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UK’s development superpower status under threat, warns Center for Global Development

The Center for Global Development (CGD), a global development think-tank with an office in London, has published a new blog reflecting on the first anniversary of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCOD) following the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The blog argues that some of the UK's core development strengths under DFID have been eroded as a result of the merger, highlighting that the FCDO is less poverty-focused, its commitment to development effectiveness is weaker, and its expertise has declined. CGD argues that these trends, coupled with the substantial budget cuts to the UK development assistance budget, threaten the UK’s development superpower status.

CGD argues that the purpose of UK development assistance has shifted as a result of the creation of FCDO and is now more concentrated on meeting UK national interests than addressing poverty. CGD recognizes that this shift began prior to the merger, but notes that the merger has accelerated the move away from poverty reduction.

On development effectiveness, CGD argues that while it is too early to empirically evaluate how the merger has impacted the quality of UK development assistance, CGD predicts that it will further decline, especially in the category of transparency. A recent review by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), the UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, highlighted that the FCDO has been less transparent in its engagement with the ICAI than in prior years and the Chair of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee has criticized the UK government for a lack of clear information, particularly with regards to its spending plans.

Finally, on staffing CGD notes that when the merger happened, only 2 of the 7 initial appointments to the Management Board were former DFID officials. More recently, the FCDO has announced 20% cuts to its staffing costs, with most of the cuts likely to fall on staff managing development projects have been stopped due to cuts in the development assistance budget.

Blog - Center for Global Development

NGOs call for UK government to postpone COP26 as fears grow that low-income countries may struggle to participate

More than 1,500 civil society organizations from 130 countries have collectively called for the UK government to postpone the UN COP26 climate talks.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November of 2021 with the UK hosting the event and holding the Presidency. The groups, which are members of the Climate Action Network, made the public demand based on growing fears that participants from low-income and climate-vulnerable nations will struggle to attend the in-person event due to the high cost of the UK's COVID-19 travel requirements.  

In response to the statement by the Climate Action Network, the UK government noted that all delegates who have not been able to get a vaccine will receive the jab this week. The UK government also announced that it would provide funding to all participants (including media and observers attending) that will require a ten-day quarantine under the UK’s COVID-19 travel requirements.

The UK government has labeled some countries as ‘red list’ countries, many of which are low-income and climate-vulnerable countries. Travelers from these countries are required to quarantine in a hotel. The government will provide funding to cover the costs of a hotel for all participants traveling from red-list nations. 

News article – BOND

Global Citizen to host 24-hour worldwide concert to prompt pledges toward SDGs

On September 25, Global Citizen will broadcast a 24-hour global event on TV and multiple social networks, which will feature artists, celebrities, and world leaders focusing on defending the planet and defeating poverty.

Global Citizen Live aims to support a "Recovery Plan for the World," targeting five key sectors: COVID-19 global response, hunger, education, climate change, and equity. The event will provide a platform for decision-makers to make new pledges, which contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The event will feature performances from different cities around the globe including Lagos, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, and Sydney. Artists such as Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Måneskin, DJ Snake, H.E.R., Lizzo, Christine and the Queens, Angélique Kidjo, Charlie Puth, and Fatma Said will participate.

Website - Global Citizen

Sweden takes first place in Center for Global Development's ranking of high-income countries' committment to development

The Center for Global Development, an independent thinktank, published their Commitment to Development Index, (CDI) which measures development policy engagement in 40 major economies. The report consolidates key findings in development finance, investment, migration, trade, environment, health, security, and technology.

The CDI, rooted in "genuine policy effort" relative to country size, added health as a new component this year, taking into account pandemic preparedness as well as other health issues like pollutant concentration and prevention of medication resistance. 

Key findings included:

  • Sweden ranked first in overall development efforts, with top spots in both environmental and migration policies;
  • The UK slipped back to fifth place overall, suggesting a general decline in its development superpower status;
  • China ranked 36th and struggled with migration, security, and a lack of transparency;
  • The US dropped from 18th to 22nd in overall development commitments, indicating fallout from Trump-era policies;
  • France ranked second overall, the highest of the G7 countries;
  • Norway placed third overall with strong performances in development finance and migration; and
  • Australia moved up to fourth place following the introduction of health measurement indicators.

The CDI celebrated successful development policies and made recommendations for improvement for each of the countries it evaluated.

Commitment to Development Index - Center for Global Development

Sweden earmarks US$242 million in 2022 ODA for COVID-19 vaccines

The Swedish government allocated SEK 2.1 billion (US$242 million) in its official development assistance (ODA) budget for 2022 to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries.

Because inequitable global vaccine access continues to afflict low-income countries, the funds are primarily intended to support the procurement of vaccines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative. Sweden's Minister for International Development Cooperation, Per Olssen Fridh, said the funds will promote vaccine access for all and decrease the development of new and harmful mutations of COVID-19.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Left-of-center coalition probable following Norwegian national elections

Parties on the left in Norway gained a clear majority in parliament following the September 13, 2021, national election, indicating the end of the center-right government's eight-year rule.

The Labour Party’s leader, Jonas Gahr Støre, is now in a position to negotiate a new left-of-center coalition. Coalition partnerships are not confirmed, however, the Labour Party, Socialist Left Party, and Center Party are expected to meet for negotiations in the coming days, signaling the prospect of a new government formation.

The potential left coalition has cross-party support for global health initiatives and discussions on the use of multilateral funding mechanisms are expected, led by the Center Party. Agriculture is also expected to be a priority on the agenda.

Article - NRK (in Norwegian) 

Political Program - Center Party (in Norwegian)

Political Program - Labour Party (in Norwegian)

800,000 UK AstraZeneca doses will likely expire; UK government signals vaccinations for 12 – 15-year-olds

According to a new analysis by the Telegraph, a UK newspaper, up to 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in the UK will likely be discarded due to expiration dates in early September.

It is speculated that the UK government's recommendation for younger people get an alternative jab led to the considerable number of unused doses. The recommendation was made due to the potential risk of blood clots linked with taking the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The Telegraph reported earlier that UK medics and General Practitioners (GPs) in particular have continued to raise concerns about leftover doses for months and were frustrated with distribution efforts given the limited nature of global vaccine delivery.

The paper's analysis is based on the Welsh government’s recently released figures, which show that 40,000 doses expired and were "not suitable for use" as of September 5, 2021. If the wastage rate is approximately the same across England (England does not make this data publicly available), Scotland, and Northern Ireland – 1.7% - more than 800,000 doses could be wasted across the UK.

The UK government additionally announced on September 13, 2021 that it would make vaccines available to children aged 12 - 15. Prior to the announcement, vaccines were only available to children in this age group with health problems due to potential risks. However, the government’s chief medical officers have reconsidered the impact of vaccination on children's well-being and reversed their decision, now allowing vaccinations for the entire age group. 

News article – The Telegraph

Germany pledges US$118 million at UN Afghanistan donor conference

On September 13, 2021, the UN hosted a donor conference to raise funds for Afghanistan, ultimately securing US$1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance for the nation, approximately double the original funding goal for the conference.

German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, confirmed Germany's contribution of €100 million (US$118 million) in assistance and is planning to pledge an additional €500 million (US$590 million) to further support Afghanistan and its neighboring countries.

German development minister, Gerd Müller, urged a reformation of the international humanitarian emergency relief system and suggested moving away from crisis intervention towards crisis prevention. He proposed a UN emergency fund of €10.0 billion (US$11.8 billion), which would provide reliable and proactive funding for UN organizations and their relief agencies.

News article – Deutsche Welle

News article – Deutschlandfunk (in German)

Press release – Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (in German)

Japan to invest US$97 million for infrastructure in Ghana

Japan will provide ¥3.6 billion (US$35 million) to renovate roads in Ghana.

In Ghana, 95% of domestic transportation depends on roads, and the volume of traffic has been increasing with economic growth. These funds will help renovate the National Trunk Road N8 in the Central Province and the Tema Motorway Roundabout, which will facilitate transportation in the region and stimulate economic growth. This project embodies Japan’s pledge to promote “Quality Infrastructure Investment” as announced during the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Spain provides US$24 million to support Afghan refugees, focusing on quality education

Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, announced that Spain will provide €20 million (US$24 million) in humanitarian assistance to support Afghan refugee populations at the UN Afghanistan donor conference held in Geneva, Switzerland.

Minister Albares emphasized that one of Spain’s priorities is to support the most vulnerable refugees, particularly women and girls and to guarantee access to quality education for up to 2-3 million Afghan children.

Press release – MAUC

After failed attempts at majority government formation, Netherlands looks to minority coalition

Johan Remkes of the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) has been appointed as the new informateur in ongoing talks to form a coalition in the Netherlands; his primary task will be examining possibilities for forming a minority government, as multiple attempts to form a majority government have failed.

Tensions between the two biggest parties, VVD and Democrats 66 (D66), arose after D66 leader, Sigrid Kaag, criticized VVD leader, Mark Rutte, for his refusal to cooperate with left-wing parties Green Left (GL) and the Labour Party (PvdA) and his style of leadership.

Kaag maintained her preference for a five-way majority government between VVD, D66, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), GL, and PvdA, which was rejected by VVD and CDA. After the appointment of Remkes, GL and PvdA released a statement, saying they do not support a minority government. 

News Article - DutchNews

News Article - NOS (in Dutch)

News Article - NOS (in Dutch)

Japan to provide US$3 million for food assistance in Burundi

Japan announced that it will provide ¥350 million (US$3 million) for food assistance in Burundi through the World Food Programme (WFP).

Burundi has been facing a food crisis due to the prolonged rainy season in 2019, which led to a decline in food production and an increase in prices. These funds will contribute to Japan’s pledge to build a “resilient and sustainable society” as announced during the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Spain to release new global health strategy

The Spanish government is currently developing a new global health strategy.

The announcement was made at an event held by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), recognizing Spain's annual September 9 Aid Workers Day.

Attendees included high-level government officials, members of parliament, NGO representatives, and development experts, including Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, and the Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Pilar Cancela.

Spain's new global health strategy will focus on individuals' 'right to health' and aims to ensure medical access for vulnerable populations. The new plan will include a Cooperation Action plan, an appeal for global universal health coverage, and coordinated collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Press release – AECID

Press release – AECID

European Parliament committees discuss report calling for complete implementation of EU Gender Action Plan III for EU external action

The European Parliament’s committees on Development and on Women's Rights and Gender Equality debated a joint draft report on the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) III, the European Union’s plan for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment through external action, on September 6, 2021. 

The report, which is still awaiting an approval decision from both committees, calls for the EU to fully implement and annually assess GAP III, engage in dialogue with partner countries and civil society, increase funding for local women’s organizations, eliminate all forms of gender violence, ensure access to healthcare for women, promote economic and social equality, encourage participation and leadership by women, involve women in peacebuilding and security initiatives, and build a green and digital society. 

The report also calls on the European Commission to clarify its commitment to earmark €4 billion (US$4.7 billion) for women and girls from the budget for external action.

Press release - European Parliament

Draft report - European Parliament

Germany solidifies protection measures for Congo Basin rainforests

At the Tropical Forest Symposium on September 8, 2021, Germany’s development minister, Gerd Müller, along with representatives of ten bordering states to the Congo Basin, agreed on enhanced protection measures for its rainforests.

According to Müller, the destruction of tropical forests accounts for 11% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, and experts estimate that by the year 2100, the entirety of the Congo Basin's rainforests will be destroyed.

Germany supports the protection of rainforests in Africa via the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). The initiative's goal is to protect and rebuild 127 million hectares of the forest by 2030, inter alia, by building transparent wood supply chains, establishing economic alternatives for the people in the region, and closely engaging indigenous groups in the process.

Press release - Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

News article - Deutsche Welle (in German)

Australian trade minister supports waiving intellectual property protection for easier COVID-19 vaccine production

Australia's Minister of Trade, Dan Tehan, indicated on national television that Australia would support efforts to enable the streamlined production of generic COVID-19 vaccines by waiving intellectual property protections.

The official Australian position was previously unclear, although the nation supported negotiations on intellectual property waivers.

The campaign to support changing World Trade Organization (WTO) recommendations on COVID-19 vaccines has been pursued by advocacy groups in Australia as well as low and middle-income countries.

Media report -  ABC News

President of South Korea’s international health agency recommends future steps for ODA in reponse to COVID-19 crisis

President Moojin Choo of the Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH) provided recommendations for South Korea’s official development assistance (ODA) in response to changing global health needs due to the COVID-19 crisis.

KOFIH, which is an agency affiliated with South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare, implements ODA projects in the health sectors of partner countries.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Choo recommended that global health development funding aim to strengthen the basic health and medical systems of partner countries. In addition, Choo indicated that South Korea’s support should be aligned with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as partner countries’ national development strategies.

More capacity-building funding and investments were also recommended by health and medical ODA experts. Lastly, the president recommended stronger public support and understanding for international cooperation concerning global health security.

News article – Medical News (in Korean)

Draft report from advisory group on Africa-Europe R&I cooperation calls for revision of 2010 European Commission Communication on global health and funding

The Advisory Group on Research and Innovation for Africa-Europe Cooperation (AG) presented draft papers at a workshop on September 7, 2021, that recommended renewing the 2010 EC Communication on global health in the context of COVID-19 along with prioritizing global health initiatives. 

The concept-note included a draft paper entitled, "R&I for Strengthening People-Centred Resilient Health Systems for UHC," which focuses on potential global health responses in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The advisory group of six high-level experts from Europe and Africa also called for complementing initiatives like the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), which would help create a suitable environment for health research and innovation in priority areas such as antimicrobial resistance, maternal, newborn, and children’s health, and sexual and reproductive health. The group also recommended prioritizing the establishment of an African Medicines Agency (AMA). The final report will be published in early October.

Workshop Concept-Note - European Commission

UK pushes G20 to recognize vaccine status of COVID-19 clinical trial participants

The UK Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, used his first international visit to Rome for the G20 Health Minister’s meeting to call for recognition of participants in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials' vaccination status and moved to ensure that those participants receive globally recognized vaccination credentials.  

Javid claimed that UK citizens who took part in COVID-19 vaccine trials went above and beyond their duty as citizens. Their vaccine status is currently not recognized in some countries, and they are unable to travel overseas. Javid argued that this stance is unfair, unjust, and could threaten participation in future clinical studies.

The G20 Health Ministers’ meeting focused on ending the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting recovery, and strengthening global coordination in order to better prevent, detect, and respond to global health threats and emergencies.

Press Release – UK Government