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G7 foreign and development ministers' agenda focuses on gender equality through education, ending gender-based violence

The UK hosted a G7 meeting in London on May 4-5, 2021, that put women and girls at the center of the agenda with a focus on the three E’s: education, empowerment, and ending gender-based violence.

Foreign and development ministers from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, and the UK, plus the EU) met for their first in-person meeting in two years. The foreign ministers from Australia, India, South Africa, South Korea, as well as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), were invited to some of the talks as guests.

The G7 foreign and development ministers agreed to a new goal of sending 40 million more girls from low-and middle-income countries to school over the next five years and helping 200 million more girls read by the age of 10. 

They also agreed to provide a US$15.0 billion two-year package to help women in low-income countries build resilient businesses and respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The funding will be provided through the 2X Challenge, a partnership between G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) that was originally launched in 2018. The 2X Challenge focuses on providing finance and support to female-owned and staffed businesses or to businesses that provide products or services that particularly benefit women.

The G7 ministers also called for women’s rights organizations at local, national, and international levels to be actively included in decision-making on the COVID-19 recovery, and the ministers committed to working to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence through increased support to programs aimed at addressing this issue.

Press release - UK government

News article - BCC

News article - The Guardian

Former UN Ambassador Samatha Power confirmed to head USAID, role to be elevated to US National Security Council

By a bipartisan vote, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power was confirmed as Administrator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The vote in the Senate was 68-26 and was met with enthusiasm from development groups and her new colleagues, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  

In a first for a USAID Administrator, her role will be elevated to be a part of the US National Security Council.

Power addressed her priorities in her confirmation hearing in March 2021, saying that she would aim to enhance USAID's work addressing food security, education, gender equality, global health, as well as the "interconnected and gargantuan" current global issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, state collapse, and "democratic backsliding",

News article - CNN

US to send US$100 million in COVID-19 assistance to India

As India continued to break new COVID-19 case records, the US agreed to send US$100 million in pandemic-related assistance.

The shipments included 15 million N95 masks, one million rapid diagnostic tests, and 1,100 refillable oxygen cylinders, in addition to therapeutics and vaccine manufacturing supplies.

The federal supplies will also be supplemented by deliveries from states, private companies, and non-profits to help India address its spiking pandemic needs.

The US announced last week that it would start sharing its AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries, including India, as soon as the US Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency approval for the vaccine. 

News article - Axios

Press release - The White House

US to share up to 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines globally, raw vaccine supplies to India

The Biden administration announced that it will share 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses with other countries. The administration said that the vaccine will become available after the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approves it for emergency use.  

The FDA is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine in the next few weeks and the US will then donate the supplies to other countries. The distribution plan is still in development.

The US also announced it will share raw vaccine materials with India, which has become a current outbreak hot spot. A spokesperson also indicated that the US will provide India with personal protective equipment, tests, therapeutics, and other respiratory equipment. 

News article - AP

With new 50-52% emission reduction goal, US under Biden steps back into climate fight

US President Joe Biden convened the two-day Leaders Summit on Climate with 40 world leaders, resulting in multiple commitments to tackle the climate crisis, including the US' new target for reducing emissions by 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

The Biden administration, which rejoined the Paris Agreement on his first day in office, has adopted a "whole-of-government" approach to climate both from a domestic and global perspective. The US announced several specific initiatives to help low-income countries meet climate challenges. The Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with partner countries to help plan and meet their strategies for zero emissions and climate-resilient futures.  

The US International Development Corporation announced that it will set its own climate investment goals to have both a net-zero investment portfolio by 2040 and a climate nexus in at least one-third of all its investments by 2023.

The Biden administration will also focus on mobilizing finances for climate investments, including an intent to significantly increase the US contribution to global climate financing. The increase in funding will require Congressional approval.

The full set of announcements included measures to help with changes to workforce skills and needs, innovation and new technologies, and specific regional and sectoral needs. The Summit, which included a broad array of heads of state, leaders of international organizations, businesses, and Indigenous communities, addressed a wide range of climate issues, solutions, and commitments.

Press release - The White House

At US climate summit, Germany recommits to climate goals, applauds Biden’s efforts on emission reductions

On April 22-23, 2021, German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the virtual climate summit convened by US President Joe Biden. At the event, attended by 40 heads of state, Biden, who rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate on his first day in office, announced that the US aims to cut carbon emissions by 50-52% by 2030.

Merkel and the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, celebrated the news that the US government would once again take a leadership role in the international fight against the climate emergency.

Germany welcomes the US’ commitments to reduce emissions, Merkel said, and Germany will continue its contribution to reaching the binding EU goal of a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Merkel also highlighted the higher-income nations’ commitment to mobilize US$100.0 billion each year until 2020 to support low-income countries in adapting to climate change and said she believes this agreement should be extended at least until 2025.

Müller also emphasized the relevance of joint international action in climate protection, including the US as a leading nation, but criticized the slow implementation of an international energy transition. Müller also pointed to the high-income nations’ responsibility to further invest in global climate protection measures, since low-income countries will be the most affected by the consequences of the climate crisis.

Press release - German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (in German)

News article - deutschland.de

News article - Handelsblatt (in German)

UK launches International Pandemic Preparedness Partnership, provides additional US$21 million to CEPI

The UK government has formed a new International Pandemic Preparedness Partnership (PPP) tasked with advising the UK G7 Presidency on how the global community can better protect lives in future pandemics.

The public-private partnership brings together 20 members representing industry, international organizations, and leading experts, and it will be chaired by the UK government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance.

The PPP will deliver a roadmap to G7 leaders at their June 2021 summit in Cornwall, UK for how to protect people against future pandemics, with a particular focus on how to reduce the time for developing and distributing new vaccines from 300 days to 100 days. 

The UK will provide additional funding of £16 million (US$21 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support the development and supply of vaccines globally.

Press release - UK government

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

Japan and US release joint statement on Indo-Pacific, climate emergency, COVID-19 crisis

Japan and the US released 'U.S. – Japan Global Partnership For a New Era', a joint statement on their commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to bolster security in the region.

Japan and the US discussed the Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership to create a sustainable and green global economic recovery, as well as the U.S.-Japan Climate Partnership to address the climate crisis.

Both countries also reiterated their commitment to combatting the COVID-19 crisis and to increase support for COVAX, the global vaccine initiative.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – The US White House

'One World Protected' event hosted by US and Gavi raises US$400 million, launches campaign to raise additional US$2.0 billion for global efforts against COVID-19

On April 15, 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the US hosted 'One World Protected', an event to tackle the COVID-19 crisis globally. The event raised almost US$400 million and marked the beginning of a campaign to raise US$2.0 billion more for the vaccine financing instrument, the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

With the targeted US$2.0 billion, Gavi aims to provide almost two billion vaccine doses for people in 92 low-income countries and accelerate the vaccination rate.

The US$400 million, which contributed to Gavi's 2021 goal, included US$258 million from Sweden and US$47 million from the Netherlands.

The campaign will culminate in June of 2021 when Japan will host the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit.

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

UK announces members of newly formed Gender Equality Advisory Council for G7

The UK government, which holds the Presidency of the G7 (Group of Seven) this year, has published the full list of members for its newly created Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC). 

The GEAC was created in order to ensure that the G7 puts women at the center of their "build back better" agenda following the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Council is comprised of 19 members selected from each of the G7 countries and beyond. Members reflect a commitment to democracy and women’s empowerment, and many are drawn from the realm of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. 

The Council will publish an independent report with recommendations for how the G7 can ensure that women are at the heart of recovery efforts.

Press release - UK government

US intelligence report warns "far-reaching" effects of COVID-19 pandemic will last years

The Annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued by the US intelligence community, warned that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will "ripple through the world for years".

The annual assessment, which had been paused during the last year of former US President Donald Trump's administration because the administration disagreed with some of the assessment's conclusions, offered a grim analysis of the "far-reaching" effects of the pandemic.

The effects can be seen not only in the global health sphere but also in the economic, political, and security spheres. Further, as every country has been affected by the pandemic to some degree, the assessment said that even when a vaccine is widely available in all countries, the economic and political impacts will continue to be felt for years. Addressing the climate crisis, as well as other issues, will also face additional challenges.  

News article - ABC 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

To prevent "vaccine apartheid", former UK Prime Minister calls for G7 to temporarily waiver COVID-19 vaccine patents and endorse international vaccine levy to raise US$30.0 billion per year

Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, has called on the G7 (Group of Seven) to take action to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Brown argued that wealthy countries, which make up only 18% of the world’s population, have bought up 60% of all confirmed vaccine orders (4.6 billion doses) and that this is leading to "vaccine apartheid" that threatens to leave COVID-19 spreading, mutating, and impacting everyone for years to come.

Brown stated that an additional US$30.0 billion is required each year to help countries to pay for COVID-19 vaccine doses and distribution. He recommended that the G7 undertake three key actions in order to bring down costs down and raise new funds:

  1. Set a temporary waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents to enable low- and lower-middle-income countries to build up their manufacturing capacity at a lower cost;
  2. Set an international levy to raise funds based on a country's fair share similar to the levy that the UN agreed on in the 1960s to fund smallpox eradication—countries pay according to their abilities, measured by their national incomes, debts owed, and levels of wealth and poverty; and
  3. Provide an additional US$2.0 billion to the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) in the form of guarantees from rich countries, along with a fraction of that amount in grants—this would enable IFFIm to raise four times as much for a special vaccination facility which would be managed by the multilateral development banks.  

News article - The Guardian

Biden administration mulls over bigger role in global vaccination efforts

The Biden administration appears to be moving closer towards a policy of supporting vaccine sharing internationally. To date, the administration has provided financial support to increase the provision of vaccinations globally, including US$4.0 billion for COVAX (the vaccine-distribution initiative co-led by the World Health Organization) but has stopped short of committing to sharing any significant number of vaccines with the rest of the world.  

The US has bought enough vaccines to have each US adult vaccinated three times but has only made commitments to share a limited supply of vaccines with Canada and Mexico. Recent statements by both the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen indicated that the Biden administration may be changing that stance.

Blinkin acknowledged the calls for the US to do more and announced the appointment of Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign, as the US Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security.

Yellen spoke about the strong need for wealthy nations to increase their contributions to lower-income countries to offset the severe economic effects of the pandemic. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Yellen stated that the first task of wealthy countries "must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing, and therapeutics are available as widely as possible." 

News report - The Hill

In first budget proposal, Biden floats US$6.8 billion increase for US foreign assistance

US President Joe Biden has proposed a significant increase in the US foreign assistance budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022. 

The budget proposal, which is historically known as a 'skinny budget' and is a precursor to the full annual budget, called for a 12% increase in international affairs spending over FY 2021. The full budget will be released in the next couple of months.

The increase is a sharp change from the deep cuts requested by former US President Donald Trump. Over the four years, Trump's administration had proposed—and the US Congress rejected—cuts that ranged from 20-30%.  

The budget request reflected the Biden administration's priorities, including increased contributions to addressing the climate crisis and global health, increased assistance to Central America, and more resources for US diplomatic and development workforces.  

Development advocates have been pushing for a strong increase in the US foreign assistance budget, and while some believed that the proposal fell short, others greeted it as a good start. 

Specifics will appear in the full budget, but this proposal included US$10.0 billion for global health (of which US$1.0 billion is for global health security), US$10.0 billion for humanitarian assistance, US$2.5 billion for international climate programs, US$861 million for Central American assistance (which is part of a larger US$4.0 billion four-year proposal), US$3.3 billion for multilateral engagement, and almost US$2.0 billion for UN peacekeeping programs. 

News article - Devex

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

Biden administration quietly increasing assistance to Palestinians

Over the last week, US President Joe Biden's administration announced publicly that it would provide US$15 million to Palestinian communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and then it also notified Congress that it would provide US$75 million as economic assistance partly to regain Palestinians' "trust and goodwill". The latter tranche of assistance was not publicly announced and is likely to face Republican scrutiny.

The restarting of assistance is a significant reversal in policy from the cuts made by the administration of former President Donald Trump. Under US law, there are restrictions that prevent assistance from flowing to the Palestinian Authority, and the Trump administration cited this as part of its reason for cutting assistance. However, none of the current assistance is being provided to the Palestinian Authority.

A congressional notification affirmed that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will follow the vetting procedures for compliance. This notification was provided hours after the Government Accountability Office criticized USAID's earlier compliance efforts for not adequately vetting indirect recipients.

The notification indicated that the money, which may start flowing as early as April 10, 2021, would contribute to a variety of assistance, including health care, water, sanitation, infrastructure, assistance for Palestinian youth, small businesses, and disaster preparedness. The package will also provide US$5 million for civics groups, which the Biden administration believes will help in restarting peace negotiations. 

News article - Associated Press

Biden's 'skinny budget' will preview support for US foreign assistance levels

US President Joe Biden is expected to release his 'skinny budget' (a preview of Biden's first budget request) soon, which will provide at least top-line funding levels for US foreign assistance. The full budget proposal is expected later this spring.

Development advocates are closely watching the amount of funding for the International Affairs Budget, otherwise known as the '150 account'. One analysis done by the United States Global Leadership Council showed that in order to meet the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic and other development programs, an additional US$14.0 billion above fiscal year (FY) 2021 levels (excluding emergency funding) would be needed. That would put the FY 2022 level at US$71.6 billion for the 150 account. 

Although US global development programs generally have bipartisan support in Congress, it is not clear that a significant jump in funding for US foreign assistance will pass. Congress ultimately makes the decision as to whether to follow the president's budget request. Former US President Donald Trump routinely proposed significant cuts to US assistance, but Congress largely ignored them, keeping funding essentially level. 

News article - Devex