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White House releases first-ever gender equity and equality strategy

Following the creation of a White House Gender Policy Council in the spring of 2021, President Biden released the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality with relevant applications both domestically and globally.

The strategy - a whole-of-government approach - identified 10 interconnected priorities, which set forth a comprehensive agenda and vision to achieve gender equity and equality across sectors.

In addition to the 10 priorities, which include economic security, gender-based violence, climate change, and democracy, the strategy uses an intersectional approach to account for compounding forms of discrimination that add additional barriers to reaching equity and equality. 

Strategic priorities include:

  • Improved economic security: the strategy calls for COVID-19 pandemic recovery to account for women and families, thereby improving equal access to workplace participation, investments in infrastructure and care workers, and equal educational opportunities; 
  • Enhanced prevention and response to gender-based violence: the strategy calls for stronger laws, policies, and prevention services, commitment to addressing sexual violence in conflict settings, and promotion of fair and safe treatment in the immigration and justice systems;
  • Increased access to health care: the strategy charachterizes health care access as a right rather than a privilege, encouraging the expansion of access to health care for all, protection of the right to choose, promotion of sexual and reproductive rights, and commitment to addressing maternal mortality and morbidity; and
  • Advanced participation of women and girls in social, economic, civic, and political life: the strategy outlines stronger equality laws and practices which ensure equality in leadership for critical processes, including peace, humanitarian, national security, global health, climate change, and STEM fields.

Report - The White House

Press release - The White House

NGOs call on Canada to fulfill COVID-19 vaccine donation promises, suspend intellectual property rights

Canada has taken over 970,000 doses from COVAX, the World Health Organization's vaccine alliance, for its own use, while delivering only 3.2 million – or 8% – of the 40 million doses it promised.

The US has delivered the largest quantity of donated doses - nearly 177 million - and yet, this number is merely 16% of the 1.1 billion promised. Meanwhile, the EU and countries including Germany and the UK, have refused to support the proposal by over 100 nations to waive patents on vaccines and COVID-19 - related technologies.

Preceding the G20 summit in Rome this week, the People’s Vaccine alliance – which consists of 77 members including ActionAid, the African Alliance, Oxfam, and UNAIDS – is calling on rich countries to:

  • Deliver on promises to donate COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries;
  • Immediately redistribute existing vaccines equitably across all nations; and,
  • Suspend intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines, tests, and treatments by agreeing to the proposed waiver of the TRIPS Agreement at the World Trade Organization.

​​​​Op-ed - Oxfam Canada 

US Senate Appropriations Committee approves 2022 foreign assistance bill totaling US$60.6 billion

The United States Senate Appropriations Committee approved the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations (SFOPS) bill for the fiscal year 2022 (FY2022), providing a total of US$60.6 billion for US foreign assistance. The budget represents a nine percent increase from FY2021 non-emergency enacted levels but remains slightly lower than both the bill passed by the US House of Representatives and the Biden Administration's FY2022 budget request. 

Highlights from SFOPS for FY2022:

  • Global health programs increased by US$1.2 billion over FY2021 enacted levels - three percent less than the House of Representatives-passed companion measure. Global health security programs will receive an additional US$810 million in funding with a focus on COVID-19 and future pandemic response; 
  • Climate change funding received a total of US$2.9 billion, including US$1.5 billion for the Green Climate Fund, US$1.0 billion for bilateral climate programs, and US$450 million for the Clean Technology Fund. Climate funding from the Senate exceeded the Administration's FY2022 request by 14%;
  • Development Assistance and Economic Support Funds - the two main bilateral development funding sources - received budget increases of 16% and 10%, respectively, over FY2021 enacted levels. Other programs, such as the Peace Corps and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, remained equivalent to FY2021 enacted levels; and
  • Personnel funding for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) increased in the hopes that the agency will do more to fill workplace gaps to address the increased frequency and intensity of humanitarian crises.

State- Foreign Operations Appropriations FY2022 - US Senate Appropriations Committee

News report - USGLC

US climate envoy, Kerry, calls on leaders to back climate commitments before COP26

Ahead of the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, John Kerry, the US envoy for climate change, declared more must be done to meet needed targets to cut coal, gas, and oil emissions.

Kerry, who has spent the last year negotiating with world leaders on climate diplomacy, is encouraged by steps the European Union, Japan, and others have taken, but is concerned that some of the largest polluters have not pledged enough. 

The UN's COP26 climate summit will take place from October 31 - November, 12, 2021.

Kerry has plans for last-minute climate diplomacy talks in Mexico and Saudi Arabia before the two-week summit. Kerry will face the possibility that the US Congress, with a slim Democratic majority, will not support the necessary legislation and funding to back US commitments. Kerry remains optimistic, however, that Congress will act "responsibly."

News report - AP

US releases five-year 'End Malaria Faster' strategy, following WHO approval of groundbreaking malaria vaccine

The United States Presidential Malaria Initiative (PMI) released its new malaria strategy for 2021-2026, the same day the World Health Organization recommended the use of a new malaria vaccine. 

Although global health experts hailed the new vaccine - the result of decades of work - the US strategy cautioned the vaccine as a panacea and emphasized that other measures still need to be part of the solution. 

The US malaria strategy has five main approaches: 

  1. Outreach in hard-to-reach populations; 
  2. Strengthen and expand community health systems; 
  3. Ensure that malaria services are resilient to other health shocks and climate change; 
  4. Invest in local partners to lead the malaria fight; and 
  5. Ensure innovation to end malaria faster. 

Overall, the End Malaria Faster goals are to prevent new cases, reduce malaria deaths and illness, and hasten the elimination of malaria in PMI partner countries.  PMI will work in countries that account for 80% of the malaria burden with a goal of saving more than four million lives and averting over one billion cases by 2025.

News report - Devex

Report - PMI

Biden to nominate African CDC head to run PEPFAR

US President, Joe Biden, announced his intent to nominate the current head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, to lead the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The nomination will require confirmation by the US Senate. 

PEPFAR is the US program to address HIV/AIDS globally, which receives around US$7.0 billion annually. Since its inception in 2003, the US has invested over US$85 billion to fight HIV/AIDS with the program.

Dr. Nkengasong has decades of experience working with HIV/AIDS, including collaborating with the US Centers for Disease Control in Africa; his nomination was widely praised among experts. 

News report - Devex 

Global Citizen to host 24-hour worldwide concert to prompt pledges toward SDGs

On September 25, Global Citizen will broadcast a 24-hour global event on TV and multiple social networks, which will feature artists, celebrities, and world leaders focusing on defending the planet and defeating poverty.

Global Citizen Live aims to support a "Recovery Plan for the World," targeting five key sectors: COVID-19 global response, hunger, education, climate change, and equity. The event will provide a platform for decision-makers to make new pledges, which contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The event will feature performances from different cities around the globe including Lagos, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, and Sydney. Artists such as Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Måneskin, DJ Snake, H.E.R., Lizzo, Christine and the Queens, Angélique Kidjo, Charlie Puth, and Fatma Said will participate.

Website - Global Citizen

US pledges US$6.0 billion in assistance at UN Food Systems Summit

Samatha Power, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, that the US will commit US$5.0 billion over five years to the Feed the Future (FTF) program. Feed the Future is the US government's global hunger and food security program, which works with partners in the private sector and local actors.

Power also announced the expansion of Feed the Future's Global Food Security Strategy to include more countries and improve approaches to complex issues involved in tackling global hunger. The goal of these expanded investments is to reduce poverty and child stunting in Feed the Future countries by 20% and to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Summit, the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) additionally announced its intent to invest US$1.0 billion to combat food insecurity and bolster agriculture over the next five years. Acting CEO of the DFC, Dev Jagadesan, highlighted the importance of food security in global development in the statement. He suggested that the new targeted investments would encourage private sector advancements in addressing global agriculture and food systems in addition to mitigating climate change.

Press release - USAID

Press release - DFC

Biden pledges additional 500 million vaccine doses at COVID-19 UNGA; new financial intermediary established by World Bank

US President, Joe Biden, hosted a virtual Global COVID-19 Summit during the UN General Assembly, attended by heads of state, multilateral organizations, philanthropic representatives, and other leaders in global health.  

Biden formally announced that the US would supply an additional 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses globally, bringing the US commitment to approximately 1.1 billion vaccine doses.  He unveiled a new set of US commitments for global leaders to embrace, including:

  • Pushing for equitable access to vaccines; 
  • Providing life-saving equipment, tests, and therapeutics; 
  • Providing all countries with better health security and pandemic preparation; and
  • Aligning accountability around global goals and tracking. 

Other countries joined in the vaccine pledge.  The European Union (EU) pledged 500 million vaccine doses and India ended its vaccine export ban, which will have significant consequences for low- and middle-income countries' access to vaccines. 

Although the US made commitments for oxygen, testing, and PPE, the Center for Global Development (CGD) called the contribution 'modest.' 

According to the CGD analysis, one of the most important announcements from the Summit included the US, the EU, and other countries' announcement to establish a new financial intermediary hosted by the World Bank. The new financing facility, which adopted many of the recommendations from the G20 High-Level Independent Panel, has a global goal of raising US$10.0 billion per year. 

Analysis - Center for Global Development

Press release - The White House

EU and US announce joint COVID-19 vaccination plan and support new Financial Intermediary Fund

The US and the EU announced a new partnership to expand cooperation on global COVID-19 vaccination efforts. 

The ‘U.S.-EU Agenda for Beating the Global Pandemic: Vaccinating the World, Saving Lives Now, and Building Back Better Health Security’ outlines five pillars of joint US-EU commitments:

  1. vaccine sharing;
  2. vaccine readiness;
  3. bolstering global vaccine supply and therapeutics;
  4. proposal to achieve global health security; and
  5. a partners' roadmap for regional vaccine production.

The US and the EU have committed to donating more than 1.1 billion and 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, respectively. Both entities will support organizations in vaccine delivery and promote the equitable distribution of vaccines. Through their recently launched Joint COVID-19 Manufacturing and Supply Chain Taskforce, the US and the EU will support vaccine manufacturing and distribution by resolving supply chain issues among other tasks. They call on other partners to support their efforts. 

The US and the EU will both support and help sustainably capitalize the establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) overseen by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the end of 2021; the fund will support global pandemic surveillance and will cooperate to expedite the development of new vaccines. They will also coordinate investments in regional manufacturing capacity in low and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) for vaccines and treatments. 

Press release - European Commission

News article - Politico

Sweden takes first place in Center for Global Development's ranking of high-income countries' committment to development

The Center for Global Development, an independent thinktank, published their Commitment to Development Index, (CDI) which measures development policy engagement in 40 major economies. The report consolidates key findings in development finance, investment, migration, trade, environment, health, security, and technology.

The CDI, rooted in "genuine policy effort" relative to country size, added health as a new component this year, taking into account pandemic preparedness as well as other health issues like pollutant concentration and prevention of medication resistance. 

Key findings included:

  • Sweden ranked first in overall development efforts, with top spots in both environmental and migration policies;
  • The UK slipped back to fifth place overall, suggesting a general decline in its development superpower status;
  • China ranked 36th and struggled with migration, security, and a lack of transparency;
  • The US dropped from 18th to 22nd in overall development commitments, indicating fallout from Trump-era policies;
  • France ranked second overall, the highest of the G7 countries;
  • Norway placed third overall with strong performances in development finance and migration; and
  • Australia moved up to fourth place following the introduction of health measurement indicators.

The CDI celebrated successful development policies and made recommendations for improvement for each of the countries it evaluated.

Commitment to Development Index - Center for Global Development

US holds virtual global health summit at UNGA; Biden calls for 70% world vaccination rate by September 2022

US President, Joe Biden, will host a virtual meeting of global leaders during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 21, 2021, calling for a series of renewed COVID-19 commitments, including a global vaccination goal of 70% by September 2022.

The event is billed as the Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better.

The invitation was extended to heads of government and state, businesses, philanthropy, civil society, and international organizations and indicated that the President will ask leaders to prepare to address future health security threats. 

Biden will also suggest that participants make commitments to address other challenges like the world's oxygen crisis. Follow-up summits are already scheduled to ensure accountability of participants. 

Biden is additionally expected to announce the purchase of 500 million more doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for global distribution. The deal is in negotiation stages, so details remain unavailable; however, the announcement will be the second by the US government to purchase millions of vaccines for worldwide distribution.

News article - The Washington Post

News article - The Washington Post

US and EU to reduce methane emissions by one-third by 2030, Biden says

United States President, Joe Biden, held a virtual summit with global leaders to address responses to harmful methane emissions; Biden announced that the US and Europe agreed to cut global methane emissions by one-third by 2030 and similarly urged other nations to join the "global methane pledge.” 

Biden welcomed representatives from the EU, UK, Italy, Germany, Japan, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Russian, Korea, India, Mexico, and the United Nations Secretary-General, to the event. Notably absent were the president of China, although he did send an envoy, and Brazil. 

The meeting precedes the UN's Climate Change Conference, COP26, which will take place in November 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Biden called the reduced methane emissions target “ambitious but realistic” and also pledged that the US will assist lower-income countries in meeting the new target. 

News report - The New York Times

 

Australia-USA AUSMIN meeting reiterates global health commitments

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Maurice Payne, outlined US-Australia joint commitments to global health at the annual AUSMIN meeting in September 2021.

AUSMIN is an annual meeting of Australian Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministers and the US Secretaries of Defence and State.

The 23 commitments in the joint statement reiterated prior announcements by the two countries, including support for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which aims to enable vaccine access for almost 30% 0f populations of low and middle-income countries.

Payne also noted an expansion of the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which would initially focus on Papua New Guinea.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

US Treasury approves license for continuation of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan

The US Treasury issued a special license to continue to allow the provision of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan by both the US and its partners.

Such a license was necessary to clarify that, despite US sanctions on the Taliban as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, the US and related entities may legally provide humanitarian support. The assistance includes the provision of food and medicine, which is targeted at helping the people of Afghanistan. Assistance is not being provided to Taliban authorities. 

The license will expire on March 1, 2022, and is intended to prevent a worsening humanitarian crisis. The UN estimated that approximately half of the population of Afghanistan requires assistance, and half of the children under five years of age are acutely malnourished. A State Department spokesperson said that the US will continue to be a "very generous" provider of humanitarian support to the Afghan people. 

News report - Reuters

G7 leaders support UN-led international humanitarian response in Afghanistan, call on Taliban government to uphold international human rights

The UK, as President of the G7 in 2021, hosted a virtual leaders’ meeting of the G7 on August 24 to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. 

The leaders, delivering a statement from the meeting, called for a cessation of all violence, and agreed to support an UN-led international humanitarian response. The G7 leaders also called upon the new Taliban-led government to uphold international human rights particularly for women and girls and uphold international humanitarian law.

The UN has estimated that 18 million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan following the collapse of the government and the Taliban takeover, as US and UK troops withdrew from the country. The UN has also warned that the violence in Afghanistan must stop, noting that if current trends continue, Afghanistan could record the highest-ever number of documented civilian casualties, since the UN’s began collecting annual data on these figures.  

The UK has agreed to increase its official development assistance (ODA) to Afghanistan to £286 million (US$384 million) and has committed to receiving 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years. It also has an Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) which was launched on April 1, 2021 and will remain in place until November 2022, that offers any current or former locally employed staff working for the UK government in Afghanistan (that is assessed to be under serious threat to life) to be offered relocation to the UK.

G7 Leaders' statement - G7

News article - BOND

Top US officials recommend steps to stregthen global health security, amendments to WHO's International Health Regulations

In an article, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra outlined four critical steps that leaders should take to strengthen global health security.

  1. Modernizing global institutions: the working models and resources of essential global institutions must be modernized, with the World Health Organization (WHO) as a top priority, and including regional and multilateral development finance banks.
  2. Updating international laws and norms: international agreements that govern technologies, public health, intellectual property, and information sharing should be evaluated for their effectiveness in regulating the global pandemic and post-pandemic legal, and socioeconomic environment.
  3. Sustained global financing: long-term funding is needed to address the economic and health repurcussions of the COVID-19 crisis and to prevent and respond to future pandemics, for which the US will support the creation of an international intermediary fund.
  4. Transparent, accountable governance: global leaders must improve governance with an emphasis on transparency and accountability to ensure the free exchange of data and science.

In working to establish these pillars of pandemic response, Blinken and Becerra wrote, leaders must commit to health equity to ensure that people at all income levels have access to the resources and care that is needed.

Finally, the article offers recommendations for specific amendments to the WHO's International Health Regulations, last updated in 2005, which would strengthen the laws of all 196 signatory countries.

Op-ed - JAMA

In aftermath of earthquake and political unrest, US pledges additional assistance to Haiti

The Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Samatha Power, announced an additional US$32 million in assistance for Haiti to help that country respond to the devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake.  

The funding will be for urgent life-saving assistance, including food, water, health, and shelter. Power emphasized that the assistance will be done in partnership with the Haitian government. “Perhaps the most important lesson [from 2010] is that no development agency and no army or diplomatic corps can just import a perfect humanitarian response from afar. You need local expertise and local leadership to reach communities in need.”  This emphasis on locally-led development is a priority for the USAID Administrator.

The announcement of the new round of assistance was made in a joint appearance with interim Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Henry defended his government's response to the earthquake which has been exacerbated by the fallout of the murder of Prime Minister Moise and gang-related violence. Henry said that steps were being taken to provide safe passage to humanitarian workers and to hold those responsible for the killing of Moise to account.  

News report - AP

US provides additional humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, Yemen

The US announced that it will provide additional assistance to both Myanmar (US$50 million) and Yemen (US$160 million) to help address increasingly serious humanitarian crises.

In Myanmar, where COVID-19 cases are surging, the US Department of State said the funds will help "those forced to flee violence and persecution" as well as providing health care, food, shelter, and water. The situation in Myanmar has worsened since a military coup overthrew the democratically elected government in the spring of 2021.

In Yemen, the US Special Envoy for Yemen announced that the US will provide US$165 million in humanitarian assistance. The Envoy stated that he hoped the US contribution would encourage other donors to provide additional assistance to help prevent a famine that is "again becoming a very real threat."  The funding will be provided through the US Agency for International Development. 

News article - Reuters

News article - Reuters

US Senate appropriations committee approves funding for two international food assistance programs

The US Senate has finally begun its fiscal year 2022 appropriations process by approving three funding bills, including the FY2022 Agriculture Appropriations bill. By a strong bipartisan vote, the committee approved funding for two international food assistance bills, the Food for Peace program and the McGovern-Dole child education and nutrition program, both of which help to combat malnutrition and hunger around the globe.  

The Food for Peace program, also referred to as PL 480 Title II, was actually funded at a slightly higher level (US$1.8 billion) than the House-passed level of US$1.7 billion and above what President Biden had proposed (US$1.6 billion). This should ensure that final funding levels will be equal to or above FY2021 levels.

The McGovern-Dole program was approved at US$245 million, which was US$15 million above both the President's request and FY2021 enacted levels.

The Senate has not yet taken up the major US foreign assistance appropriations bill, the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which the House passed in July of 2021.

Report - USGLC