exclusive rights

US President Donald Trump offered a large amount of money to the German biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure the lab’s work on a COVID-19 vaccine exclusively for the US. The German government, in turn, made financial offers to keep CureVac in Germany. On March 15, 2020, CureVac’s biggest investor, Dietmar Hopp, stated that there will be no exclusive contract with the US: "We want to develop a vaccine for the whole world and not individual countries."

CureVac is is likely to enter the test phase for its COVID-19 vaccine in June or July 2020.

News article – Die Welt am Sonntag (in German)

News article – Der Spiegel (in German)

USAID Administrator underscores importance of Sahel food security

In a hearing before a US Senate appropriations subcommittee, Mark Green, Administrator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke to the importance of food security in maintaining stability in the Sahel. Without food security, Green said, the region faced further reductions in economic opportunity, greater displacement, and increased political radicalization.

USAID provides humanitarian assistance as well as development programs aimed at food security, governance, and resilience.  Green was also questioned about the possible reduction in US troops and how that would affect the stability of the region. Green conceded that a reduction in troops would make it more difficult for USAID to carry out its development programs. Green also spoke to the importance of working on issues that are particularly important to women and girls, including efforts against child marriage, and stressed that women needed to be included in the peace process.

News article - Devex 

United States Agriculture

New resource tracking donor funding for COVID-19

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a US-based non-profit organization focused on health, recently released a centralized compilation of information on donor funding for COVID-19. Their analysis is based on publicly available information and details all funding directed toward the global response to the virus. It excludes spending on domestic response efforts or economic stimulus.

Key findings include:

  • Governments, multilateral organizations, and private funders around the world have so far spent an estimated US$8.3 billion responding to the virus;
  • 91% of funds have come from donor governments, the World Bank, and other multilateral organizations; and
  • The World Bank is the largest donor so far (US$6.0 billion). The US is the second-largest donor (US$1.3 billion), followed by the Tencent/Tencent Charity Foundation (US$215 million), Alibaba (US$144 million), and the European Union (US$140 million).

KFF plans to update the tracker as this global health emergency continues to unfold.

In addition to KFF's work on donor funding for COVID-19, other efforts to provide data-driven information on the outbreak have begun to emerge. Our World in Data's COVID-19 article is a particularly useful resource. Their aim is to help readers make sense of early data on the coronavirus outbreak. The article will continue to be updated as the situation develops.

Report - KFF

US pledges US$8.3 billion for coronavirus relief

The US Congress passed a US$8.3 billion spending bill to respond to the coronavirus emergency. It was signed by US President, Donald Trump, on March 6, 2020.

The bill included US$1.2 billion for the country's international response to COVID-19. It contains US$435 million for global health programs, $US300 million for an emergency response fund, US$300 million for disaster assistance, and US$250 million to be used for economic, security, and stabilization. The new law requires the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development to submit their plans for addressing international coronavirus needs within 15 days and to report on the spending within 30 days. 

News report - Devex

ONE highlights need for better data, alongside release of their new gender data dashboard

ONE, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, has joined the growing number of organizations calling attention to the fact that "more funding for gender equality may not be all it seems". Official Development Assistance (ODA) targeting gender equality reached an all-time high of US$45.2 billion in 2018, accounting for 39.4% of ODA. However, closer examinations of the figures recently released by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveal that challenges remain, especially in terms of the quality of the data available on the state of funding for gender equality in development.

As part of ONE's commitment to back up their advocacy with data-driven tools, they released a new interactive dashboard to explore gender ODA from nine major donors. The tool provides data on how each donor spends gender equality focused development funding, information on their key gender strategies, details on the sectors and income levels that they target, and analysis of how different agencies prioritize gender equality.

Blog post - ONE

US House of Representatives again reject large cuts to foreign assistance

In the first hearing on President Trump's proposed budget cuts to the fiscal year (FY) 2021 foreign assistance budget, members of the US House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs criticized the proposed cuts. The questions, which were directed at Mark Green, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, covered a wide range of issues including the US response to the Coronavirus, the Mexico City policy (the 'global gag rule'), the response to China's assistance model, and cuts in assistance to Central America. 

Criticism of the funding levels came from both the chair and the ranking member of the subcommittee, setting up a bipartisan rejection of the cuts. Chair, Nita Lowey, was particularly critical, noting that severe cuts in basic education and family planning would be inconsistent with the Trump administration's policies. She said that "the administration cannot seriously believe that millions of women can achieve economic empowerment if they are unable to read, write, do math, or control the timing and number of children they have". 

News report - Devex

United States

USAID first chief nutritionist speaks to his priorities

Shawn Baker, the newly appointed (and first-ever) chief nutritionist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke about his priorities and strategies for this new post. Baker, who spent the previous six years as the director of nutrition at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, views 2020 as the right time to reenergize the attention and investment in nutrition.  Baker aims to use USAID’s expertise to foster support for the Nutrition for Growth Summit, scheduled to be held in Tokyo in December 2020, and believes that the summit is a major opportunity for donors, the private sector, and partner governments to recommit resources to nutrition.

Additionally, Baker wants to help "demystify" nutrition to other bureaus within USAID and solve what he views as nutrition's "orphan problem" through more active demonstrations of nutrition's role in meeting other global development goals. No specific US commitments have yet been announced for the Japan meeting, although Baker said that the discussions and decisions will take place both within USAID and with other US government agencies.

News article - Devex

United States Nutrition

DFC head stresses development impact as primary goal for new agency

Adam Boehler, the new CEO of the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), stressed that development impact, not the size of any development finance deal, will be the most important factor in making DFC investment decisions. In an interview with Devex, Boehler stated that when the DFC is evaluating potential deals, the most important metric will be measuring development impact using its new tool, the "impact quotient." 

In addition to the development metric score, Boehler said that the DFC will also look at how a particular investment will fit into US foreign policy, how it integrates other US agencies like the US Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and how it yields returns. His comments were viewed as assurances aimed at both Congress and the development community, both of which pushed hard for a strong development reorientation for the new development finance institution.

News article - Devex

United States