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New development bank, Invest International, cannot include SDGs as institutional goals, says Dutch development minister

Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister, Sigrid Kaag, answered the questions raised by the parliamentary Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation committee on the authorization to establish the Dutch financing and development institution, Invest International.

Kaag explained that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be included as goals of Invest International due to their end date of 2030 and because Invest International's budget will be a mix of official development assistance (ODA) funds and non-ODA funds.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Spanish government approves 2021 budget bill

On October 27, 2020, the Spanish cabinet approved the state budget bill for 2021, which will be discussed and eventually approved at the parliament by the beginning of next year. According to the budget bill estimates, the overall government spending for 2021 will amount to €236.3 billion (US$278.5 billion).

The public spending in the national health system will amount to €3.2 billion (US$3.7 billion), or a 75% increase compared to 2020 figures, while the spending in research, development, and digitalization will amount to €11.5 billion (US$13.5 billion), or an 80% increase compared to 2020.

Government estimates for official development assistance (ODA) will be published in the coming days. According to several Spanish media, Spain’s development financing may increase by 20% in 2021. The budget bill envelope of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, which includes ODA and other budgetary lines, amounts to €1.4 billion (US$2.0 billion), a 20% increase from 2020 to 2021.

Press release - La Moncloa (in Spanish)

Press release - Ministry of Finance (in Spanish)

News article - Europa Press (in Spanish)

South Korea commits US$10 million to support Rohingya refugees

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea participated in an October 22, 2020 conference on sustaining support for the Rohingya refugee response, and MOFA announced that the South Korean government will provide US$10 million in humanitarian assistance this year to support the Rohingya refugees.

The assistance will be used to not only help the refugees overcome the humanitarian crisis but also to respond to the health crisis due to COVID-19.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

EU commits US$46 million to Malawi for nutrition, social protection

The EU has allocated €39 million (US$46 million) in support for Malawi to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through funding for nutrition and social protection. 

This support includes a €16 million (US$19 million) top-up to €70 million (US$83 million) in funding for a program called Afikepo that will enable 280,000 children in 200 primary schools to receive school meals.

The EU’s support will also provide €23 million (US$27 million) to the National Social Cash Transfer Programme, increasing the total funding from €50 million (US$59 million) to €73 million (US$86 million). This will increase the cash transfer program’s reach among poor rural households with limited access to the labor market from 65,000 beneficiaries to 80,000 in the next year, as well as enabling 27,000 poor urban households to receive three months of cash support to lessen the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

Press release - European Commission

South Korea’s finance ministry approves concessional loan of US$20 million for Asian partner countries’ COVID-19 responses

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) of South Korea announced its approval of emergency concessional loans of US$20 million for its partner countries in Asia, including the Philippines (US$10 million), Cambodia (US$5 million), and Bangladesh (US$5 million) to support their COVID-19 responses.

The fund will be provided by the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Similar support was provided to partner countries in South America and Africa, including a concessional loan of US$5 million to Paraguay and US$7 million to Ethiopia.

Press release – Ministry of Strategy and Finance (in Korean)

South Korea partners with UNDP to support sustainable rural development in ASEAN member states

South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the rural development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states by committing to provide KRW6.0 billion (US$5 million) from 2020 to 2022.

With financial support from the MAFRA, the UNDP will implement official development assistance (ODA) projects in Cambodia and Myanmar, the two key partner countries of the South Korean government’s New Southern Policy. This is also the first agreement between the MAFRA and the UNDP in the area of agriculture and rural development.

News article – Financial News (in Korean)

Overcoming pandemic will be impossible with “vaccine nationalism", says German federal president

At the opening of the World Health Summit on October 25, 2020, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the community of states to better collaborate in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis. While acknowledging that governments have to first and foremost represent their people's interests, he urged that this pandemic cannot be overcome through “vaccine nationalism”.

Emphasizing that “no one is safe until we are all safe” from COVID-19, Steinmeier underscored the importance of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to ensure globally fair and affordable access to treatment, and he called for further support for the COVAX Facility which contributes to this collaboration. Thereby, he particularly addressed the US, saying “When it comes to making a success of our efforts to date, no country has been missed more than the United States of America,” and he called on the next US presidential administration to join the COVAX Facility.

The World Health Summit was originally planned to take place in Berlin, with around 2000 participants. Due to COVID-19, the event took place as a fully digital conference.

Press release – Federal President

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

2015 initiative for navigating tight development assistance budgets now absorbed by Australian foreign affairs department

The Guardian Australia reported that the 'innovationXchange' initiative introduced by the previous Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has ceased to be a separate entity in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Department indicated that the innovation approach had become distributed across the Department.

The initiative was announced in 2015, with the goal of finding new ways to meet development objectives in the context of falling development assistance budgets.

However, a Devex report earlier in 2020 suggested that the initiative suffered from the lack of tolerance for risk within the Department.

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

In wake of sexual abuse scandals, UK bans government officials providing international development assistance from having sexual relations with recipients

The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has recently announced that it is banning its government officials that provide international development assistance from having any sexual relationships with the recipients of UK development assistance. Parliament opened an inquiry that led to the ban following reports of sexual abuse scandals that rocked the UK charity sector in 2018.

The FCDO noted that the inherently unequal power relations between development assistance staff and recipients means these types of relationships are inappropriate. If staff members are found to be breaching this rule, it will be treated as potential gross misconduct.

The new regulation came in response to concerns expressed by the UK parliament’s International Development Select Committee that the government’s new strategy on safeguarding against sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in the sector only strongly discouraged intimate relations but did not outright ban them.

The International Development Select Committee is now trying to establish whether the new ban applies to other government departments responsible for delivering UK development assistance or only applies to FCDO officials.

News article - Reuters

Australia releases 27 COVID-19 country assistance plans

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, announced that Australia was releasing specific development cooperation plans to assist 27 countries in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Each plan was agreed upon following consultations and reflected each individual country’s circumstances and requirements over the next two years.

The plans were in line with the government’s new development assistance policy, Partnerships for Recovery, announced on May 29, 2020. This policy emphasized responding to COVID-19 as well as assisting the economic recovery of countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

US joins international anti-abortion declaration in latest move threatening SRHR and LGBTQ+ rights

The United States joined Egypt, Brazil, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda as co-sponsors of a non-binding anti-abortion declaration. Critics pointed out that this is the latest example of the Trump administration allying with leaders accused of human rights abuses while supporting global restrictions on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

At the signing ceremony, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that this Geneva Consensus Declaration "defends the unborn and reiterates the vital importance of the family". He also explicitly stated that "there is no international right to abortion" although UN human rights groups have sought to protect abortion rights.

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus sign indicates more) rights are also challenged by the declaration. The text specifies family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society", wording which is used to exclude, target, and in some countries, sentence to death LGBTQ+ people.

News article - The Washington Post 

UK announces US$62 million in new support to Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced an additional £48 million (US$62 million) of UK development assistance to support the refugees of the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, as well as to help Bangladesh deal with the COVID-19 crisis and natural disasters (which are worsening due to the climate crisis). The commitment was announced just ahead of the UK, US, European Union, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) co-hosting a pledging conference for the Rohingya crisis.

The UK will have provided close to £300 million (US$389 million) to the Rohingya crisis since 2017, when thousands of Rohingya people escaped Myanmar's brutal, systematic violence against them. About 860,000 of the Rohingya who escaped Myanmar live in Cox's Bazar, a district in Bangladesh with overcrowded refugee camps, with no access to formal education or work opportunities.

£38 million (US$49 million) of the new funding will support humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar and the other £10 million (US$13 million) will assist the country in responding to the pandemic and natural disasters, such as flooding, which make the refugees' conditions more difficult.

Press release - UK government

UK spending review to provide budgets for government departments for just one year, due to COVID-19

The UK government has announced that it is scaling back its ambitions for its forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) due in late November as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Normally, the CSR enables the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to set out a medium-term spending framework for all government departments for a three to five year period. However, due to the high levels of economic uncertainty produced by the pandemic, this year’s CRS has been scaled back and will provide the budgets for all departments (resources and capital budgets) for 2021-22 only.

This includes setting the budget for the new Foreign, Development and Commonwealth and its international development assistance budget. The UK has already announced that there will be cuts to the development assistance budget of 20% for 2020-21, and it has indicated that further cuts are expected next year.

The government has noted that the forthcoming CRS will focus on three key areas:

  • Supporting jobs;
  • Enhancing support for vital public services to deliver first-class frontline services; and
  • Investing in infrastructure to level up the country and drive economic growth.

Press release - UK government

Japan will provide US$33 million to improve schools, living conditions of Palestinian refugees

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced that it will provide ¥2.4 billion (US$33 million) to improve schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as the living environments of refugee camps in the West Bank.

JICA will improve 155 classrooms, rooms for teachers, libraries, multipurpose halls, science laboratories, technology laboratories, accessible classrooms, toilets, and more, to ten schools. JICA will procure ICT (information and computer technology) and educational equipment, as well as provide consulting services. JICA will also provide grants to improve refugee camps in the West Bank, especially for youth, people with disabilities, and women.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Sweden pledges US$20 million for new hunger-focused humanitarian support package in response to COVID-19

In response to the humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, on October 21, 2020, the Swedish government presented a new support package of SEK 170 million (US$20 million) against global hunger. The funds will primarily be allocated to the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

It has been estimated that the number of people suffering from acute hunger as a result of the pandemic will double in 2020 and affect approximately 265 million people.

Peter Eriksson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, emphasized that we are facing the greatest hunger crisis ever, and that the climate, COVID-19, and hunger crises are all connected. Commenting on how more countries are reducing their humanitarian assistance as the need for it increases, he assured that Sweden will remain committed to its 1% of GNI target and is actively encouraging others to remain committed as well. 

In addition to the new support package, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has already committed SEK 189 million (US$22 million) to the WFP for 2020, including emergency food assistance and humanitarian air transport/logistics in the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen. Sida’s agreement with WFP for the period 2019-2021 amounts to SEK 695 million (US$80 million).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

EU pledges US$52 million in humanitarian support, food assistance to Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger for 2020

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič pledged on behalf of the EU nearly €44 million (US$52 million) for the rest of 2020 to three countries in the Central Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – to help address ongoing humanitarian and food crises.

Across the region, which is facing one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises, more than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of the EU’s pledge, €20 million (US$24 million) will support the World Food Programme in addressing the food crisis in the region, while the rest of the funds will support humanitarian actions.

Press release - European Commission

EIB lends US$28 million to biotech company to develop potential COVID-19 treatment

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a financing agreement with Atriva Therapeutics, a German biotech company, for a €24 million (US$28 million) loan to finance the research, development, and clinical testing of a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Atriva will use the loan to begin Phase II clinical trials on its antiviral therapeutic candidate, ATR-002, for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The treatment targets RNA viruses, which also include diseases like influenza and SARS, in addition to COVID-19. The loan is backed by the Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (a European Commission and EIB collaboration).
 
Press release - Atriva

Canada pledges increase in international assistance spending, announces projects in Sahel to fight COVID-19 and climate crises

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced that Canada will increase development assistance spending in the Sahel. This pledge is in response to "the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel" and a commitment to support those most vulnerable being impacted.

Gould announced Canada's plan to build "bilateral development assistance programs with Chad and Niger", as well as Canada's involvement in four new development projects in Burkina Faso to respond to critical gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), food security, and agricultural resilience to climate change in the context of COVID-19.

These commitments aim to help the most vulnerable, including those dealing most with the ramifications of the COVID-19 and the climate crises. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

COVID-19 crisis will not alter policy framework protecting SRHR, women's rights, says Dutch development minister

Dutch development minister, Sigrid Kaag, updated Parliament on the state of affairs of the four grant proposals under the policy framework Strengthening Civil Society, namely: Power of Voices, Power of Women, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Partnership Fund, and Peace and Security.

Kaag stated that despite the shrinking Dutch gross national income (GNI), the budget for the policy framework remains the same as the previously published budget. She also ensured that, while the COVID-19 crisis has a major influence on the development of the policy framework, the original planning and thematic elements of the framework will be maintained.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Norway allocates additional US$44 million to Sahel crisis relief

At the Digital Donor Conference hosted by the UN, Denmark, Germany, and the EU, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide announced that Norway will allocate an additional NOK390 million (US$44 million) for victims of the crisis in the Sahel that has intensified as a result of COVID-19, among other reasons. 

Norway has already agreed to support the region with NOK100 million (US$11 million). The additional funding is allocated from the humanitarian budget and measures within peace, food security, and education. The funding is valid from 2020 to 2022. 

News article – Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)