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UN WFP warns US Congress of impending global food crisis

Both the head of the UN World Food Programme, Executive Director David Beasley, and the head of the African Union, Akinwumi Adesina, warned US Senators about the severity of the global food crisis, a situation which will be exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions, and International Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy, Beasley pleaded for the United States Agency for International Development to move money quickly to respond to the severe increases in the cost of food.  Adesina also addressed the cost issues, pointing specifically to the 300% increase in fertilizer prices, which will cost African farmers at least US$11 billion in food production value.

The current US$40 billion supplemental bill before the US Senate -- which is earmarked primarily to assist Ukraine and has already passed the US House of Representatives -- contained US$5 billion for global food security.  US Senator Graham stated that, while helpful, the amount is insufficient to meet global needs.  He committed to reaching out to other international donors to help fill the financing gap.  He also proposed a global fund for food security with the aim of increasing private flows.

News report - Devex 

US Senate confirms new PEPFAR head

The United States Senate confirmed the appointment of Dr. John Nkengasong to be the next US Global AIDS Coordinator.  He will lead the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Currently, Dr. Nkengasong serves as the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the first time that PEPFAR has a confirmed leader since Dr. Deborah Birx stepped down in 2020, a gap that has frustrated AIDS experts. PEPFAR's budget is US$6 billion annually, and the lack of permanent leadership came at a time when the COVID-19 crisis had a devastating impact on the HIV pandemic.

Dr. Nkengasong is a virologist from Cameroon and will be the first African-born person to lead PEPFAR. He was nominated by US President Biden to the post in September of 2021.

News report - Devex

Canada commits US$8million to World Bank's Childcare Incentive Fund

Canada, alongside Australia and the United States, launched a new program, the Childcare Incentive Fund, together with the World Bank and foundation partners to support quality, affordable childcare in low- and middle-income countries.

The fund will catalyze at least US$180 million in new funding in the next 5 years to support childcare in low and middle-income countries and provide evidence on the impacts of quality childcare on women’s empowerment. The Fund will match country investments in childcare on a $1:$1 basis, up to US$10 million per country. Canada has committed up to CA$10 million (US$8 million) thus far.

Press release - The World Bank

Canada contributes up to US$25 million to UN-affiliated BUILD Fund

Canada has committed up to CA$32 million (US$25 million) for the BUILD Fund, a blended impact investment vehicle to finance small and medium-sized businesses in low-income countries to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The Fund was established in partnership with the US, Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, and the Nordic states through the Nordic Development Fund, and was announced at the UN Financing for Development Forum. The 6 member states have commited over US$60 million thus far.

Press release - UN Capital Development Fund

USAID launches new digital service initiative with private sector

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a new blended finance program "Digital Invest," issuing an invitation to the private sector to co-invest in projects to improve digital infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries. The initial investment will be US$3 million with the aim of mobilizing US$335 million in private capital.

The new program recognizes that there are limits to mobile internet access, especially in emerging markets. Digital Invest will invest in digital services, including fixed-line technology. The program will provide technical assistance, capitalization support, and other direct financial support to support early-stage, higher-risk investments that have a clear development impact, including those that can advance women's economic empowerment and gender equality. USAID's grants will mitigate the risk for private sector investors, providing a necessary enticement to existing companies in these emerging markets.

News report - Devex

Press release - USAID

White House set May 12 for second virtual COVID-19 global summit

The White House has announced that May 12, 2022, will be the date for the second virtual global COVID-19 summit to be hosted by the US, Germany, Belize, Senegal, and Indonesia.

This second gathering of global leaders will focus on ways to address the global efforts needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic and prepare for future threats to global health. The aims of the summit were set forth in a joint statement issued by the cohosts.

For the US, the call for new commitments and solutions comes as extra money for COVID-19, both domestic and global, has stalled in Congress. It is not clear that a new package, even if it is approved by Congress, will contain any funding for the global response. A leading Democratic Senator, Chris Coons, who had been one of the lead negotiators for the COVID-19 supplemental funding package that reached an impasse, called the need for global aid vaccine money "critical" to US national security.  

News report - Devex

Joint statement - White House

News report - The New York Times

Australia’s ODA/GNI ratio could fall below 0.17% by 2025, says new report

A report by the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University suggests that Australia runs the risk of having an official development assistance (ODA) / gross national income (GNI) ratio less that of the US in the near future.

The report assumed that future development assistance reductions announced in the 2022 budget would be implemented. In this case, Australia's development assistance would decline to a record low level of 0.17% ODA/GNI by 2025 - 2026.

Australia's ODA/GNI ratio had already declined relative to other members of its close strategic group - comprising Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand. 

Report – Development Policy Centre

Germany commits US$441 million to COVAX at Gavi's 'Break COVID Now' Summit

On April 8, 2022, Germany, together with Ghana, Indonesia, and Senegal, co-costed Gavi’s digital 'Break COVID Now' Summit with the goal of raising US$5.2 billion in funding for COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Falling US$400 million short of the funding goal, a total of US$4.8 billion was committed during the summit.

This includes funding worth US$1.7 billion from sovereign donors, US$2.1 billion via new innovative financial mechanisms provided by the European Investment Bank and the United States Development Finance Corporation, and US$1.0 billion of funding by multilateral development banks.

Germany pledged US$441 (€400 million) to COVAX, of which US$386 million (€350 million) will go to Gavi and US$55 million (€50 million) to UNICEF. The pledge is part of a broader US$1.2 billion funding package for the ACT-Accelerator, which Germany announced at the beginning of March of 2022, but is still pending cabinet and parliamentary approval.

COVAX will deploy these commitments to strengthen the vaccine logistics in the partner countries, including, for example, improving cooling conditions for vaccine doses and investing in health personnel and equipment. Further, the funding will contribute to establishing a Pandemic Vaccine Pool that stands ready to be activated if new and threatening COVID-19 variants emerge and to supply partner countries with variant-adopted vaccines.

Additional information on all donors at the Summit can be found here

Press release – Gavi 

Press release – Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (in German) 

Biden postpones second global COVID-19 summit

United States President Biden's second summit on COVID-19 has been postponed again. The meeting, which Germany is co-hosting, was originally scheduled for March and was then pushed to April due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  The administration is also still trying to secure an additional US$5 billion in funding for global COVID-19 vaccine delivery, which has been stalled in Congress. 

Biden held the first summit in September of 2021.  At the time, he pledged that the US would contribute an additional 500 million vaccine doses along with hundreds of millions of dollars to help with immunizations to be implemented through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He also sought commitments from other countries to provide more resources. 

The additional money that the Biden administration has recently requested to help increase vaccination rates in eleven low-income countries in Africa has yet to be approved by Congress. Originally, USAID was asking for US$19 billion to carry out that new program, but even the reduced US$5 billion in additional funding for the global response remains uncertain. 

News report - Politico

After long delay, US announces pilot countries, regions under Global Fragility Act

In 2019, the United States Congress passed the Global Fragility Act (GFA), which created a new approach to both conflict prevention and stabilization in fragile states. The new law required the administration to name the country and regional pilots by December of 2020, a deadline that was missed by the former Trump administration.

A year and a half after the deadline had passed, the Biden administration named Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, and Papua New Guinea as the first four countries and designated coastal West Africa as the first region. The next step is the creation of a comprehensive 10-year plan for each of the countries and coastal West Africa. The focus will be on working with local and regional stakeholders, including civil society, both to address emerging threats and to build resilience with the goal of preventing and controlling violence and instability.

News report - Devex

Additional funding for global COVID-19 relief stalls in US Congress

The proposed US$5 billion for global COVID-19 vaccines, which was initially part of a US$15 billion COVID-19-related assistance package, has run into opposition in the US Congress. The money, which was originally included in the large omnibus funding bill that funds the US government for the remainder of FY2022, was pulled at the last minute over concerns about the domestic COVID-19 part of the deal. Now, the current deal is set at US$10 billion and has stripped all of the global vaccine money. 

Negotiations continue in the Senate, with ongoing discussions of restoring at least some of the international aid funding -- although that figure is in the range of US$1 billion rather than US$5 billion. A number of House Democrats have committed to pushing for more international assistance, even if it comes at the cost of domestic COVID funding. 

News article - Politico

Biden releases FY2023 budget, includes US foreign assistance increase

US President Joe Biden released his FY2023 US$5.8 trillion budget proposal, which included a US$7.4 billion increase in US foreign assistance funding over FY2021 levels. FY2022 levels, which were just approved in an omnibus funding package, kept funding levels almost flat.   

The request includes a total of US$60.4 billion for both the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  Almost half of that request would be allocated to USAID programs.

Under the Biden proposal, the largest sectoral increases were for climate change and global health. Biden requested US$11 billion for global climate finance, including US$1.6 billion for the Green Climate Fund.

For global health, the budget request included US$2 billion for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- part of a 3-year, US$6 billion package for the Global Fund. The budget also included US$6.5 billion over five years for global health security for both State and USAID.

The budget did not contain the supplemental US$15 billion in COVID-19 funding (both domestic and international) which had been stripped from the omnibus bill; the White House is still in discussions with Congress about that package.

Advocates, who were furious over the spending levels in the just-passed omnibus bill, were more supportive of this budget but viewed it either as a "floor" or inadequate to meet the challenges of the times.

News article - Devex

Press release - USAID

USAID launches localization pilot projects in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador

The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samatha Power set an ambitious goal to increase locally-led development to 25% by 2025. USAID's localization effort is being piloted in the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and is known as Centroamerica Local.

Migration to the United States has increased significantly over the last few years due to increases in poverty and crime in the region. Centroamerica Local is a five-year, US$300 million project focused on empowering local organizations in order to both understand and address the drivers of migration into the US.

A joint report issued by USAID and the Migration Policy Institute sought to understand how best to invest in local leaders and local organizations as agents of change to create a true partnership, rather than a typical donor-recipient one. Combining this approach with development strategies that address migration needs and employment opportunities will not only curtail the flow of migration but could reduce the need for large-scale investments.

News report - Devex 

Congress passes massive spending bill, includes funds for US foreign assistance, but drops global COVID-19 relief

Well into the 2022 fiscal year, US Congress finally passed an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of FY2022. The bill, which totals US$1.5 trillion, includes US$64.9 billion for the FY2022 International Affairs Budget, of which US$58 billion is for regular funding and US$6.9 billion is for emergency funding for Ukraine.  

The regular budget increased 1% over the previous fiscal year and was regarded as a disappointment by development advocates who had argued for more funding for global health, democracy, pandemic preparedness, COVID-19 response, and climate.

The omnibus spending package was originally going to include US$5 billion in emergency COVID-19 global funding, but the provision was stripped at the last minute due to disagreement about how to offset domestic COVID-19 funding with other spending reductions. There is now a bill to fund this initiative separately, but it is unclear whether there is sufficient support to pass the bill - which is critical to President Biden's plan to scale up its Global Vax initiative.  

Development advocates were extremely critical of the decision to pull out the US$5 billion from the omnibus bill, with the head of one leading coalition calling the move "outrageous" and a "self-inflicted" wound. Attention has now turned to the FY2023 budget, which the Biden administration is likely to release in the coming weeks.

News article - Devex

News article - Devex

Biden announces $2.6 billion for gender in upcoming budget

On International Women's Day, US President Joe Biden announced the largest US budget ever in global support of women's economic empowerment and gender equity. The president's budget, which will be released later this month, will contain US$2.6 billion in US foreign assistance for the promotion of gender equality across the globe.  

This allocation is double the amount that was requested in the president's budget for the previous fiscal year. The Biden administration has made gender a priority, including the creation of a White House Gender Policy Council, releasing the first national strategy on gender equality and equity, which covers both domestic and foreign programs, and the creation of a Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund to provide economic security for women globally.

Statement - The White House

Biden requests US$10 billion for immediate assistance in Ukraine

In a letter to Congressional leaders, the Acting Director of the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) submitted a formal request for a supplemental appropriation to the FY2022 budget for US$10 billion for immediate assistance to Ukraine. The letter also included a request for US$22.5 billion for the COVID-19 request, some of which is allocated to the global response.

The request for assistance for Ukraine and other Central European partners was for humanitarian (US$2.8 billion), security, and economic (US$1.8 billion) assistance as a direct response to Russian President Putin's attack on Ukraine. OMB cautioned that additional requests may be needed in the future.

The COVID-19 supplemental request is for a range of services and supplies for both domestic and global use. Global funding was largely for vaccination uptake and totals approximately US$5 billion.

This supplemental was submitted while Congress continued the attempt to finalize the original FY2022 appropriations bill that has been funded by various continuing resolutions since the fiscal year began on October 1, 2021. Government funding for most agencies, including the Departments of Defense and State, and the US Agency for International Development, will run out on March 11, 2022, unless Congress takes further action. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated that funding for Ukraine will be taken up as part of the larger package that will be considered this week. The funding for COVID-19 is less certain; global advocates wanted the funding levels to be closer to US$17 billion.

News report - Devex 

Letter - OMB Supplemental Request

Advocacy groups call on Biden to break WTO patent deadlock on COVID-19 products

Over 80 non-profit organizations cosigned a letter to US President Joe Biden, calling on him to help break the deadlock at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests to ensure that the global community will have better access to tools to fight the pandemic.

Noting that almost half of the globe remains unvaccinated, with 95% of unvaccinated people in low-income countries, the groups called on President Biden to make a number of pledges ahead of his announced Global COVID-19 Summit, anticipated in March 2022. Most of these asks are related to the waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for various COVID-19-related products.

The US previously sided with South Africa and India, calling for a waiver of vaccine-related IP rights during a WTO meeting in May 2021. The European Union, however, opposed any waiver, and action on this has stalled. There is also opposition by pharmaceutical companies, which claim that waivers would hurt financial investments in research.

The next WTO ministerial meeting to address this issue is now scheduled for mid-June 2022. 

News report - Politico 

Biden attempts to accelerate global vaccine delivery as funding threats loom

Just as US President Joe Biden rolls out his administration's new COVID-19 strategy focused on getting vaccine shots delivered to nations most in need, the effort is being threatened by a lack of funding. Negotiations with Congress on a supplemental request to fund the global effort have stalled.

The cost of meeting the new strategy is the subject of debate. Congressional supporters of the global vaccine effort want a supplemental request of US$17 billion to ensure that the US helps meet the global goal of getting 70% of the global population vaccinated by mid-2022. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which leads the US global vaccination effort, has told Congress that it needs US$19 billion. Internal documents, however, have put the White House request at just under US$11 billion. No formal supplemental request has been made yet. 

As part of its 2022 strategy, the US is also moving away from bilateral donations of vaccines to donating most of its vaccines through COVAX, the global vaccine facility. With USAID in the lead, it will work with local governments to go the last mile and will focus on inoculations in 30 countries where vaccination rates are below 10%, including 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

News report - Politico

News report - The Hill

US House passes another short-term funding bill, including for US foreign assistance

The US House of Representatives passed a short-term funding bill to avert another government shutdown by February 18, 2022.  This bill includes an extension of US foreign assistance funding. The US Senate is expected to act in a timely manner to keep the government open. 

The continuing resolution will keep the government funded through March 11, 2022, at which time Congressional leaders hope to have reached an agreement on a longer-term deal. Due to the failure of the US Congress to pass regular appropriations bills by the start of the fiscal year (FY) (October 1, 2021), including the main bill that supports US foreign assistance, spending levels have been kept at FY2021 levels. This stagnation means that current levels do not reflect US President Joe Biden's funding and policy priorities. 

The long-term deal, referred to as an omnibus bill, may also contain other priorities, including additional pandemic relief. 

News article - The Washington Post

As USAID pushes localization agenda, defining 'local' remains primary challenge

The Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, renewed the agency's commitment to delivering more assistance through local partners. One key issue to address for this policy however, is defining what 'local' means.

Power has already announced a goal to direct 25% of funding to local organizations, a jump from the current 6% level, and there are a number of policy and strategy reviews underway at USAID to move the agency in this direction. One such move is the Local Capacity Development Policy, which was released for public comment and attempts to define "local."

One of the primary issues is that within USAID and across the US government, there are various definitions of 'local'.  Development experts have called for one clear and consistent definition. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) issued a statement calling for a single definition of a local entity to ensure consistent application of a localization policy that is both measurable and accountable. MFAN has also opposed the inclusion of "locally established partners" in the definition, as the scope of this definition of local would allow international organizations to tap into funding for truly local organizations, essentially negating the goal.  

News article - Devex

Statement - MFAN