Trump Administration launches new women's economic empowerment initiative

After US President Trump previewed a new women's empowerment initiative during his State of the Union speech, the administration officially unveiled the 'Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative' (W-GDP). The fund, which was championed by Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president and a senior White House adviser, is an effort to assist 50 million women in the developing world by 2025.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will initially put up US$50 million for the fund, which is intended to then mobilize private money.  The announcement was met with mixed reviews, including questions about the size of the initial investment and the fact that the Trump Administration has tried to cut USAID's budget over the last two fiscal years.  After these criticisms, the White House revised the figure up to US$300 million, although gave no specifics as to where those funds would come from. 

News article - The Washington Post 

Fact sheet - The White House

United States

US President Trump nominates critic of the World Bank to be its next president

US President Trump has nominated David Malpass, currently an undersecretary for international affairs at the US Treasury Department, to be the next president of the World Bank. Malpass is a frequent critic of multilateralism. In his work at Treasury, he has tried to trim World Bank lending, arguing that more private capital is available and that the Bank needs to limit its lending to truly needy countries. There are also concerns that Malpass will specifically target China by curbing the Bank's lending to it.

By tradition, the US nominates the World Bank president. Jim Kim, who was the previous president, unexpectedly stepped down earlier this year despite having three years left in his term.  The election for president is expected in April 2019. 

News article - Foreign Policy 

News article - Devex

United States

US government shutdown affects development program implementation

The 35-day partial US government shutdownwhich has been temporarily lifted with a three-week continuing resolutionfurloughed staff  and stalled programs for most US agencies involved in administering foreign assistance. The impact varies, but has affected both agency staff and federal contractors and implementing partners.

Large agencies, like the State Department or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), were only staffed with 'essential' personnel, with more than half of its employees told not to report to work. The shutdown also affected contractors and the programs they implement. Large contractors and INGOs reportedly were less affected as they had the resources to withstand the shutdown, but smaller groups experience significant disruptions.  The longer term effect is difficult to measure, but at the very least, planning and implementation have been stalled. The continuing resolution, which reopened the government, expires on February 15, 2019.  

News article - IRIN

News article - Devex

United States

Australia's foreign minister reaffirms commitment to action with US on regional health security

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has reiterated Australia’s commitment to health security with the US in the Indo-Pacific. Speaking at the United States Studies Centre Event in Washington DC, she said the two countries were committed to advancing implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda pursued by the United States and the Health Security Initiative for the Indo- Pacific undertaken by Australia. 

Health security was one of four key shared initiatives discussed during  the AUSMIN (Australia-USA Ministerial) Meeting in 2018. Australia and the US were working together to help build health security workforces in regional nations  to provide capacity to detect and respond to emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

Press release - DFAT

Bipartisan Congress group requests increase in US contribution to Global Fund

A large, bipartisan group of Members of Congress signed a letter to the US Secretary of State requesting an increase in the US contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) during the next replenishment round. The Global Fund has announced that it needs $14 billion for its sixth replenishment to take place later in 2019.  The letter, signed by 137 members of the House of Representatives, did not specify an actual amount. Advocates for the Global Fund are pushing for a total of US$4.8 billion over three years to be covered by this round. By law, the US contribution cannot exceed one-third of total pledges made.

News article - Devex

United States Global health

US Secretary of State pledges US$20 million in assistance to Venezuela

During a special meeting of the Organization of American States, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo committed US$20 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela. Pompeo said the "funds are to help them cope with the severe food and medicine shortages, and other dire impacts of their country's political and economic crisis." The resources would be sent at quickly as "logistically" possible and come in response to a request by National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized by the US and other countries as Venezuela's interim president over the current president, Nicolás Maduro.

News report - CBS News

United States

Cuts to US assistance for Palestinians affecting tens of thousands

The Trump Administration's decision to cut US assistance to Palestinians has resulted in tens of thousands of people no longer receiving food aid and basic health services. Additionally, infrastructure projects have been halted and other projects, such as an innovative peace-building program in Jerusalem, are being scaled back. The US decision to cut more than US$200 million in assistance is resulting in reductions in both programs and staff.

President Trump maintains that the decision to cut assistance, most of which is funneled through non-government organizations (NGOs), is to encourage peace talks. NGOs say that the cuts are hurting the most vulnerable. Since 1994, the United States Agency for International Development has provided more than US$5.5 billion in assistance—for health, education, governance, and humanitarian aid—to the Palestinians.

News article - Associated Press

United States

US Administration misses Congressional deadline for foreign assistance accountability

On December 13, 2018, bipartisan members of both the US House and the Senate requested information on compliance with the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA).  The request, which covered several provisions of the law, requested a response from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by January 12, 2019. However, OMB has not yet responded to the letter or provided any information. 

FATAA, which seeks to improve the effectiveness and transparency of US foreign assistance, addresses issues such as improved monitoring and evaluation and better publication of foreign assistance data. Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly, one of the signatories to the Congressional request, has said that a hearing may be required to understand why various US agencies are not in compliance with FATAA. The partial government shutdown began on December 21, 2018 and remains unresolved.

News article - Devex

United States

US President Trump signs bill to protect girls' education in emergencies

President Trump signed into law a bill to help protect girls' education in emergency situations, which passed Congress with bipartisan support. The new law underscores the support for foreign aid focused on girls’ education and gender equality. The new law authorizes programs by the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to "provide safe, primary and secondary education for displaced children" and to "build the capacity of institutions in countries hosting displaced people to prevent displaced children from facing educational discrimination".  It also seeks to "help increase the access of displaced children, especially girls, to educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities".

The laws also encourages State and USAID to collect better disaggregated data and to work with the private and civil society sectors to promote a safe education. 

News article - Global Citizen

United States Education

Trump Administration signals that it may use foreign assistance funds to pay for border wall

The Trump Administration, currently in the midst of a partial government shutdown which has temporarily closed the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, has raised the possibility of using foreign assistance funds to help pay for construction of the US-Mexico border wall. The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel pushed back hard on the idea that appropriated funds could be diverted, promising swift committee oversight if that idea goes any further. President Trump has previously proposed significant cuts to US development assistance.

News article - The Washington Post

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