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UK government launches consultation on new trading rules for low and lower-middle income countries

The UK government has started to consult on a new set of trading rules, the proposed ‘Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS)', for low- and lower-middle-income countries. The rules are aimed at helping low- and lower-middle-income countries trade their way out of poverty and will also benefit UK consumers with hopefully lower costs.

The UK government is still operating under the same rules as the European Union’s scheme but is now keen to take a simpler and more pro-growth approach to trade with these countries. The proposed DCTS would apply to 70 countries and aims to lower tariffs compared to those in the EU scheme and simplify rules of origin required for exporting in order to reduce bureaucracy. 

The consultation was launched on July 19, 2021 and will last for eight weeks and seeks views from all stakeholders.

Press release - UK government

International Planned Parenthood Federation poised to launch legal challenge against UK government’s development assistance budget cuts

The NGO International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has alerted the UK government that it plans to call for an urgent judicial review of the UK’s government’s decision to stop funding IPPF, arguing that the decision to cut the development assistance budget from providing 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% without changing the legislation on 0.7% is unlawful.

The UK government had committed to providing IPPF with £21 million (US$28 million) for their ACCESS program to support marginalized groups' access to sexual and reproductive health rights in low-income countries in 2021, but IPPF could potentially lose £72 million (US$96 million) if funding cuts are maintained over the next three years with catastrophic impacts predicted on women and girls. 

Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, noted that the decision to challenge the cuts was not taken lightly, and has been driven by the injustice of the decision on women and girls the organization serves.

News article - MSN

UK-led resolution on girls’ education endorsed by UN Human Rights Council

A UK-led resolution on committing states to do all they can to ensure girls get 12 years of education has been endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. The resolution, also backed by the UAE is the first time the Council has endorsed a resolution on girls’ education and focuses on committing states to address and eliminate the barriers that girls face in accessing quality education or returning to school, including child marriage and the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services.

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab, introduced the resolution and reiterated that girls’ education is a top priority for the UK government and noted that the G7 had committed to a series of key targets on increasing the number of girls accessing education.

Press release – UK government opening speech

Press release – UK government closing speech

UK development assistance budget cut to last for years as parliamentarians vote to lock in cut

The UK government, in a surprise decision, allowed UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote on the government’s decision to cut its ODA budget, after many months of the government rejecting the need for a parliamentary vote on the issue. On July 13, 2021, UK parliamentarians voted to accept the government’s proposal to cut the official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of the country's gross national income to 0.5%.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who announced the cuts, offered parliamentarians two choices. The first was to override the government's decision and restore the ODA budget to 0.7% of national income by January 2022. The second was to support the government’s proposal to cut the ODA budget and agree that it will only be increased back to 0.7% when the national debt is falling and borrowing is no longer used for day-to-day spending. The government proposal won with a majority of 35 votes, with 25 Conservative MPs rebelling against the vote.

The government has noted that under its new criteria laid out in the parliamentary motion, the ODA budget could be back at 0.7% in a couple of years. However, Conservative rebel MPs argue that in reality, the new criteria would lock the UK out of spending 0.7% in the long term. Three former Prime Ministers from the Conservative Party condemned the decision, with John Major noted that it was a "stamp of little England, not global Britain".

News article - BBC news

News article - The Guardian

Philanthropists to provide US$125 million to fill funding gaps to key programs as result of UK government development assistance cuts

A group of philanthropists has committed £94 million (US$125 million) to cover key programs that have faced funding gaps as a result of the UK government’s decision to cut its development assistance budget. The philanthropists include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

The funding will focus on helping projects tackling preventable diseases and providing family planning and sexual health services—all areas that have suffered as a result of the UK government’s decision to reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2021 as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

News article - BBC

UK government to consult on new development strategy

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs, Dominic Raab, announced in Parliament that the government will consult with external stakeholders on the creation of its new development strategy.  

Raab, who was speaking to members of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that the strategy is being actively worked on by the government and that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was engaging with a range of stakeholders including NGOs and international partners. The strategy is intended to guide all UK official development assistance spending.  

When pressed on the exact date when the new development strategy would be released, Raab responded that it will be in a matter of months, not years, but did not give more details.

News article - Devex

UK government supports new, industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce to harness global private finance for pandemic recovery

The UK government has given its support to a new industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce that seeks to expand private finance at the global level to ensure a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Impact investment is an approach through which investors seek both financial rewards and also positive environmental and social impacts from their investments.

The Taskforce, chaired by Nick Hurd—a Conservative Member of Parliament who was formerly the Minister for London—will develop a set of recommendations for Foreign and Development Ministers and the financial sector at the global level, and it will coordinate efforts at the G7, G20, and COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference). The Taskforce will explore recommendations around the:  

  • Potential global standards for measuring the social and environmental impacts of financial investments; and
  • Type of financial instruments/tools that are best suited to raise capital for socially impactful investments in climate, health, or education.

The Taskforce will meet for the first time in August 2021.

Press release - UK government

UK government publishes new 10-year vision for life sciences supported by US$1.3 billion of investments

The UK government has announced a new 10-year strategy for the UK’s life sciences sector, a sector which has "been integral to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic", including vaccination development, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The strategy aims to place the UK at the forefront of solving some of the world’s largest health challenges facing the UK and the world. The vision focuses on using innovation and technology to support prevention, diagnostics, and treatments in seven key areas:

  • Treating dementia;
  • Enabling early diagnosis and treatments of cancer;
  • Discovering, developing, and manufacturing vaccines;
  • Treating and preventing cardiovascular diseases;
  • Reducing mortality and morbidity from respiratory disease in the UK and globally;
  • Exploring underlying biology of aging; and
  • Increasing understanding of and addressing mental health.

The new vision will be accompanied by a new Life Sciences Investment Programme which will be backed by £200 million (US$268 million) from the government, delivered via the British Patient Capital, a part of the government-owned British Business Bank. The UK government's investment is intended to leverage further private sector resources and British Patient Capital has already agreed to a collaboration with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE's) Mubadala Investment Company, which will provide a further £800 million (US$1.0 billion).

The government’s Life Sciences Investment Programme will be supported by a scientific advisory panel, chaired by Professor Sir John Bell.

Press release - UK government

Report - UK government

UK and Germany announce joint declaration to work together to promote global security, democracy, health, education, gender equality, and fight climate emergency

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab, and the German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, announced a joint declaration setting out a series of global issues where the two countries will work together.

The declaration identified rules-based international order, security, and defense as key areas for close cooperation. The document also included other development issues as important to work together on, including global health and education, gender equality, the climate crisis, and conflict prevention and stabilization.

On global health, the declaration states that the UK and Germany will work together to strengthen multilateral approaches in response to and to prevent future global health crises, with a focus on the World Health Organization. The two countries will also work to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The countries are committed to adopting a 'One Health' approach, which takes into account human, animal, and environmental health and recognizes the need for more resilient health systems.  

On conflict prevention and stabilization and peace-building, the UK and Germany announced the establishment of a new 'UK-Germany Stabilisation Partnership', and the declaration shows shared regions/countries of interest to carry out stabilization efforts, including within Africa such as in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

The two countries noted a shared sense of urgency in addressing the climate emergency, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss and agreed ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held in November 2021, to align their ask of other countries to increase their impact and, where appropriate, undertake joint advocacy.  

The declaration also notes that there will be an annual German-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue that will cover all matters of foreign policy and international affairs and lead cooperation and coordination.

Press release - UK government

At Generation Equality Forum, UK government commits to financing US$91 million for Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program

At the Paris-held Generation Equality Forum, the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment, the UK government committed to providing £68 million (US$91 million) to support its seven-year Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program. The program, which builds on earlier initiatives, will support innovation and scale up proven methods to prevent violence.

The UK is a leading member of the Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition along with Kenya, Iceland, Uruguay, UN Women, the EU, and the Ford Foundation. The Coalition is committed to supporting evidence-based policies and financing women’s organizations to:

  • Ensure that 550 million more women and girls live in countries with laws that prohibit all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) against women by 2026;
  • Increase by 50% the number of countries that include one or more prevention strategies in their national policies by 2026;
  • Ensure that more women and girls will live in countries with multi-sectoral action plans against GBV which include the provision of police, justice, health, and social sector services by 2026; and
  • Improve and increase international funding by 50% to women’s rights organizations, activists, and movements, including those working to address GBV of all kinds against women and girls by 2026.

On the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab, committed as a leader of the Action Coalition to "tackle the root causes of violence, including using education to stop violence before it starts." Raab said that the UK will continue its work on "preventing sexual violence in conflict, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators to account."

The UK government also took the opportunity to use the Generation Equality Forum to remind member states to provide ambitious commitments to girls' education, ahead of the Global Education Summit on July 28-29, 2021, in the UK.

Twitter - UN Women

Twitter - Emily Esplen, Gender Advisor at FCDO

Twitter - Wendy Morton MP, Minister for Foreign, Common, and Development Office UK 

Generation Equality Forum concludes with major financial and political commitments for gender equality

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment, kicked off in Mexico City on March 29-31, 2021, and culminated in Paris on June 30-July 2. The Forum brought together high-level stakeholders including heads of government, corporations, and NGOs to accelerate major financial and political commitments to achieving gender equality by 2026. 

Country donors announced the following commitments:

  • Canada committed CA$180 million (US$146 million) to address the root causes of gender inequality around the world, including unpaid and paid care work in low- and middle-income countries. Canada also announced that it will commit CA$100 million (US$81 million) in new funding for stand-alone international assistance directed to inequality in unpaid and paid care work;
  • The EU committed at least €4.0 billion (US$4.9 billion) in the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget to be specifically dedicated to women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment. The EU also pledged to propose new legislation by the end of 2021 to combat violence against women and hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people, as well as adding all forms of hate crimes to the list of crimes in the EU treaties;
  • France committed an additional €100 million (US$122 million) in this sector for the next five years. It also announced that €250 million (US$304 million) will be mobilized by the French Development Agency (AFD) through the bilateral channel for sexual reproductive and health rights (SRHR);
  • Germany increased its commitment to women's economic empowerment initiatives by €140 million (US$166 million), bringing Germany's total commitment to the GEF to US$285 million (€240 million). US$30 million (€25 million) of that will go to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative;
  • The Netherlands pledged US$620 million to feminist organizations and movements, including supporting the Action Coalition on economic justice, the Action Coalition on bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the Action Coalition on climate justice;
  • Sweden pledged to support the implementation of the Common Agenda for Comprehensive Abortion Care and increase resources and support for existing funding mechanisms through the Action Coalition on feminist movements and leadership;
  • The UK recommitted to providing £68 million (US$91 million) to support its seven-year-long Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program; and
  • The US pledged US$175 million to support programs against gender-based violence and to mobilize US$12.0 billion through 2025 in investments by the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in businesses that advance gender equity in emerging markets through the 2X Women's Initiative.

Newsletter - Donor Tracker

News article - Forbes

News article - UN News

New polling data reveals UK public support for UK government spending on international development assistance has risen sharply this year

The Development Engagement Lab, a research organization based at the University College London and the University of Birmingham, found a significant increase in public support across the political spectrum for the UK government giving development assistance to lower-income countries.

The Development Engagement Lab has been tracking public opinion on development assistance for several years. Past polling data from the Lab showed that up until 2019, the number of respondents who said the government should increase or maintain its assistance spending had been relatively stable at mid to low 40% range, but from September 2019 to January 2021, the number fell from 46% to 43%. New polling data since January 2021, however, has seen the number rise to 53%, and this has come from respondents with both left- and right-leaning political tendencies.

This finding, while only from one opinion poll, is in stark contrast to a YouGov poll carried out November 2020 when the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced cuts to the UK development assistance budget. That YouGov poll found that two-thirds of respondents supported the government’s decision to reduce the amount it spends on assistance.

Analysts note many factors behind the rise in support for international development spending since January 2021. These include an increased awareness of the negative impact of the UK government’s development assistance cuts on people’s lives and livelihoods around the world due to media coverage, the rising opposition to the cuts by prominent Conservative party members, and (potentially) a growing realization of global connectivity among UK citizens as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the need to help others for mutual self-interest.

News article – BBC news

Former UK Chancellor of Exchequer, Sajid Javid, is appointed new UK Minister of Health

The UK government announced that Sajid Javid will be the UK’s new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Javid was formerly the UK Chancellor of Exchequer in early 2020 before resigning after disagreements with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the appropriate path for the UK economy.

Javid replaces Matt Hancock, who resigned as Secretary of State for Health on June 27, 2021, following revelations that he had breached the government’s COVID-19 social distancing rules.

Press release – UK Government

With G7 nations, Japan sets goal to raise US$15 billion deliver financial services to women

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) set a goal to raise US$15.0 billion to deliver finical services to women as part of the 'G7 2X Challenge: Financing for Women' (2X Challenge).

The 2X Challenge was founded by development finance institutions of the G7 nations for women’s economic empowerment. The COVID-19 crisis has worsened the situation for women in emerging economies, and research shows that US$1.00 trillion could be lost from global growth if female workers hit hard by the pandemic do not return to the workforce. Therefore, with G7 nations, Japan and development finance institutions announced the goal of raising an additional US$15.0 billion by the end of 2022.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Chair of UK Parliamentary Committee on International Development accuses UK’s FCDO of "dodgy information" on ODA spending; independent watchdog berates UK for poor transparency

The Chair of the UK’s parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC), Sarah Champion, a Labour Party member of parliament, has accused the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of consistently providing "dodgy information" on its official development assistance (ODA) spending, in a practice she has labeled as "arrogant".

The remarks follow an exchange of letters between Champion and Philip Barton, the FCDO’s permanent Under-Secretary, around unpacking the FCDO’s future spending plans on ODA for 2021-2022. The FCDO outlined key spending areas, but what is included in the spending areas was unclear and incomparable to ODA spending in previous years. For example, one single budget line called 'Strategic priorities and other programme spending' covered three separate budget lines when compared to previous years. Champion noted that the strategy lacks clarity, making it extremely difficult to provide effective oversight and scrutiny of government decision-making.

Champion’s comments came at the same time as the UK’s independent assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), released a report criticizing the FCDO for declines in transparency. The report noted that it had been challenging at times to get information from the FCDO on ODA spending and that this was in stark contrast to the ICAI's more open exchanges with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the CDC Group (a UK development finance institution), both of which are also responsible for parts of UK ODA spending.

News articles – Devex

News article – Devex

Follow-up review of 2019-2020 reports – ICAI

UK government creates new Ministerial Council and Office for Science and Technology in bid to drive breakthroughs in key challenges facing UK and world

On June 21, 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of a new Ministerial Council on Science and Technology. The Council will be chaired by Johnson and will set the strategy for how science and technology can be used to tackle societies' biggest challenges within the UK and around the world.

Johnson also announced that the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, will take on an additional role as National Technology Advisor and head a new Office for Science and Technology Strategy. The Office will support the Council in the development of the strategy and drive forward its implementation, ensuring that science and technology lie at the heart of policy and public service development across all elements of the government. One of the Office’s first tasks will be to identify the potential technology breakthroughs that the UK should strategically prioritize.

The announcement supports the government’s Integrated Review of Foreign, Diplomatic, Defence and Security Policy recommendation that the UK should strive to be a scientific powerhouse in the next 10 years.  

The UK government is investing £14.9 billion (US$20.0 billion) in research and development (R&D) in 2021-22, the highest level that it has been.

Press release - UK government

WHO criticizes UK funding cuts to neglected tropical disease program, as parliamentary inquiry reveals "car crash" of government's management and impact of cuts

The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticized the UK government’s decision to stop funding its 'Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases' (NTD), or ASCEND, program. The WHO has not been able to fill the funding hole left by the UK’s exit and this has resulted in the program closing down early, as it was initially due to continue until March 2022. WHO noted that the premature end of the program risks causing 30,000 needless deaths, as ASCEND provided critical support to national NTD programs in 19 countries.

The revelation was made as part of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee’s inquiry into the UK development assistance cuts. The Committee has been inundated with "damning" evidence from UK partners on both the impact of the cuts but also the management of them. Many partners noted a chaotic and messy process which often gave partners limited time to manage the cuts, with devastating impacts on recipients of the assistance. A statement released by Plan International UK, a charity for children's rights, said that the cuts appear to have been rushed without much consideration of resulting impacts and that "car crash" could be used to describe the situation.

News article - Global Citizen

News article - Devex

UK parliamentary committee explores how to maximize impact of government nutrition programs in partner countries

The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nutrition held a session exploring how the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) can improve the impact of its development assistance funded nutrition programs.

The Group heard from Tamsyn Barton, ICAI’s (Independent Commission for Aid Impact) Chief Commissioner, and Jonathan France, ICAI’s Team Leader, who discussed the findings of their recent review of UK nutrition programs which generally praised UK government leadership on nutrition. Barton recommended that for the UK government to get a better rating following the next review, it needed to:

  • Do a better job of aligning its nutrition work with other priorities at the country level and avoid working in silos (for example, converging social security, nutrition, and agricultural programs to achieve transformation across multiple sectors);
  • Improve its targeting of reaching vulnerable people to ensure equity; and
  • Improve coordination with other stakeholders, including the private sector, to improve coverage and impacts.

Barton noted that ICAI will be following up its review in 2022 to see whether the FCDO has adopted its recommendations.

News article - APPG for Nutrition

At G7 Summit, Canada announces new support to low-income countries for COVID-19 vaccines, climate finance, and education

At the 47th G7 Summit from June 11-13, 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new financial and resource support to address inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, respond to the climate emergency, and support education in low-income countries.  

The resource and financial pledges included:

  • COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Sharing: Canada pledged 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be shared as part of the G7 leaders’ new collective commitment to sharing more than two billion doses to the global vaccine effort. Canada is also donating 13 million doses of the vaccine through COVAX, the global vaccine initiative. The vaccine sharing is in addition to Canada’s previous contributions of CA$2.5 billion (US$2.0 billion) in international assistance to the COVID-19 crisis and CA$1.3 billion (US$1.0 billion) contribution to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A). 
  • International Climate Finance: Canada pledged a doubling of Canada’s previous international climate finance to CA$5.3 billion (US$4.2 billion) over five years—up from CA$2.7 billion (US$2.1 billion) over five years in 2015—which includes increased support for adaptation and biodiversity to support low-income countries in cutting pollution and building climate resilience. Canada also increased its grant contribution of climate financing from 30% to 40%. These new commitments are a result of the G7 leaders’ collective commitment to increase their 2030 targets to cut the G7’s collective emissions by around half compared to 2010.
  • Support for Global Partnership for Education: Canada pledged CA$300 million (US$240 million) over five years to the Global Partnership for Education. This funding will specifically support girls’ education and help strengthen education systems in low-income countries. 

Press release - Prime Minister of Canada

Press release - Prime Minister of Canada

With G7 in mind, UK announces US$577 million to global education, US$161 million for climate emergencies, launches new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness

The UK government made a flurry of development assistance funding and policy announcements last week, taking advantage of the fact that it was hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit.

On education, the government announced that it will provide £430 million (US$577 million) to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) over the next five years. The UK government has also confirmed that this funding will come on top of the FCDO’s (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) £400 million (US$537 million) committed bilaterally for girls’ education between 2021-2022. The British and Kenyan governments will co-host the Global Education Summit in July 2021 and the GPE is hoping to raise £3.7 billion (US$5.0 billion) over the next five years to fund its work on ensuring access to education in 90 countries.

On climate, the UK government has committed to ensuring all its bilateral development assistance does no harm to nature in response to the Dasgupta Review recommendations, to deliver a "nature positive future". The Dasgupta Review on 'The Economics of Biodiversity', which was published in early 2021, acknowledges nature and biodiversity underpin and sustain economic growth and well-being. The UK also announced £120 million (US$161 million) in new funding to enable more rapid responses to vulnerable people in the face of extreme weather and climate-linked disasters, via pre-arranged financing schemes. The package of support was announced in coordination with Germany and the US.

On global health, the UK also announced the launch of a new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness (CPP) as part of its drive for global health security leadership. The CPP will provide genomic surveillance of human and animal infections in collaboration with other partners, that can be shared globally. The UK and US also announced a new global health partnership between the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the US National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis, run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

News article - Devex

Press release - UK government (Climate Emergency Funding)

Press release - UK government (Nature Positive ODA)

Press release - UK government (Partnership)