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Donor Tracker seeks feedback on how to better serve advocacy community

The Donor Tracker team wants to better understand its users' experience and to gather ideas about how we can make the Donor Tracker even more valuable to the global development community throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond. That's where we could use your help. We've put together a short survey to ask you directly about how you use the Donor Tracker, which content and features you find most useful, and the kinds of things you would like to see. Your responses will shape and inform new features that we bring to the website.

Survey - Donor Tracker

Twitter - Donor Tracker

US decision not to join COVAX efforts against COVID-19 is "disappointing", says Norway's Solberg

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has expressed disappointment with United States’ absence from the COVAX Facility, an international initiative which contributes to the development a COVID-19 vaccine and funding for low- and middle-income countries. The Trump administration has refused to participate due to the World Health Organization's status as a co-leader. 

Solberg acknowledges that although the US is not actively participating, it does provide financial support to several of the implementation partners including Gavi. However, Solberg says, the US's lack of participation weakens COVAX's work.

More than 170 countries are in the process of joining the COVAX Facility program. Among those who support it are several of the US's historic allies, including Japan, Germany, and the European Commission. Norway has also joined. 

News article – Aftenposten (in Norwegian)

In blistering review, experts call USAID draft gender policy "step back in time"

Two prominent development voices, George Ingram (a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute), and Nora O'Connell (the Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children), described the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID's) new draft gender policy as a retrenchment on gender equality and a "step back in time".

Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has both exacerbated and revealed the level of gender inequality globally, experts say the current draft policy would undermine the agency's ability to address issues such as increased caregiving responsibilities placed upon women globally, a loss of economic and educational opportunities, gender-based violence, and conjugal slavery (including forced and child marriage).

Critics highlighted that the use of terminology such as "unalienable rights" and "basic and legal rights" in place of "human rights" narrows the scope of legal protections that the policy will offer. The draft also adopts a binary gender definition, eliminating references to the LGBTQ+ population and failing to address intersectionality, a philosophy which recognizes that some people face multiple forms of discrimination.

Ingram and O'Connell decry the policy's "retrograde concept of gender equality", which they say appears to be driven by ideology rather than concerns about the impact of the proposed changes.

Op-ed - Brookings Institute  

As pandemic rages, USAID shuts down COVID-19 task force

Despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it will terminate its pandemic readiness task force and disburse its functions among various bureaus within the agency. This move comes at the same time as the White House task force has stopped its regular press briefings and as President Trump and many of his aides are downplaying the pandemic ahead of the November elections.

USAID said that some of the functions of the task force will be transferred to a "Covid-19 Readiness Unit" although the details of that initiative remain undefined.

News article - Politico 

US to restart disease research program formerly eliminated by Trump

After serious criticism of the decision to cut the PREDICT program (an infectious disease research program that was operating globally, including in Wuhan, China) the Trump administration has announced a new program to build upon PREDICT's work. The new initiative, called Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID), will be housed in the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and will receive US$82 million over the next five years. 

The PREDICT program was terminated by the Trump administration in October of 2019, just before the outbreak of the global pandemic. In its 10 years of operation under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the program had identified 1,200 different viruses with the potential to spread globally, including 160 novel coronaviruses. CREID will pick up on the work already done, investigating "how and where viruses and other pathogens emerge from wildlife" and cause disease in people, according to the NIH.

News report - Los Angeles Times

USAID draft gender policy faces backlash from Congress and development advocates

The new gender policy released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has raised the ire of both Democrats on Capitol Hill and development stakeholders who expressed concern that the draft is a step backward for gender equality.

USAID released the draft on August 19, 2020, and required public comments to be provided by August 27. Other than that short window, the policy -- which will replace the 2012 gender policy in its entirety -- was developed with no other public consultation. USAID received a "significant" number of comments from the development community. Additionally, 15 Senators sent a letter to Acting Administrator John Barsa stating that the draft "reflects priorities that will undermine gender equality." A separate letter signed by 86 House members to Barsa called upon USAID to reverse course and engage with Congress.  

News article - Devex 

US will not participate in global vaccine effort because of WHO participation

The US announced that it will not participate in the international COVAX initiative to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine because the effort is tied to the World Health Organization (WHO). The US, which announced its intent to withdraw from the WHO in July of 2020, said it will continue to work with other international partners, but "will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China."

Such a move will mean that the US is increasingly isolated from the 170 countries involved in COVAX, which is working to ensure worldwide access to an effective vaccine. The US withdrawal from the WHO will take effect in July of 2021, although Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to reverse that decision if he is elected president. 

News article - CNN

Ignoring objections, Trump administration moves forward with proposal to restructure international pandemic response

The White House is moving forward with a proposal to restructure its international pandemic response, despite little consultation with development experts and criticism that the initiative will only add layers of bureaucracy and undermine the United States Agency for International Development.

Development of the President's Response to Outbreaks, dubbed PRO, is being led by the US State Department and has been initiated without any public announcement or consultation. PRO would consolidate all bilateral and multilateral global health responses under the State Department. The program would create a new coordinator position; it is widely thought that Deborah Birx, currently the US global AIDS coordinator, may be named to the post. 

News article - Devex

Opinion piece - The Hill  

As USAID previews new gender policy with no mention of contraception or transgender populations, critics warn of dangerous regression

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has unveiled a draft gender policy that not only eliminates all mention of transgender populations but also fails to mention contraceptives, instead referring to "fertility awareness" and "health timing and spacing of pregnancies" as family planning methods.

The document, which is out for a one-week public comment period, is a departure from the 2012 gender policy and is also at odds with USAID's Automated Directives System which provides the USAID organizational and functional rules.

The new proposal was drafted largely in secret with little opportunity for either the internal gender experts or outside advocates to give input.

News article - Pro Publica

Draft policy - USAID

US State Department claims expansion of global gag rule has had little effect on health care; most research shows otherwise

The US State Department issued a report claiming that the effect of the Trump administration's Mexico City policy -- also referred to as the global gag rule -- had not affected most grants.

The rule, officially named 'Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,' prohibits foreign NGOs who receive US global health assistance from providing any abortion services, including referrals and counseling. The Trump rule, which expanded restrictions on the previous Reagan-era law, is estimated to affect more than 1,300 global health projects worth approximately US$12 billion in US assistance.  

The State Department's review claimed that only 8 out of 1,340 awardees opted out of the policy. Critics of the policy were quick to point out that while the number of grantees that opted out was small, they are very consequential providers, representing hundreds of millions of health care services. The report also acknowledged that the policy has resulted in "a gap or disruptions to delivery", additional costs, and delays in implementation. Sub-Saharan Africa was the region most affected. 

Advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights also expressed concern about the policy's effect on other health care services, such as HIV/AIDs, nutrition, and malaria. A representative from the Guttmacher Institute called the policy a US foreign assistance weapon "to attack sexual and reproductive health and rights. While numerous studies have documented the policy’s harms, there is no evidence — none — that the global gag rule has had any positive impacts.”

News report - CNN

News report - Devex

Trump administration releases plans and funding for women's empowerment program

The Trump administration unveiled agency plans and new funding to support its Women's Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) program.

Ten agencies, including the Departments of State and Treasury and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), submitted their commitments for pillar three of W-GDP, which focuses on removing legal, regulatory, and cultural barriers to women. The administration also announced US$122 million in funding for this effort. The overall goal of W-GDP is to reach 50 million women by 2025. 

News article - Devex

With deep partisan divisions and end of fiscal year looming, US congressional negotiations stall on COVID-19 relief

US congressional efforts to pass a supplemental COVID-19 relief bill, which potentially includes funding for the global pandemic response, have stalled. The House is now in recess until mid-September and reaching a compromise with the Senate appears increasingly unlikely. In addition, the fiscal year (FY) ends at the end of September at which time the US government faces the possibility of a shutdown. This leaves the real possibility that there will be no additional funding for the global pandemic response until FY2021 at the earliest.

As it now stands, the House supplemental COVID-19 response was entirely domestic and the Senate bill contained US$4 billion for international measures, a number that disappointed many stakeholders. The House FY2021 funding bill for US foreign assistance does contain an additional US$10 billion for global health pandemic relief, but the Senate has still not acted on its appropriation so it appears likely that there will be a continuing resolution in place until after the November election.

So far, Congress has only approved US$2.3 billion for the global response, an amount that development experts say is woefully inadequate.

News article - Devex   

US DFC steps back from controversial domestic COVID-19 investment

The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced that it was pausing on a controversial decision to provide a US$765 million loan to Eastman Kodak for the production of pharmaceuticals related to COVID-19.

The loan was being provided as part of a new authority granted by President Trump to allow the DFC to utilize the Defense Production Act (DPA) to improve domestic health supplies. Providing the DFC with DPA authority has raised a number of concerns as to why a new agency focused solely on foreign investments should have any domestic role, especially when it is still trying to fully open its doors.

The specific investment in Kodak -- which is historically a photographic entity -- also raised issues about the choice of this company for this purpose.  Following the announcement of the loan, allegations of senior Kodak employees improperly trading stock surfaced in Congress, with investigations opening in the US House and the Security and Exchange Commission. The DFC has put an indefinite hold on the loan pending resolution of the allegations. 

News article - Politico

Donor Tracker to host webinar on climate finance and role of ODA

Join the Donor Tracker this Thursday, August 6, 2020, from 16:00-17:00 (CEST), for a webinar addressing the pressing need for international climate finance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

In 2015, the latest in a series of global climate change agreements was signed in Paris. The Paris Agreement includes a pledge made by donor countries to mobilize US$100 billion a year by 2020 for climate action in LMICs. This upcoming Donor Tracker webinar will examine the role that ODA can and should play in funding for climate action, including the US$100 billion target. It will include an overview of trends in ODA-related climate funding and policies by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) donors.

This webinar, and our recently published report on climate finance and ODA, complements the recent addition of ‘Climate’ as a sector of analysis across the Donor Tracker Donor Profiles. Climate was added this year in recognition of the importance of climate action to the future of global development efforts.

Registration - Zoom

US DFC aims to mobilize US$6.0 billion for gender initiatives

The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced a new goal to mobilize US$6.0 billion over the next three years for its 2X Women's Initiative. The initiative, first introduced by DFC's predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, has mobilized US$3.0 billion since 2018. The new focus is motivated in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate effect on women.

The DFC is expected to work on just a few issues, including closing the gender digital divide, as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene. Geographically, the new focus will cover all emerging markets, including countries like Pakistan, where it has been more difficult to work.

The DFC made other announcements of new work including new investments in nutrition and loans to support small and medium enterprises in Honduras. 

News article - Devex  

Thirty-five countries support Italian-led COVID-19 Food Coalition

Thirty-five countries, including Argentina, Egypt, the Netherlands, Nigeria, and the United States joined the COVID-19 Food Coalition, an initiative launched in June by the Italian government and lead by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

The alliance is a multi-stakeholder platform focusing on mobilizing political, financial, and technical assistance to support the medium- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems and agriculture.

Article - Onuitalia website (English)

USAID outlines strategy for COVID-19 response across African continent

The US House Foreign Affairs Committee heard from senior officials from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) about the agency's strategy and approach for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic across the African continent.

One of the chief concerns is both the uptick in cases as well as the potential for a rapid acceleration in various African countries. There are also issues with negative effects from China's interventions and the worry that the pandemic could be used to delay elections and otherwise impact democracies. USAID's response is guided by 3 lenses -- health, humanitarian, and second- and third-order impacts. So far, the US has spent about US$470 million on the global COVID response, with 20% for global health, 66% for humanitarian, and 10% for the second- and third-order effects, which will not be sufficient to cover the need.

News article - Devex

Australia and US reaffirm commitment to collaboration on health security

During the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the United States' Secretary of State and Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister reaffirmed their joint commitment to global health security and their intention to strengthen their countries' cooperation in this sector. During the consultations, they outlined a number of activities to be part of their joint plan, including:

  • Convening a second Southeast Asia Health Security Donor Coordination Meeting later in 2020;
  • Building biosurveillance and biosecurity capacities in the Indo-Pacific to enhance the region's ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks
  • Improving hygiene conditions, reducing the sale of wildlife, and other measures to lessen the risk of zoonotic disease transmission;
  • Strengthening pandemic preparedness in Indonesia and improving public health emergency response capacity in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar; and
  • Supporting the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) with the development and distribution of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to improve vulnerable groups' access to vaccines.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

In latest negotiations, US Senate Republicans aim low in proposed global COVID-19 funding

The US Senate Republicans unveiled their COVID-19 supplemental budget for fiscal year (FY) 2020 with a proposed US$4.4 billion for the global response. This is significantly lower than what development stakeholders had been pushing for -- US$20 billion.

The companion House bill, the US$3 trillion HEROES Act passed in May 2020, contained no funding for the global response, but the House has provided an additional US$10 billion in the FY2021 appropriations for the US global health COVID-19 emergency response.

The US$1 trillion Senate bill, called the HEALS Act, contains US$3 billion for global health. This includes funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, but no additional funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is an additional US$1 billion for the International Disaster Assistance account and some other funding for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department operating funds.

Negotiations are ongoing between the House and the Senate to resolve differences between the two supplemental appropriations. These differences are substantial but are also largely domestic in nature. Once those are resolved, Congress will also need to address the FY2021 appropriations, including funding for US foreign assistance. The fiscal year ends on September 30, 2020. 

News article - Devex

Donor Tracker to host webinar on gender equality and donor finance for women's economic empowerment

Join Donor Tracker this Friday, July 24 from 15:00-16:00 (CEST) for a webinar exploring donor financing for women’s economic empowerment, featuring analysis from the Donor Tracker team and our partner, the ONE Campaign.

Gender equality, including women's financial inclusion and economic empowerment, has gained increasing attention from the international donor community in recent years; but to what extent can donors' rhetorical commitment to the issue be seen reflected in data on donors' financing for women's economic empowerment? In this Donor Tracker webinar, Kalila Jaeger and Isabela Vera from the Donor Tracker and Ebba Henningsson from ONE will guide participants through an introduction to the OECD’s gender equality policy marker, discuss the current state of donor finance for gender-related development programming, and explore trends in donor countries' spending on economic empowerment initiatives for women.

Registration - Zoom