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Development Media International to host event on using mass media campaigns to contribute to SRHR and increase modern contraceptive uptake

Development Media International (DMI), a non-profit organization that runs evidence-based behavior change campaigns for improving health in low-income countries, will be hosting an event on April 20, 2021, on using mass media campaigns to contribute to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and increase modern contraceptive uptake.

DMI will present the results of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) that it conducted in Burkina Faso in partnership with the Abdul Jameel Latif Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The RCT tested the impact of a radio campaign on modern contraceptive uptake, and the results showed that there was a 20% relative increase in intervention zones following the campaign. According to DMI, this was a significant finding, and the radio campaign cost much less than other national family planning investments, making the campaign a highly cost-effective impact accelerator. 

This RTC follows the success of an earlier trial, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, that used mass media to promote increased child survival and maternal health, by providing parents with information about and encouraging them to seek treatment for children with symptoms of malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhea, as well as by promoting prenatal care and health facility deliveries. DMI’s other projects cover topics including SRHR, nutrition, tuberculosis, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).

To learn more, sign up for the event here. The event will have simultaneous English-French translation available. 

To read the Donor Tracker’s recent report on donor funding trends for SRHR from the last decade and watch a recording of that report's webinar, click here.

Event website - DMI

Press release - World Health Organization

Publish What You Fund publishes reports on gender financing in Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal; PWYF to host respective webinars

Publish What You Fund (PWYF), a not-for-profit organization that campaigns for transparency on development assistance, has published reports on gender financing in KenyaGuatemala, and Nepal. There will be a webinar on each country: Kenya on April 7, Guatemala on April 14 (with simultaneous English-Spanish interpretation), and Nepal on April 21 (with simultaneous English-Nepali interpretation). 

The research highlights the efforts of international donors and governments to make funding toward gender equality more transparent. PWYF also found that “key gender advocates in Kenya, Guatemala, and Nepal were generally dissatisfied with the quality and/or quantity of the available information”. The reports propose key points for governments, donors, and civil society to help make gender equality efforts more effective.

PWYF published a blog post summarizing the findings (in English, Spanish, and Nepal), and there is also a Spanish version of the Guatemala report and a Nepali version of the Nepal report.

To read the Donor Tracker's reports on development efforts toward increased gender equality—including funding for women’s economic empowerment, efforts to end gender-based violence, and the fight for sexual and reproductive health and rights—click here.

Press release - PWYF

European Commission launches public consultation on proposed new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)

The European Commission launched a six-week public consultation online, which will run until May 12, 2021, on its proposal for a new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

The Commission is also conducting consultations on HERA with member states and stakeholders. Based on all of the input received, the Commission will finalize a legislative proposal in the final quarter of this year. 

The new authority is one of several proposals that make up the Commission’s plans to build a European Health Union. HERA’s focus would be on improving the EU’s preparedness and response to cross-border health emergencies. 

Press release - European Commission

EU Health Commissioner underlines EU support for global health cooperation on World Health Day

In a statement on April 6, 2021, a day before World Health Day, Stella Kyriakides (European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety) emphasized the EU’s continued support for global health cooperation, including by supporting COVAX, the initiative to provide global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as by strengthening health systems in other countries. 

Kyriakides said this support affirms the EU’s commitment to improving health, reducing inequalities, and protecting against global health threats for a fairer, healthier world. 

She also highlighted the new €5.1 billion (US$6.2 billion) EU4Health program, calling it the EU’s “most ambitious health financing program ever”. 

Press release - European Commission

EU contributes equivalent of US$199 million to IMF’s trust to provide debt service relief for vulnerable countries facing catastrophic events, including COVID-19 crisis

The EU contributed SDR 141 million—the equivalent of €170 million or US$199 million in international reserve assets called Special Draw Rights (SDRs) created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—to the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT). The Trust provides grants as debt service relief for countries suffering from catastrophic events, including the COVID-19 crisis.

This disbursement is part of the EU’s broader contribution of SDR 152 million (€183 million or US$215 million) to CCRT. The EU and its member states’ pledges account for more than half of the funding currently committed to the Trust. The CCRT will provide grants to the 29 low-income countries eligible for debt relief that are most vulnerable to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The EU also supports a new allocation of SDRs from the IMF in 2021 that focuses on low-income countries, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech at the 'Meeting of Heads of State and Government on the International Debt Architecture and Liquidity' held on March 29, 2021. 

Press release - European Commission

Transcript - European Commission

South Korea’s major grant assistance agency partners with UNDP to improve firefighting system in Kyrgyzstan

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the key grant assistance agency of South Korea, announced that it will provide US$7 million and work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to improve the firefighting system in Kyrgyzstan until 2022.

The project will include actions such as improving policies and institutions, providing training programs, and supporting the construction of fire stations and the modernization of equipment.

Kyrgyzstan has been newly appointed as South Korea’s priority partner country for 2021-2025, indicating more opportunities for potential partnership between the two governments.

Press release – Korea International Cooperation Agency (in Korean)

UK Prime Minister reportedly wants to reinstate 0.7% of GNI for ODA commitment in 2022, but Chancellor of Exchequer against move

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly wants to return to spending 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) in 2022, but he is facing opposition by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who wants to continue to provide 0.5% of ODA in 2022.

The government decided in 2020 to temporarily cut the ODA budget to 0.5% of GNI as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on UK government finances. Johnson is facing increasing pressure to reverse the decision by a wide array of stakeholders and a growing number of members of parliament (MPs) from across all parties. 28 MPs from seven different political parties recently wrote a letter to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, claiming that the government’s recent decision to not allow members of parliament to vote on the reduced target of 0.5% was in breach of the law.

The government had initially noted that it would put the new lower target to a vote, but it recently reversed this decision, arguing that given the temporary nature of the new lower target, the vote was not necessary. However, signatories of the letter cite the findings of the ex-Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, who notes that the International Development Act 2015 does not make provision to change the 0.7% target itself, only to miss it due to exceptional circumstances.

News article - Bloomberg

News article - The Times

Sweden develops new strategy for development cooperation with Zimbabwe for 2022-2026

On April 1, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop a foundation for its new development cooperation strategy with Zimbabwe for 2022-2026.

The strategy will focus on strengthening democracy and gender equality as well as reducing poverty through inclusive economic development. The strategy will additionally address issues related to human rights violations, the rule of law, environmental degradation, and the climate crisis.

Sida has also been requested to explore possibilities of expanding efforts in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden provides support to refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar

In light of the escalating conflict in Myanmar, where about 7,000 refugees have fled attacks by the military regime, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has committed SEK 3 million (US$360,000) in emergency cash grants, primarily for basic kitchen equipment and hygiene kits, to be administered by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

With a large proportion of the refugees being children, part of Sweden’s support has also been allocated toward educating parents and school personnel on how to provide psychosocial support to children and toward school kits, as many schools have been closed.

"The situation has escalated rapidly, and many people have left their homes without even having brought the essentials, which is why it is especially important that we now act quickly to get the most basic things out, such as pots, hygiene kits, and more,” said Sida's Director-General, Carin Jämtin.

In 2020, Sweden's official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar was SEK 309 million (US$37 million), SEK 26 million (US$3 million) of which was humanitarian support. Sida has since suspended some of its ODA for Myanmar, following the military coup in February 2021. Sida nevertheless continues to support activities focusing on strengthening democracy and human rights.

News article – Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (in Swedish)

Greenhouse emissions from beef cattle are dramatically reduced through adding seaweed to feed, says study

Methane emissions from beef cattle could be reduced by as much as 82% by adding seaweed to the cows' diet, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

The effectiveness of this does not diminish with repeated applications. The use of seaweed to reduce methane emissions is significant because agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, half of which is connected to cows and other ruminant animals.

The study was done by UC Davis through a collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the James Cook University in northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns (a startup that sources seaweed-based additives).

News article - Select Science

UK hosts Climate and Development Ministerial meeting, calls for more and better climate finance and debt relief

The UK hosted a virtual Climate and Development Ministerial meeting on March 31, 2021, to address the climate challenges facing the poorest countries in the world, ahead of COP26, the annual UN climate conference which the UK will host this year (November 2021) in Glasgow.

The ministerial meeting brought foreign, development, and climate ministers from around the world together virtually, along with representatives from development banks. The meeting was focused on:

  • Improving  responses to climate impacts, with a focus on coordination and international cooperation to address losses and damages related to climate change;
  • Improving debt relief and alleviating fiscal pressure to enable low-income countries to address the climate crisis; and
  • Enabling more and better climate finance to help countries adapt to and mitigate climate change.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, who attended the meeting, called for a greater volume of climate finance to help vulnerable and poor countries, as well as debt relief to help increase their fiscal space for addressing climate challenges. Raab pointed out that there is an opportunity to ensure that efforts to build up economies after the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis support a green recovery. 

Earlier in the week, Lord Ahmad, a UK Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, spoke at the UN's 'Meeting of Heads of State and Government on the International Debt Architecture and Liquidity'. Ahmad noted that the UK would use both its G7 Presidency and its hosting of COP26 to push for further debt relief action. In particular, he highlighted the need for the G7 to push for a general issuance of Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide financial support to low-income countries, the need to establish a common framework that brings all official and private-sector creditors together to deliver coordinated debt treatments, and the need for increased transparency of sovereign debt.

Transcript - UK government 

Transcript - UK government

News article - Reuters

Biden administration quietly increasing assistance to Palestinians

Over the last week, US President Joe Biden's administration announced publicly that it would provide US$15 million to Palestinian communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and then it also notified Congress that it would provide US$75 million as economic assistance partly to regain Palestinians' "trust and goodwill". The latter tranche of assistance was not publicly announced and is likely to face Republican scrutiny.

The restarting of assistance is a significant reversal in policy from the cuts made by the administration of former President Donald Trump. Under US law, there are restrictions that prevent assistance from flowing to the Palestinian Authority, and the Trump administration cited this as part of its reason for cutting assistance. However, none of the current assistance is being provided to the Palestinian Authority.

A congressional notification affirmed that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will follow the vetting procedures for compliance. This notification was provided hours after the Government Accountability Office criticized USAID's earlier compliance efforts for not adequately vetting indirect recipients.

The notification indicated that the money, which may start flowing as early as April 10, 2021, would contribute to a variety of assistance, including health care, water, sanitation, infrastructure, assistance for Palestinian youth, small businesses, and disaster preparedness. The package will also provide US$5 million for civics groups, which the Biden administration believes will help in restarting peace negotiations. 

News article - Associated Press

France launches new fund to spur innovation in global development practices and policies

France created 'Le Fonds d'innovation pour le développement' (The Innovation Fund for Development) to support innovation in the field of global development on technical, social, financial, environmental, and governance-related approaches. The fund launched its first call for proposals and has a budget of €15 million (US$18 million) for its first year. 

The fund is headed by Esther Duflo, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the call for proposals is open to governments, research centers, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Priority will be given to projects that spur innovation in low-income countries, especially France's 19 priority partner countries, most of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The fund is part of a larger effort to modernize French development policies in the framework of a new law on "solidarity development and the fight against global inequalities" being currently discussed at Parliament whose rapporteur is Member of Parliament Hervé Berville.

Press release - French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (in French)

Japan-based Global Health Innovative Technology Fund invests US$22 million to develop drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT), a Japan-based international private-public partnership, announced that it will provide ¥2.3 billion (US$22 million) to develop new drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, and visceral leishmaniasis, as well as a vaccine for malaria and diagnostics for tuberculosis.

GHIT is funded by a mix of private and public funders, notably the Japanese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust, along with a growing list of private sector funders and collaborators. In 2020, GHIT invested a total of ¥4.2 billion (US$40 million)

As of March 31, 2021, GHIT is funding 57 projects, comprised of 30 in their discovery stages, 20 preclinical studies, and 7 clinical trials.

Press release - Global Health Innovative Technology Fund

Germany contributes US$2.1 billion at donor conference for Syrian crisis

On March 30, 2021, at the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region', Germany has pledged €1.7 billion (US$2.1 billion) for the Syrian population suffering from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Of this, around €1.1 billion (US$1.3 billion) are provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, €665 million (US$804 million) come from the Federal Foreign Office. In his statement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the Syrian regime to make serious efforts to establish peace in the country. At the same time, Maas declined German participation in the reconstruction of areas controlled by the regime, as long as there is no “substantial political process”. 

Given the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, humanitarian organizations, among them the German charity Caritas, have called on donor countries to support reconstruction projects in areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

International donors pledged a total of US$6.4 billion, short of the US$10.0 billion that was being sought by the conference's co-hosts—the EU and the UN. The raised funding will go toward humanitarian relief within Syria and the support of refugee camps in the region.

Press release – Federal Foreign Office

News article – Deutsche Welle

UK cuts humanitarian assistance to Syria by nearly third; meanwhile, speculation grows over who will take over top UN humanitarian position

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, has announced that the UK will provide £205 million (US$275 million) to the Syrian refugee program at a recent donor pledging conference. This represents a cut of up to a third of the UK’s contribution from last year, which amounted to £300 million (US$403 million), and the cut comes despite heavy lobbying for the UK to maintain its commitment to Syria.

The decision to cut the budget comes as speculation grows as to who will replace Mark Lowcock, the former Permanent Secretary of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), when he leaves his role as the head of the UN’s humanitarian operations. Lowcock announced that he was departing imminently in order to spend more time with his family. The post has traditionally been given to a British national, though there is a drive to select the person based on merits.

British nationals in the running include Nic Dyer, the UK Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs, or Harriet Mathews, the Director for Africa at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Outside of the UK, Olof Skoog (a Swedish diplomat who is the EU Ambassador to the UN), William Chemaly (a Lebanese human rights and humanitarian protection specialist who has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)), and Koen Davidse (a Dutch Executive Director at the World Bank) have all been proposed as potential candidates.

News article - The Guardian

News article - The New Humanitarian

Canada commits US$35 million to peace and stabilization projects in Iraq and Syria

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau has announced CA$44 million (US$35 million) for projects in Iraq and Syria working to combat Daesh, also known as ISIS. This funding was announced at the 'Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Small Group' meeting.

The funding will go toward eleven projects that are a part of the 'Stabilization Operations Program in Iraq and Syria' and is a demonstration of Canada's dedication to "advance stability in Iraq, Syria and the region". These projects specifically focus on providing essential services to citizens, strengthening public infrastructure, and supporting internally displaced peoples.

Currently, Canada contributes to all five aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh campaign: 

  1. Military campaign against Daesh;
  2. Stop influx of foreign terrorist fighters;
  3. Target Daesh financing and economic infrastructure;
  4. Stabilize liberated areas; and
  5. Counter propaganda.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Sweden pledges US$97 million in humanitarian support to address Syrian crisis

On March 30, 2021, during the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' hosted by the UN and the EU, Sweden pledged SEK811 million (US$97 million) toward humanitarian support efforts in Syria in 2021.

After ten years of conflict, more than half of Syrians are displaced, 90% of the population lives under the poverty line, and it is estimated that 13 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Sweden has been one of the largest donors of humanitarian support since the beginning of the conflict and it helped negotiate a solution for delivering cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syrians. 

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Canada pledges US$40 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, pledged CA$50 million (US$40 million) in humanitarian assistance funding to Syria at the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region'.

The funding is directed toward supporting the acute and essential needs (nutrition, clean water, sanitation, primary health care, and sexual and reproductive health) of civilians in the region and sustainably stopping the Syrian war.

Including this recent pledge, Canada has committed over CA$330 million ($US263 million) in support to Syria in 2021. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Spain’s Prime Minister Sánchez reshuffles his cabinet

On March 30, 2021, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a reshuffle of the Spanish coalition government, which is formed by his social-democratic Socialist Party (PSOE) and the left-wing Podemos Party.

Following the resignation of Pablo Iglesias (Podemos) from his role as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda after deciding to run for Madrid regional elections to be held on May 4, 2021, Sánchez appointed people to take his place. The Minister of Labor and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz (Podemos), retained that title while also being appointed as the new Deputy Prime Minister. The Secretary of State for the Agenda 2030, Ione Belarra (Podemos), was appointed as the new Minister of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda.

The Spanish coalition cabinet is composed of four Deputy Prime Ministers: Minister of Presidency Carmen Calvo (PSOE), Minister of Economy and Digitalization Nadia Calviño (PSOE), Minister of Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera (PSOE), and the recently appointed Díaz.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)