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Commission’s new long-term EU budget proposal will boost health research and development funding

The European Commission will release an updated proposal for the EU’s long-term budget, the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), on May 27, 2020, which will include a plan for COVID-19 recovery that will boost spending for health research and development assistance. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the outline of the proposal to the European Parliament on May 13, which will include three pillars: 

  1. Supporting recovery for member states;
  2. Kick-starting the economy and private investment; and
  3. Learning the immediate lessons of the crisis, including strengthening RescEU and the Horizon Europe research program, creating a new health program, and strengthening instruments for Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation and for pre-accession assistance.

The Commission has indicated that it is exploring a possible new research partnership on pandemic preparedness and would not cut funding for non-COVID-19 health research in its proposal.
 
Press release - European Commission
 
President von der Leyen’s speech transcript - European Commission
 
News article on pandemic partnership - Science|Business
 
News article on research funding - Science|Business

Italian Health Minister calls for COVID-19 vaccine to be recognized as global public good, made universally accessible

The Italian Minister of health, Roberto Speranza, committed at the World Health Assembly to working to ensure the future COVID-19 vaccine would be recognized as a global public good, accessible to all.

Speranza also confirmed Italy's support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), emphasizing that WHO must remain completely independent of any political or financial influence and it must be guided only by science.

Speech transcript - Il Messaggero (in English)

Dutch Parliament considers proposal to add more than US$1 billion in international COVID-19 response funds to to ODA budget

On May 11, 2020, the Advisory Council for International Issues (AIV)  published its advice to the Dutch cabinet on the international response needed for COVID-19. On May 18, AIV discussed this advice more thoroughly with representatives of the Dutch Parliament, including the specifics on how the recommendation of the €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) had been calculated and how it should be disbursed. 

Minister Kaag is currently preparing a cabinet response to the report to be discussed at government level the week of May 25, and likely agreed upon the week of June 1. If the report gains support across the political spectrum and is approved by the Minister of Finance, the €1 billion will be added to the total Dutch ODA budget. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Dutch Development Minister highlights role of Gavi and WHO in global COVID-19 efforts

On May 11, 2020, the Dutch government published the full list of factual questions that the general committee for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation submitted to Minister Kaag, as well as her responses to those questions, many of which were linked to the role of the Netherlands in combatting COVID-19 globally.

To a question about vaccine development, Minister Kaag responded that the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will play a central role in providing universal access to a future COVID-19 vaccine, and that the Netherlands supports the leading role of the WHO in coordinating the research and development of a vaccine.

Other questions touched on the Dutch commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of COVID-19, the support that the Netherlands provides to the most vulnerable groups, and Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocations for COVID-19. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

South Korea's Moon Jae-in calls for global solidarity, vaccine development, legally binding health regulations at World Health Assembly

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea gave a special address at the 73rd World Health Assembly on May 18th. He first included in his remarks a review of South Korea’s efforts to fight COVID-19, under the principle of "freedom for all". He explained how South Korea opted for options such as social distancing, the active wearing of face masks, and rigorous quarantine measures rather than choosing national lockdown measures. He also referenced South Korea’s ongoing partnership with major multilateral health initiatives including Gavi, the Global Fund, UNITAID, IVI, and CEPI. However, he stressed that the threats of global health pandemic are still widespread and highlighted the importance of vaccine development. In particular, he emphasized the following three points in his remarks:

  • Expand humanitarian assistance to partner countries with vulnerable healthcare systems. For example, South Korea will provide US$100 million in humanitarian aid to its partner countries while sharing experiences and data gathered on COVID-19
  • Cooperate globally for the development of vaccines and therapeutics including supporting WHO’s efforts. Vaccines and treatments should also be distributed equitably globally as public goods
  • Update the WHO international health regulations to be legally binding, share information transparently, set up a joint cooperation mechanism

Transcript – Yonhap News

Ex-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to become chair of Wellcome in 2021

In April 2021, Julia Gillard will become chair of Wellcome, the UK-based medical research charity currently engaged in developing a coronavirus vaccine. Gillard was Prime Minister of Australia from 2010 to 2013 and is currently chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). She is also chair of the Australian mental health organization Beyond Blue.

Gillard will succeed Eliza Manningham-Buller, who is stepping down from the role.

News article - Wellcome Trust

News article - SBS Australia

Donor Tracker announces webinar on donor countries' response to COVID-19 crisis

Join us on Thursday, May 14 from 16:00-17:00 (CEST) for a webinar exploring donor countries' response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the last few months, the Donor Tracker team has been following the impacts of COVID-19 in a rapidly shifting global development landscape. In this webinar, our speakers, Raimund Zühr and Zoë Johnson will present some early insights into donor country responses, discuss the potential impact on ODA volumes and allocations, and explore how global development advocates can best respond.

Registration - Zoom

Leading foreign policy voice in US Senate says there is bipartisan support for signficant international COVID-19 funding

One of the leading voices for US foreign policy in the US Congress said that the US is "fundamentally misresourced" to respond to global health threats.

Senator Chris Murphy has joined a call by US development stakeholders to have US$12 billion in international funding added to the next supplemental COVID-19 response bill. The US House of Representatives is due to vote on a US$3 trillion bill this week; no international funding is included in the legislation.

Last week, a group of US Democratic senators introduced a US$9 billion bill for international spending. Murphy stated that there is "enormous" bipartisan support in the US Senate for significant international funding in the next emergency COVID-19 supplemental appropriations.

News article - Devex

Statement - InterAction

EU’s Innovative Medicines Initiative grants US$127 million to eight COVID-19 research projects

The European Commission announced that eight COVID-19 research projects have been selected to receive a total of €117 million (US$127 million) from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a public-private partnership between the European Commission and the pharmaceutical industry. Initially, the Commission had committed €45 million (US$19 million), which was matched by the pharmaceutical industry. The Commission increased its commitment to €72 million (US$78 million), bringing the total funding amount to €117 million (US$127 million). Of the eight projects, five focus on developing rapid diagnostics and three on therapies. 

Press release - European Commission

Factsheet on new IMI research projects on Coronavirus - European Commission

Press release - Innovative Medicines Initiative

Norway revises state budget, prioritizing health and humanitarian assistance

The Norwegian government presented a revised state budget for 2020 which includes funding for lifesaving measures to ensure in the international response to COVID-19 and initiatives to mitigate long-lasting damaging effects. Some adjustments to the development assistance budget were also proposed due to delays or cancellations of initiatives usually funded by Norway.

Because of these reductions, the government proposes increasing funding for global health efforts in 2020 by NOK 541 million (US$52 million), to NOK 4.2 billion (US$398 million). The pandemic has dramatically increased the need for infection prevention, testing, treatment, sanitation improvement, and measures to reduce starvation and malnutrition. Furthermore, the Government has proposed to allocate an extra NOK 38 million (US$4 million) to humanitarian efforts in 2020 to provide assistance to people already stricken by crisis and conflict whose situations have been worsened by the pandemic. This amount is in addition to the record-breaking humanitarian budget of NOK 5.5 billion (US$528 million) for 2020.

Press release – Norwegian Government

Norway Global health Global health R&D