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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

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

Former senior Australian diplomat urges increased support for South-East Asia

Australia’s former Ambassador to Indonesia and head of Australia’s Mission to the UN in New York, Garry Quinlan, announced on a podcast that he believes Australia responded too slowly to the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia.

Quinlan was also concerned that Australia reduced its aid spending by 30% to South-East Asia. Speaking on an “ Australia in the World” podcast, the former ambassador said he would like to see an increased focus on Indonesia and South-East Asia through Australia’s development assistance program. He suggested the government increase development spending to buttress regional stability, and he believed that the overseas development program was a “fundamental arm” of Australia’s foreign policy.

Media report - ABC News

Australia caps annual spending for the Medical Research Future Fund

Stuart Robert, Australia’s Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, introduced legislation to streamline the Medical Research Future Fund Act (MRFF), which would set an annual maximum disbursement by the fund of A$650 million (US$483 million).

Robert stated that this budget limit would provide confidence in the fund and certainty in future financial planning.

The MRFF was established in 2015, and the Fund's investments provide grants for significant medical and health research projects. This research has included initiatives related to global health, particularly antimicrobial resistance, and a contribution to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Report - Department of Health

Australia spent US$12 million on global health through domestic medical research fund

Australia’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) has been reviewed by Associate Professor Lesley Russell to assess its first four years of operation.

The Fund was established to eventually spend A$1.0 billion (US$739 million) annually to fund “groundbreaking health and medical research” into diseases that were a burden to Australians. However, A$16 million (US$12 million) was allocated for global health research – including an initial small contribution to CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The remaining funds for global health research focused on antimicrobial resistance.

The Fund has provided A$58 million (US$43 million) for COVID-19 research, but progress was hindered by the lack of COVID-19 patients available for the research. The government’s Health Department noted that Australia had spent A$374 million (US$274 million) from all sources on research into COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.

Press release - Croakey

Australia opens up work visas for agricultural workers from South-east Asia, Pacific Islands

David Littleproud, Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, has announced that an Australian Agricultural Visa will enable people from low-income countries in the region to work in a variety of Australia’s agriculture industries.

In a joint statement with Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, he indicated that Pacific and Timor Leste workers are expected to double in number to 24,000 in Australia. Similar visa arrangements will be negotiated with other countries and the scheme will operate over the next three years.

This builds on a previous successful model, the Pacific Labor Scheme. Agriculture Minister Littleproud had reportedly highlighted the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam as potential countries to negotiate such visas, according to the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University.

Press release - Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Foreign Affairs

Report - Development Policy Centre

Australia must increase vaccine assistance, says policy think tank

Australia, as a producer of vaccines, should do more to assist the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from the Australia-based policy think tank, the Lowy Institute.

The report supported Australia's current policy of allocating surplus vaccines to the Indo-Pacific region but argued that the doses should be channeled through the COVAX facility, as COVAX is committed to vaccine equity based on specific needs and is also well-placed to target specific outbreaks.

Refrigerated storage capacity and potential wastage were key issues in regional assistance. Australian officials confirmed that the delivery of doses to regional recipients was coordinated with their national vaccine rollout strategies. This included consideration of storage, logistics, and health system resources. 

Australia has already offered A$523 million (US$378 million) for technical support and vaccine doses through its Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative. In addition, it has committed an additional A$100 million (US$72 million) through the Quad partnership with Japan, India, and the US. An additional 20 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 were committed by Australia at the G7 Summit in June of 2021.

Report - Lowy Institute

Australia will supply 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses, but receives criticism over Pfizer doses from COVAX

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific has announced it will supply a further 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Fiji and Timor-Leste, bringing the total of vaccines shipped to the Asia Pacific to close to 2 million. Further supplies are expected in the coming weeks.

87% of Fijians now have received both shots of the vaccine. The vaccine shipments are from domestic production in Australia and are additional to those provided through the COVAX facility.

Concern, however, has been voiced by the Opposition and the peak NGO body ACFID that Australia has meanwhile received 500,000 Pfizer vaccine doses from the COVAX facility that might otherwise have been provided to low-income countries. 

The Australian government has emphasized that its vaccines from COVAX were from a high-income country allocation, and not vaccines destined for low-income countries. Australia secured an additional 1 million Pfizer vaccine doses from Poland as the majority of Australia enters a new lockdown due to expanding domestic COVID-19 transmission.

Press release - Minister for International Development and the Pacific

News article - The Guardian Australia

Australia announces support for science and technology research partnerships in Asia-Pacific to address climate crisis

Australia's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, has announced a A$6 million (US$4 million) Australian Science and Technology for Climate Partnerships initiative to support research-based solutions to climate challenges in the Indo Pacific area.

Payne also announced 40 One Health scholarships from ASEAN countries to be delivered by Murdoch University in Western Australia.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Australian farm profits could fall up to 50% in three decades due to climate change, says government agriculture research bureau

A new Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences report indicates that Australian farms lost a quarter of their profits over the past two decades due to climate change. However, some progress has been made in adapting to the dryer and hotter conditions.

Profits could fall by as much as 50% in the next 30 years if farmers do not adapt to climate change and global emissions were not significantly reduced, the report concluded.

Projections of the effect on rainfall due to rising temperatures varied widely up to 2050, the report noted, which inhibited the ability of farmers to adapt.

News article - The Guardian Australia

GPE replenishment concludes with US$4.0 billion of US$5.0 billion funding target raised by global donors

At the Global Education Summit, co-hosted by the UK and Kenya to replenish funds for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), donors raised a record US$4.0 billion in funding for educating the world's most vulnerable children between 2021 and 2026.

GPE leadership has said they hope that donors will provide additional financial support in the years to come, in order to reach the full US$5.0 billion in programming funds, which they say would enable up to 175 million children to access education and help get 88 million more young children enrolled in school by 2o25. The replenishment came against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis; the pandemic's dramatic disruption of education worldwide is well documented and is of major concern to sector experts.

Donor contributions included:

GPE is a multi-stakeholder partnership between low- and middle-income countries, donors, multilateral and civil society organizations, foundations, and companies, founded in 2020 with the objective to give children and youth all over the world access to education.

Press release - GPE

Australian Council for International Development calls for longer-term assistance to Indonesia

Mark Purcell, Executive Director of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), highlighted shortages in Indonesia of medical supplies and heightened risk, particularly in marginal communities, for COVID-19. The vaccination rate in Indonesia is only 6%.

Australia needs to commit to long-term assistance to help with recovery, said Purcell. Data indicate around 30% of Indonesians are now living in poverty, compared to under 10% in 2019. Indonesia has been downgraded by the World Bank to a lower-middle-income status.

Australia has announced assistance of A$12 million (US$9 million) but, according to Purcell, the funding should be considered the first step only; further attention from the Australian development sector is needed.

News article - The Australian

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Australia pledges US$133 million to Global Partnership for Education for 2021-2025

At the Global Education Summit, the replenishment conference of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), on July 28 and 29, 2021, Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced that Australia would provide A$180 million (US$133 million) to the Global Partnership for Education's work in the Indo-Pacific region for the period between 2021 and 2026. Payne stated this would provide assistance to children across Asia and the Pacific, with a particular focus on girls, following the pandemic. This represented an increase from the A$90 million committed for 2018 to 2020.

GPE is a multi-stakeholder partnership between low- and middle-income countries, donors, multilateral and civil society organizations, foundations, and companies, founded in 2020 with the objective to give children and youth all over the world access to education. According to GPE, for the period between 2021 and 2025 US$5.0 billion is needed to support their work.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

News article -  BBC

Australian government examines possibility of establishing mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Australia

The Australian government is assessing proposals to establish a large-scale mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Australia. There have been more than a dozen proposals after the government called for applications.

In the short term, the production of a domestic mRNA vaccine is likely to hinge on producing the Moderna vaccine, as Pfizer has confirmed it has no current plans to manufacture vaccines in Australia.

There is also no current facility that could manufacture these vaccines in Australia.

News article - ABC News

Think tank believes Australia needs international pressure leading up to COP26 climate change conference

Richie Mercian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute, has written that Australia’s poor record on addressing the climate emergency is likely to continue at COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

Australia has the highest per capita emissions in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is the largest exporter of coal and natural gas. 

He believes that international pressure is needed to move Australia forward on climate change action. Examples of pressure to date include criticism of Australia for obstructing progress on Article 6 at the COP25 negotiations in 2019, the impact of the EU proposing a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), and the denial of Australia's speaking slot at the UK-hosted Climate Ambition Summit held in December 2020.

Op-ed - The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit 

Australia’s annual agricultural research advocacy conference will focus on food and nutrition security will focus on nexus between biosecurity, health, trade

The annual conference of the Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research will be held in Parliament House, Canberra, on December 14, 2021. This year’s conference will focus on food and nutrition security, focusing on the nexus between biosecurity, health, and trade. 

The conference will cover food systems and the interaction of food production with zoonotic diseases and human health. Doctor Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, will be the conference's headlining speaker.

The Crawford Fund’s conference follows soon after the global Nutrition for Growth Summit being held in Tokyo on December 7-8, 2021.

Press release - The Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research

Australian senator raises concern regarding new regulations impacting NGO advocacy

Australian Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has reportedly written to the Australian government, voicing concerns about proposed new regulations which could impinge on NGOs' freedom of speech and political protest. 

Fierravanti-Wells was apparently concerned the measure might prevent NGOs from supporting some advocacy activities. An alliance of charities has also raised concerns that the measures represented an unjustified regulatory overreach, and would have a chilling effect on NGOs' advocacy.

The government has stated that the new regulations would expand the types of offenses that could lead to charities being deregistered such as in promoting or engaging in unlawful acts of vandalism and trespass. It appears that these would not necessarily have to be indictable offenses.

News report - The Guardian Australia

Australia's Monash University starts phase 3 clinical trials for inhalable oxytocin with potential to eliminate thousands of maternal deaths in low-income countries

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne and Johnson & Johnson have jointly developed a form of oxytocin that does not require refrigeration and can be delivered through an inhaler.

Oxytocin is used to stop post-partum hemorrhages, a leading cause of global maternal mortality. This new form of inhalable oxytocin would be easier to distribute and less invasive than the commonly used injectable oxytocin, giving it great potential for maternal health projects in low-income countries.

The project is about to enter phase 3 clinical trials. Commercial production could still be several years away.

News report - ABC News

Australia to immediately send 2.5 million vaccine doses and COVID-19 supplies to Indonesia

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, has directed 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine be sent to assist Indonesia. An assistance package worth A$12 million (US$9 million) will also provide test kits, 1000 ventilators, and up to 700 oxygen concentrators.

Indonesia’s daily infection rate rose to a record level of 31,189 cases on July 6, 2021, with 728 deaths.

Australia’s support for Indonesia’s COVID-19 response now totals A$102 million (US$76 million), as well as a A$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion) loan to support Indonesia’s economic situation and response to COVID-19.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs