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After devastating fire at Moria refugee camp, Germany's Merkel plans to take in 1,500 refugees from Lesbos, Greece

After the devastating fires in Moria, Europe’s biggest refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer have agreed to take in an additional 1,500 migrants from Greece, mostly families with children who have already been recognized as especially vulnerable.

Seehofer had previously announced that Germany would accept between 100 and 150 unaccompanied minors from Lesbos.

According to reports, while this new agreement was discussed with the Greek government, it has not been discussed yet with the ruling parties, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDP) and the Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) alliance. Hence, it remains to be seen whether the parties, especially the SPD will agree. Prior to Merkel’s and Seehofer's proposal, Saskia Esken, co-leader of the SPD, had said that Germany should take in “a high 4-digit number” of refugees.

Similarly, German Development Minister Gerd Müller called on Germany to take in 2,000 refugees. According to Müller, the fire in the camp was a “foreseeable catastrophe”, given its poor safety conditions. While both Merkel and Seehofer have emphasized the necessity of finding a Europe-wide solution, Müller stressed that due to lack of consensus, a smaller group of states willing to take in people could meet the challenge alone.

On Monday, September 14, 2020, Merkel underscored that while Germany could make “a substantial contribution”, any German action taken must be embedded as part of an overall European strategy. She expressed her support for the establishment of a new refugee camp under EU responsibility on the Greek island of Lesbos and promised help from Germany if such a camp were to be constructed.

News article – Tagesschau (in German) 

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

UK NGOs criticize government for limited consultation on foreign, defense, and development review

The UK government has been criticized for failing to sufficiently engage with key stakeholders on its 'Integrated Review of UK Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy'. The Integrated Review, launched in February 2020 by the Cabinet Office, aims to redefine the UK’s role in the world. Its findings will be used to set the strategic objectives of the government’s new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and, in turn, its development policy.

At the launch of the Integrated Review, the Cabinet Office touted the importance of ensuring the review process was open and consultative; however, after the review was temporarily suspended between April and July due to the COVID-19 crisis, in mid-August the government quietly opened up a short consultation window during which it accepted written evidence from stakeholders. The consultation period ended again on September 11. A senior representative from BOND, the network representing UK development NGOs, noted that there had been no formal engagement with its members; while some events were held over the last couple of months, it is difficult to know who has been consulted and on what. Richard Reeve, the coordinator of Rethinking Security, a network of NGOs focused on peacebuilding and security, also noted that the consultation was much worse than for previous government security reviews.

The Integrated Review will conclude in autumn this year, around the same time as the announcement of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review. An exact date for both is not yet known. 

News article - Devex

Donor Tracker seeks feedback on how to better serve advocacy community

The Donor Tracker team wants to better understand its users' experience and to gather ideas about how we can make the Donor Tracker even more valuable to the global development community throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond. That's where we could use your help. We've put together a short survey to ask you directly about how you use the Donor Tracker, which content and features you find most useful, and the kinds of things you would like to see. Your responses will shape and inform new features that we bring to the website.

Survey - Donor Tracker

Twitter - Donor Tracker

Australia announces US$43 million regional support program for Southeast Asia

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, has announced a A$60 million (US$43 million) program that will support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with their response to COVID-19. This funding is part of the Partnerships for Recovery program under which Australia's development priorities have pivoted to focus on supporting countries in its region in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

The ASEAN regional cooperation program will include a partnership working on the detection of COVID-19 in the wastewater of Mekong countries. The funding will also assist in planning for recovery through cooperation in areas such as digital transformation and connectivity, with particular attention to the challenges faced by women and girls. Support will also be provided to assist ASEAN with capacity building and the purchase of medical equipment and supplies for the COVID-19 response.

Press release - Australian Foreign Minister

German Development Minister plans withdrawal from federal politics

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has announced that he will not run in the upcoming federal election in October 2021; he will withdraw from federal politics by the end of the parliamentary term. According to Müller, after 32 years of being a part of the European Parliament and the German Bundestag, he would now like to "initiate a generation change.”

Müller has been serving as Development Minister since 2013.

News article – Merkur (in German)

UK says AstraZeneca may resume COVID-19 vaccine trials after patient falls ill

AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company working with the University of Oxford to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, has announced that it will resume trials of a potential vaccine candidate. The trials were temporarily suspended by the UK drug regulator after a patient reported side-effects from the vaccine. So far, up to 18,000 people from the UK, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States have received the vaccine.

The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine is one of nine candidates being developed under the global COVAX Initiative, which is working to ensure equitable access to any new COVID-19 vaccine. If any of these vaccines are found to be safe, up to 100 million doses will be made available to low- and middle-income economies at just US$3 per dose, through the COVAX Facility. 

News article - CTV news

Press release - WHO

US decision not to join COVAX efforts against COVID-19 is "disappointing", says Norway's Solberg

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has expressed disappointment with United States’ absence from the COVAX Facility, an international initiative which contributes to the development a COVID-19 vaccine and funding for low- and middle-income countries. The Trump administration has refused to participate due to the World Health Organization's status as a co-leader. 

Solberg acknowledges that although the US is not actively participating, it does provide financial support to several of the implementation partners including Gavi. However, Solberg says, the US's lack of participation weakens COVAX's work.

More than 170 countries are in the process of joining the COVAX Facility program. Among those who support it are several of the US's historic allies, including Japan, Germany, and the European Commission. Norway has also joined. 

News article – Aftenposten (in Norwegian)

UK sets out approach to "build back better" in wake of COVID-19

On September 11, 2020, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, spoke virtually at a United Nations (UN) meeting about the work of the 'Recovering Better for Sustainability' discussion group. This group, co-led by the UK, Rwanda, Fiji, and the EU, explores how countries can create more sustainable, healthier, and more inclusive societies and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) despite the COVID-19 crisis. In his speech, Ahmad outlined the steps the UK has been taking to support lower-income countries to "build back better". These include:

  • Supporting climate-resilient growth, protecting biodiversity, and promoting sustainable ways of living;
  • Prioritizing the establishment of strong and resilient health systems, underpinned by universal health coverage; and
  • Ensuring no one is left behind with a focus on ensuring girls and vulnerable children continue to learn, even when schools are closed, and are supported to safely get back to school.

Ahmad noted that the UK government will continue to push these priorities in its presidencies of the UN COP26 and G7 next year.

Speech - UK government

South Korea announces climate change mitigation projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) of South Korea announced a plan to implement projects aimed at improving access to solar energy in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. According to its 'Green New Deal Official Development Assistance', KOICA will invest KRW22 billion (US$19 million) over five years (2020 to 2024). In addition to mitigating climate change, this project will contribute to reducing unequal access to electricity among vulnerable groups in partner countries, and will provide a mechanism of local income generation through solar energy production.

Press release – KOICA (in Korean)

New Dutch investment company will finance sustainable development in low-income countries

The Dutch Minister of Finance, Wopke Hoekstra, briefed the Dutch parliament and the Senate of Developments on Invest International, a new state-owned investment company for sustainable development in low-income countries. Because Invest International does not need to compete with private investors, they will be able to provide financing options for applicant companies who would be denied credit in the private market. 

Invest International has a starting capital of US$697 million and will receive US$8 million in annual funding. The company has two shareholders: the Dutch government and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), owning 51% and 49% of the shares, respectively.

The Minister of Finance also assigned Joost Oorthuizen as Chairman of the Board of Directors and Ineke Bussemaker as Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Both will take office starting October 18, 2020, in temporary positions during the build-up phase of Invest International. 

Press release - Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

European Commission concludes talks with BioNTech-Pfizer on future COVID-19 vaccine deal

The European Commission has concluded its exploratory talks with BioNTech-Pfizer, the sixth vaccine manufacturer in its portfolio, on purchasing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The contract with BioNTech-Pfizer is expected to include an initial purchase of 200 million doses with an additional 100 million doses optioned if the vaccine is safe and effective. The contract would also include provisions allowing all EU member states to purchase the vaccine, donate vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, or redirect vaccines to other European countries. 
 
Press release - European Commission

Everyone, "poor or rich", must have access to COVID-19 vaccine, says German Development Minister

German Development Minister Gerd Müller repeated his call for low-income countries to be guaranteed fair access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Given that low-income countries often experience delayed access to vaccines, Müller emphasized that “it has to be different with the COVID-19 vaccine,” so that people all over the globe can have equitable access to the treatment.

To this end, Müller underscored his support for the EU’s Global Response initiative as well as for the joint effort of the international organizations Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine through the established COVAX Facility.

News article – RND (in German)

WHO and European Commission launch Facilitation Council, call for increased resources for global COVID-19 response

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched the first-ever meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council on September 10, 2020. The Facilitation Council will oversee ACT-A’s work towards creating an end-to-end global solution to addressing the COVID-19 crisis by accelerating the development, regulatory approval, manufacturing, delivery, and equitable allocation of COVID-19 medical tools, such as tests, treatments, and vaccines. 
 
The Facilitation Council is composed of representatives from ACT-A founders, governments, civil society, philanthropy and international organizations. It will provide support, guidance, and knowledge sharing for ACT-A’s delivery partners. During its first meeting, both co-hosts called for a significant scale-up in resources to bridge the funding gap of US$35 billion in ACT-A financing needs. 
 
Press release - European Commission

After high profile cases of sexual violence rocked UK development sector, government publishes safeguarding strategy

The UK government has published its new strategy on safeguarding against sexual abuse and exploitation in the international development sector. The strategy is divided into three parts: 1) delivering sector-wide change, 2) delivering organizational change within the UK departments working on international development, and 3) delivering programmatic change across UK development assistance programs.

This cross-departmental effort involves all UK departments responsible for official development assistance (ODA). The strategy aims to help drive UK global leadership on the issue, following a number of cases of sexual abuse and exploitation within UK NGOs.  

Report - UK Government

News article - Devex

Canada opens call for research proposals on women's economic empowerment in West Africa

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has announced funding for research projects to promote women’s economic empowerment in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal. Funded projects will provide country-specific evidence on best practices for "reducing and redistributing women’s unpaid care work in environmentally-friendly ways that generate business and employment opportunities for women".

This research will be used to inform future policies and interventions addressing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".

Press release - IDRC 

Application information - IDRC

In blistering review, experts call USAID draft gender policy "step back in time"

Two prominent development voices, George Ingram (a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute), and Nora O'Connell (the Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children), described the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID's) new draft gender policy as a retrenchment on gender equality and a "step back in time".

Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has both exacerbated and revealed the level of gender inequality globally, experts say the current draft policy would undermine the agency's ability to address issues such as increased caregiving responsibilities placed upon women globally, a loss of economic and educational opportunities, gender-based violence, and conjugal slavery (including forced and child marriage).

Critics highlighted that the use of terminology such as "unalienable rights" and "basic and legal rights" in place of "human rights" narrows the scope of legal protections that the policy will offer. The draft also adopts a binary gender definition, eliminating references to the LGBTQ+ population and failing to address intersectionality, a philosophy which recognizes that some people face multiple forms of discrimination.

Ingram and O'Connell decry the policy's "retrograde concept of gender equality", which they say appears to be driven by ideology rather than concerns about the impact of the proposed changes.

Op-ed - Brookings Institute  

Leadership Forum head calls for increase in Australia’s development budget

Richard Maud, Director of the Crawford Leadership Forum at the Australian National University (ANU), has called for an update of Australia's Foreign Policy White Paper. He points to a range of challenges not apparent in 2017 when Australia's current White Paper was issued. Specifically, Maud argues that Australia's development assistance program budget is inadequate for supporting countries in the region in dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, despite the fact that supporting the region with its economic recovery from COVID-19 is clearly in Australia's national interest. He expresses concern that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) budget continues to shrink despite growing challenges.

Maud was previously a Deputy Secretary of DFAT.

Op-Ed - Asia Society

Japan launches US$208 million in non-guaranteed domestic bonds

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has launched ¥22 billion (US$208 million) in non-guaranteed domestic bonds in two tranches: ¥10 billion (US$94 million) with a 10-year maturity and ¥12 billion (US$113 million) with a 20-year maturity.

The International Capital Market Association (ICMA) has dubbed these 'Social Bonds' and they are qualified by the Japan Research Institute. These bonds are expected to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

South Korea joins ACT-Accelerator as Facilitation Council member

South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) announced that the government has joined the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator as a Facilitation Council member. South Korea is one of the eight countries — US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico — in the 'market leader group'.

Following their first meeting on September 10, the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council issued a statement committing to:

  • Providing continued political leadership to promote international support for the ACT-Accelerator;
  • Advocating on behalf of ACT-Accelerator to help secure the financial resources necessary to maximize impact; and
  • Fulfilling the commitment of leaving no one behind.

Press release – Ministry of Health and Welfare (in Korean)

France takes part in first ACT-A Facilitation Council meeting for COVID-19 vaccine coordination

On September 10, 2020, France took part in the first Facilitation Council meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative, a World Health Organization-led coordination mechanism aiming to provide an equitable global distribution of diagnostics, treatments, and a future vaccine, as well as to strengthen healthcare systems.

France was represented by Clément Beaune, the newly appointed Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Other attendees included the presidents of the European Commission, South Africa, and Rwanda, the Norwegian prime minister, and the Director-General of WHO.

France committed €510 million (US$603 million) in May to tackle the pandemic at the global level but has not yet formally joined the COVAX initiative, which aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee fair and equitable global access.

Press release - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs