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Donor Tracker to host webinar on education in emergencies

Join the Donor Tracker on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 15:00-16:00 CET for a webinar addressing education in emergencies, featuring experts from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global fund and partnership to improve education in lower-income countries, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency.

The growth of protracted conflicts and the increasing prevalence of emergencies globally have impacted the educational opportunities of millions of children. Precarious humanitarian situations around the world have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. With just ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), amid a global pandemic, prioritizing the educational needs of the world’s most vulnerable children is more important than ever.

However, are donors dedicating sufficient attention to education in emergencies? Join the webinar for a discussion on financing needs, donor priorities, and policy trends in the sector.

This webinar complements our recently published report, ‘Decades of neglect: Donor financing for education in emergencies’.

Registration - Zoom

Report - Donor Tracker

Australia allocates US$16 million for combatting domestic anti-microbial resistance

Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced Australia’s recent federal budget contained A$23 million (US$16 million) to undertake activities prioritized in Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond.

This includes enabling quick response capacity when multi-drug resistant organisms are detected. The strategy will focus on resistance in both humans and animals.

Press release - Department of Health

Australian university provides interactive map and sector details of Pacific Islands' COVID-19 responses

Four centers at the Australian National University in Canberra have collaborated to produce an interactive map of the COVID-19 responses by Pacific Island governments.

Weekly updates are collected by the Australia Pacific Security College with additional input by groups including the Development Policy Centre and the Department of Pacific Affairs. Each country has a pop-up box indicating its responses to COVID-19 and an interpretation of the impact on the ground.

The Australian Pacific Security College also provides a tracking matrix of sector responses, based on information from the South Pacific Commission in New Caledonia. This includes detailed information on health, education, and transportation.

Interactive Map - Asia & The Pacific Policy Society

Tracking Matrix - Australia Pacific Security College

Australia announces support package for Southeast Asian and Pacific recovery, including US$165 million for Mekong region

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a range of measures to assist the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit held virtually in November 2020.

The new measures include providing:

  • A$232 million (US$165 million) to the Mekong region for economic development and integration;
  • A$70 million (US$50 million) for ASEAN's infrastructure development and technical assistance;
  • A$65 million (US$46 million) for the sustainable development of marine resources; 
  • A$46 million (US$33 million) for additional capacity building to support the implementation of both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement; and
  • A$21 million (US$14 million) to the recently-launched ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, as part of Australia's recent A$500 million (US$356 million) commitment to support access to COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Press release - Prime Minister of Australia

Australian government to provide Indonesia with US$1.0 billion loan to address COVID-19-linked recession

Australia's Treasurer Josh Freydenderg, together with Indonesia’s Finance Minister Shri Muliyani Indrawati, announced that Australia would provide Indonesia with a A$1.5 billion (US$1.0 billion) loan as Indonesia experiences its first recession in 22 years.

Indonesia’s budget has decreased by almost 3.5% in the third quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. There has been a strong capital outflow and a dramatic reduction in tourism revenue.

The terms and conditions of the loan have not been announced, but the loan is not from official development assistance (ODA) resources. ODA to Indonesia has fallen by over 50% in the past five years.

News article - ABC News

Australian agencies to work jointly on plant biosecurity

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) announced it will work with the Australian Plant Bio Security Research Initiative (APBRI) to address the problems related to global pests being introduced to Australia naturally and via cargo movement.

ACIAR is a part of Australia's development assistance program and is the government’s specialist research-for-development agency on agriculture, forestry, livestock, and fisheries, in addition to environmental management and social sciences. 

APBRI develops cross-sectoral research to minimize the consequences of biosecurity threats such as pests, diseases, and weeds that impact Australia's environment, communities, and plant industries.

News article - Mirage

UK parliament debates whether to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 products

Some members of the UK parliament have challenged the government to use its influence at the international level to push for a waiver of intellectual property rules for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, to enable wider access for low- and lower-middle-income countries.  

Speaking at a debate in the Houses of Parliament on November 5, 2020, Wendy Chamberlain, the Liberal Democrat Party’s chief whip, noted that without such urgent action, richer countries will likely crowd out poor countries' access to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, resulting in a two-tier rollout and deepening existing inequalities.

Chamberlain noted that rules within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) already exist to enable countries to override health monopolies in exceptional public health circumstances. She also cited how Germany, Australia, and Canada have already taken advantage of these rules, loosening their laws around compulsory licenses in order to allow (if required) the use of interventions to assist with COVID-19 without the patent holders' consent.

Chamberlain, who was supported by Sarah Champion (Labour MP and Chair of the International Development Select Committee), called for the UK to step up as a force for good and support the South African and Indian proposal for intellectual property monopolies to be waivered on COVID-19 products.

However, Wendy Morton, minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), noted that the UK government wanted the existing rules on intellectual property rights to be upheld and not waivered. Morton cited the importance of intellectual property rights in incentivizing companies to invest in research and development around new drugs against COVID-19. 

The UK government has spent around £1.0 billion ($1.3 billion) on research for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines and has contributed £548 million (US$709 million) to the COVAX Facility, an international partnership under the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator that pools resources to negotiate vaccine deals, with the goal to also help lower-income countries have more equitable access to vaccine candidates.

News article - Devex

Australia signs new agreements worth US$1.0 billion for 50 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia signed vaccine deals worth A$1.5 billion (US$1.0 billion) with Novavax, a vaccine development company, and Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation (who is in collaboration with BioNTech, a biotechnology company).  

If the vaccines proved to be effective and safe, the agreements would see Novavax supply 40 million doses and Pfizer/BioNTech 10 million vaccine doses. These vaccines could be available by mid-2021.

These deals follow Australia's A$1.7 billion (US$1.2 billion) deals with AstraZeneca and CSL Ltd for about 85 million vaccine doses in September.

Overall the Australian government’s 'COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy' has now established access to over 134 million doses from four different types of vaccines to have multiple options and not have all their "eggs in one basket".

Two of these are protein vaccines containing an adjuvant called Matrix-M, one is a messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine, and one is a viral vector-based vaccine.

Press release - Minister for Health

News article - Reuters

Australia commits US$361 million to increase COVID-19 vaccine access

Australia's Foreign Affairs and Health Ministers have announced an additional A$500 million (US$361 million) to purchase COVID-19 vaccine doses and provide technical assistance to the Pacific region and Timor-Leste. The funding will also support national regulators in assessing vaccine effectiveness and safety.

The new funding is in addition to the A$23 million (US$17 million) already committed for vaccine access to the Pacific. It will be provided over three years and be classified as official development assistance (ODA). The regional vaccine access and health security initiative are in addition to the existing ODA budget, which is capped at A$4.0 billion (US$3.0 billion) annually.

Australia previously committed A$80 million (US$58 million) to the Advance Market Commitment, a financial mechanism of the global Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, to assist poorer countries in obtaining fair access to successful vaccines.

Australia's new funding follows major commitments from China to provide vaccine access to five Southeast Asian countries.

News article - The Sydney Morning Herald

Australian development assistance to Indonesia has fallen by 50% over six years, confirm foreign affairs officials

Australian Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Frances Adamson, has confirmed that Australian development assistance to Indonesia was budgeted at A$255 million (US$181 million) this year.

This was the same level as the last financial year and half the figure provided in 2014-2015.

Funding this year to Indonesia had not increased due to additional COVID-19 spending, but Australia established a new health partnership within the Indonesian assistance program as a result of the pandemic.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne emphasized that Australia’s cooperation plan involved assisting Indonesia in its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

News article - The Canberra Times

Report shares six-month survey results on food security and recovery under COVID-19, proposes R&D investment options

Research funded by the Australian Council for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) has assessed food security and opportunities in the following five geographies: the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and seven Pacific Island Countries (Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji).

The results highlighted COVID-19 related problems including limited access to agricultural supplies and areas, as well as ten pre-existing vulnerabilities that exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis in all five geographies.

The study also listed six factors important to post-pandemic agricultural recovery and resilience, which include the availability of imported staples, food system governance, and support provided by social protection measures.

The review proposed several research and development (R&D) investment options to support the recovery and resilience of food systems in each geographical area.

Op-ed - Development Policy Centre, Australian National University

Report - Australian Council for International Agriculture Research

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

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

Japan holds Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting, discusses “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, COVID-19, continued cooperation

On October 20, 2020, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi held the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) to strengthen cooperation with Pacific Island countries. He discussed Japan’s cooperation with Pacific Islanders to establish a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, as well as Japan’s continued efforts to provide assistance and promote human resource development.

Motegi also highlighted Japan’s provision of medical supplies and equipment to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific Islands. Japan aims to work with the Pacific Island countries to address international issues.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press release - Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting

Assessment of Australian development assistance performance in 2018-19 shows most targets met

The final report under the Australian government’s development performance framework, 'Making Performance Count', has been published. Nine of the government’s ten performance measures were met in 2018-19. The gender equality performance target had not been met but was improving, particularly in education.

This is the sixth and final performance report under the 2014 policy framework for the Australian development assistance program.

A new performance system will be used in the future, as announced in May 2020. This will be in line with the new Partnerships for Recovery policy for the Australian government’s development assistance program.

News article - Reliefweb

Australia commits US$7 million as part of pledge to replenish Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Australia has committed A$10 million (US$7 million) as part of the first replenishment period for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Other donors to contribute to the replenishment were Germany, Norway, and Spain as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In total, US$300 million in contributions was announced.

Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, emphasized Australia’s long-standing role as a supporter of the GAFSP because the organization has a proven track record in assisting smallholder farmers and could play an important role in reducing hunger during the COVID-19 crisis.

News article - ReliefWeb

Media reports suggest Australia will announce significant new assistance program in Southeast Asia

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Diplomat magazine suggested that the Australian government was finalizing a package of development assistance for Southeast Asia. This would focus on five countries along the Mekong River including Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Based on sources inside the government, part of the assistance would address the water access challenges due to new Chinese dams on the upper Mekong River, and over four years this might involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

Australia had dramatically cut development assistance to Southeast Asia over the past five years but is now likely to reverse some of those cuts through this new program. The final scale and nature of the assistance are yet to be determined.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald

News article - The Diplomat

Australia commits US$219 million for COVID-19 recovery to Pacific; op-ed argues total development assistance should be increased

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne indicated that the Australian government is committed to providing COVID-19 vaccines to partners in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Timor-Leste, which is important to promote economic recovery and regional stability. The government therefore established a A$305 million (US$219 million) COVID-19 recovery fund as a component of its Pacific Step-Up, outside the development assistance program budget.

Stephen Howes of the Australian National University argued that the major reductions to sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, among others, in the 2020 budget were not significant enough to meet Australia’s need for increased allocations to the Pacific. The A$4.0 billion budget (US$2.9 billion) also had to provide for A$80 million (US$57 million) in multilateral commitments including vaccine-related funding.

Howes indicated that the government's additional allocation for the Pacific was an acknowledgment that an increase was needed in Australia’s overall development assistance budget after five years of cuts.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Op-ed - Fiji Times

Updated 'Pacific Aid Map' shows declining health expenditure before COVID-19

The Lowy Institute based in Sydney issued the third update of its 'Pacific Aid Map'. Health expenditure data indicated that Pacific island countries provide some 82% of their health costs from domestic budgets. Out-of-pocket private contributions accounted for only 8%.

Overall health assistance from donors had been a slow decline since 2012, except for a major Asian Development Bank loan to Papua New Guinea (PNG). This decline was expected to continue, with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance's vaccine support ending for PNG in 2021 and the Solomon Islands in 2022. Assistance from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had also been falling over the last five years.

Report - The Lowy Institute

As Australia increases budget for COVID-19 reponse in Pacific, funding to other regions suffers

The Australian budget, delivered on Tuesday evening, included the first increase in development assistance since the Liberal-National Party Coalition took power in 2013.

The government announced an additional A$305 million (US$219 million) over two years for a COVID-19 Response Package for the Pacific and Timor Leste. For unexplained reasons, this is not treated as additional official development assistance, and the official Australian development assistance budget remains at the target level of A$4.0 billion (US$2.9 billion). Professor Stephen Howes of the Australian National University indicated that the budget for other regions has been cut sharply, including a reduction of 48% to sub-Saharan Africa.

Press release - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Blog - Development Policy Centre, Australian National University