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Australia to supply COVID-19 equipment, PPE to India

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has announced that Australia will provide emergency supplies to India to help its COVID-19 response following the recent spike of infections in the country.

500 ventilators will be initially provided, with a capacity to eventually deploy 3,000. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including one million surgical masks and 500,000 other protective masks, will be supplied.

Australia is also procuring 100 oxygen concentrators for use by India.

Press release - Foreign Minister for Australia

Australian government exploring paths to send oxygen, ventilators to India as COVID-19 outbreak worsens

Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, is seeking oxygen supplies from Australia’s state governments to support Indian hospitals that are running low on supplies due to India becoming a current COVID-19 hot spot.

Hunt also indicated that Australia’s federal government could donate non-invasive ventilators to India, which could be sourced from a currently unused supply that was purchased last year in case of high numbers of COVID-19 infections.

News article - ABC News

Australia commits US$123 million to protect ocean environments, develop regional carbon offset scheme

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a A$100 million (US$77 million) investment to manage coastal areas and oceans and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to tackle the climate crisis.

The A$100 million (US$77 million) investment focuses on boosting 'blue carbon' ecosystems (especially those with seagrass and mangroves, to help capture carbon), supporting Australian Marine Parks, expanding the Indigenous Protected Areas, and protecting marine species.

The government also committed A$60 million (US$46 million) for developing a carbon offset scheme for the Indo-Pacific.

These investments will fit within Australia’s Climate Change Action Strategy announced in December 2020.

Press release - Prime Minister of Australia

Australia and New Zealand’s foreign ministers reiterate commitment to gender equality, SRHR

Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, met in Wellington, New Zealand, to discuss a range of issues including development assistance.

Mahuta and Payne released a joint statement that reiterated the importance of promoting gender equality and more women in leadership in the Pacific. They emphasized the need for more initiatives on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

This was the first meeting undertaken under the new quarantine-free safe travel bubble set up on April 19, 2021, between Australia and New Zealand. It was also the first time that both New Zealand and Australia were represented by female foreign ministers.

Press release - Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Breaking with other world leaders at US climate summit, Australia's Morrison fails to make formal commitment to emissions reduction target, instead announces US$771 million in climate technology research

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has indicated that Australia wants to reach net-zero emissions, preferably by 2050. However, unlike many leaders participating in the Virtual Climate Summit hosted by US President Joe Biden on April 22, 2021, Morrison has not made a formal commitment to a target date.

Australia's emissions target is low compared to many affluent nations—it aims, by 2030, to reach a 26-28% reduction compared to 2005 levels. The UK, on the other hand, aims to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels.

Morrison has instead emphasized the government's support for investments in low emissions technologies. He announced about A$1.0 billion (US$771 million) for emissions-related research and development, with about half going to research on green hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

News article - The Guardian Australia

Canada among 29 countries to condemn human rights violations against LGBTI people in Chechen Republic

Canada, among 29 co-signatories, has called on the Russian Federation "to launch an effective, impartial, and transparent inquiry into the systematic persecution of LGBTI persons in Chechnya and to end impunity for its perpetrators."

A report published in 2018 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found strong evidence that Chechnya was engaging in "successive purges against LGBTI persons". LGBTI people in Chechnya face "systematic harassment, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings". Since the release of the report, Russia has failed to implement changes or respond to these human rights violations, and new human rights violations against LGBTI people and opponents of Chechen leadership continue to be discovered, said the joint statement.

The following countries also signed this statement: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Australia and UNICEF announce US$10 million for vaccine procurement and delivery in Vietnam

The Australian government and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have announced a A$14 million (US$10 million) package to support a mass immunization program against COVID-19 in Vietnam.

This program will help Vietnam vaccinate the prioritized 20% of its population by the end of 2022 and set the foundation to vaccinate the rest of the population when doses are available. The assistance will include acquiring cold chain equipment and materials and developing training courses for health workers and officials.

Funding for this initiative will be derived from Australia’s regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative and its bilateral development cooperation program with Vietnam.

According to UNICEF, Australia has committed a total of A$40 million (US$31 million) over three years to support vaccine procurement and delivery in Vietnam. 

Press release - UNICEF

Opinion survey shows Australians support donating one million domestically-produced vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea

A survey initiated by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) indicated that 76% of Australians would support donating one million doses of Australian-produced vaccines to Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Over 80% indicated support for the Australian government helping PNG to stop the spread of COVID-19 in that country.

The CEO of ACFID, Mark Purcell, stated that this poll should reassure politicians that the public overwhelmingly backs action to vaccinate Papua New Guineans.

News article - Mirage News

New needle-free COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be trialed in Australia

Private Australian biotechnology company, Technovalia, announced that approval has been granted to allow a phase one clinical trial of its COVID-19 candidate vaccine, COVIGEN. The vaccine has been developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical company BioNet.

The vaccine trial is supported by the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund. It is being undertaken through a collaboration between Australian institutions and industry, including the University of Sydney.

COVIGEN is the first needle-free DNA-based vaccine candidate to be tested in Australia.

News article - Mirage News

Pandemic spending brought global foreign assistance to all-time high in 2020, but "much greater effort" needed, says OECD

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) released the preliminary data on its official development assistance (ODA) flows for 2020. Spending on COVID-19 relief pushed foreign assistance to an all-time high in 2020 (US$161.2 billion, +3.5% from 2019), but the OECD says funds are still insufficient.

Although governments internationally have provided the equivalent of US$16.00 trillion in COVID-19 stimulus measures, just 1% of that spending has been mobilized to help low-income countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis, said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. A "much greater effort" is needed to support vaccine distribution and health services and to support the income and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, he said.

The data showed that in 2020, 22% of bilateral ODA was provided as "non-grants" (loans or equity investments), an increase of 17% from previous years and a 39% increase from 2019 levels. By income group, flows to low-income countries decreased by 4% compared to 2019 while ODA to lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries increased by 7% and 36%, respectively. These trends imply that part of the ODA increase in 2020 is due to loans to middle-income countries at a time when debt relief is increasingly discussed, with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund recently calling for greater assistance to middle-income countries for tackling debt and the climate crisis.

Some of the donor-specific information includes the following:

  • Australia's ODA decreased by 11% due to cuts to bilateral assistance;
  • Canada's ODA increased by 8% due to heightened climate financing and in-country refugee costs;
  • EU Institutions saw a 25% increase in ODA due to a significant amount of additional funds for COVID-19 related activities and with sovereign lending increasing by 136% in real terms over 2019;
  • France's ODA increased by 11% due to an increase in its bilateral assistance and funding for COVID-19, including through lending;
  • Germany's ODA increased by 14% due primarily to the mobilization of additional ODA resources to fight the pandemic;
  • Italy's ODA decreased by 7% due to a drop in bilateral grants as well as in-country refugee costs;
  • Japan's ODA increased by 1% due to heightened bilateral lending;
  • The Netherlands' ODA decreased by 3% due to a loss of gross national income (GNI), as ODA levels were set based on maintaining the previous year's ODA-to-GNI ratio (0.59%);
  • Norway's ODA increased by 8% due to a rise in health-related ODA and contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • South Korea's ODA decreased by 9% due to cuts in its overall assistance program;
  • Spain's ODA decreased by 2% due to decreases in bilateral assistance;
  • Sweden's ODA increased by 17% due to heightened contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • The UK's ODA decreased by 10%, driven by the decrease in GNI while meeting the ODA to GNI ratio of 0.7%; and
  • The US' ODA increased by 5% due to increased contributions to multilateral organizations.

Press release - OECD

ODA 2020 detailed summary - OECD

More information - OECD

Australia to provide locally manufactured vaccines to Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, has announced that Australia will share locally-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine doses with Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The local AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured by CSL in Australia. 10,000 doses a week will be provided to Timor Leste and PNG, increasing later as production increases. Australia will also seek vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia through international procurement.

However, concerns about rare blood clotting cases have now led the Australian government to avoid using AstraZeneca for people under 50 years of age. Younger Australians have been advised to use the Pfizer vaccine, with 40 million doses being procured from overseas.

The Novavax vaccine will also be procured later in 2021 if approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of the Australian government.

Press release - Minister for International Development and the Pacific

News article - The Guardian

Greenhouse emissions from beef cattle are dramatically reduced through adding seaweed to feed, says study

Methane emissions from beef cattle could be reduced by as much as 82% by adding seaweed to the cows' diet, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

The effectiveness of this does not diminish with repeated applications. The use of seaweed to reduce methane emissions is significant because agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, half of which is connected to cows and other ruminant animals.

The study was done by UC Davis through a collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the James Cook University in northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns (a startup that sources seaweed-based additives).

News article - Select Science

Director of Australia's Lowy Institute recommends measures to support Papua New Guinea's COVID-19 response

Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Pacific Islands Program at the Lowy Institute, wrote in an op-ed that Australia must do much more to help Papua New Guinea (PNG) respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pryke urged that Australia undertake greater provisioning of PNG with medical equipment, as well as providing vaccine doses from Australia’s domestic stocks. He suggested that Australia should seek partners—such as churches, provincial governments, mining companies, and NGOs—in all PNG provinces to help with the vaccine rollout. 

He also recommended that Australia support a substantial communications rollout in PNG, in view of widespread attitudes against accepting the vaccine influenced by misinformation and disinformation.

Op-ed - Lowy Institute

Australia may provide domestic vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea

Media reports suggest that it is increasingly possible that Australia will supply vaccines to Papua New Guinea (PNG) from its domestic production of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Unpredictable vaccine deliveries from Europe have led Foreign Minister Marise Payne to indicate that locally-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses could be an option for supplying PNG. These doses are being produced by the Australian biotechnology company, CSL. Foreign assistance advocates have pressed the government to draw on domestic supplies, in the wake of the number of COVID-19 infections almost doubling in PNG in a week.

Vaccinations in PNG have been planned to commence in May 2021, with doses provided from the COVAX Facility, a global initiative co-led by the World Health Organization. However, India reportedly might also limit the export of those vaccine doses in order to meet local demand.

A PNG medical practitioner referred to the PNG health system as remaining in a “perpetual state of disaster”, with only one doctor for every 14,000 people.

News article - Australian Financial Review

News article - ABC Australia

Australian opposition party commits to bipartisan support if government increases ODA level

Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Senator Penny Wong, stated that the Australian Labor Party would give bipartisan support if the government chose to increase the size of the Australian official development assistance (ODA) program. She called on the government to rebuild the program and shift its focus away from cutting the assistance budget.

Speaking at the 'UNICEF Vaccinating the World Breakfast' of Parliament House, Wong indicated the Labor Party supported the Australian government’s efforts in providing urgent pandemic assistance in the region. She urged a global response to achieve vaccine access and stated her concerns about the long-term effect of the pandemic on economic development. An appropriately funded  Australian development assistance program should be central to Australian engagement on these issues, she said.

Press release - Senator Penny Wong

Australia launches new strategy to assist key agricultural research in Bangladesh

Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), said a new strategy has been agreed upon by Australia and Bangladesh on long-term research partnerships.

Research priorities include crop improvement, water management, farming systems, soil fertility, and agricultural mechanization.

Shaikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), highlighted the importance that agriculture plays not only in ensuring food and nutritional security, employment, and economic growth, but also in building resilience to challenges such as the climate crisis.

Press release - ACIAR

Australia provides vaccines to Papua New Guinea, seeks European agreement to share additional one million doses

Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Senator Zed Seselja, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, have indicated that the Australian government will provide 8,000 urgently-needed AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate Papua New Guinea’s health workforce.

Papua New Guinea has been experiencing a spike in infections, particularly in its National Capital District.

Australia also announced it would make a formal approach to European authorities and AstraZeneca for one million doses to be gifted to Papua New Guinea. These would be from the three million doses that Australia planned to import under contract from AstraZeneca.

Australia's locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine doses commenced rollout on March 22, 2021.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Australia allocates additional US$77 million for regional vaccine distribution as part of 'Quad' countries' commitment

Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has participated in the first leaders' summit of US President Joe Biden's presidency of the 'Quad' countries—Australia, US, Japan, and India—with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

The Quad leaders announced plans for a significant investment in COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution capacities.

Morrison announced a A$100 million (US$77 million) contribution focused primarily on vaccine distribution over the "last mile” in Southeast Asia. This would include supporting training, awareness campaigns, and the procurement of disposable medical items for injections.

The Quad leaders' goal was to increase vaccine production by up to one billion doses by 2022.

News article - ABC Australia

First COVAX vaccines arrive in Pacific and Southeast Asia

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced that the COVAX Facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine initiative, has commenced rolling out vaccines to Australia’s neighbors in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

He said an initial one million doses had been allocated to Fiji, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Other countries are expected to receive initial deliveries by April 2021.

Press release - Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Donor Tracker webinar will focus on donor governments' funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights; accompanying publication available now

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker