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Donor Tracker to host webinar on education in emergencies

Join the Donor Tracker on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 15:00-16:00 CET for a webinar addressing education in emergencies, featuring experts from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global fund and partnership to improve education in lower-income countries, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency.

The growth of protracted conflicts and the increasing prevalence of emergencies globally have impacted the educational opportunities of millions of children. Precarious humanitarian situations around the world have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. With just ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), amid a global pandemic, prioritizing the educational needs of the world’s most vulnerable children is more important than ever.

However, are donors dedicating sufficient attention to education in emergencies? Join the webinar for a discussion on financing needs, donor priorities, and policy trends in the sector.

This webinar complements our recently published report, ‘Decades of neglect: Donor financing for education in emergencies’.

Registration - Zoom

Report - Donor Tracker

US President-elect Biden plans to rescind 'global gag rule', but damage done will not be easily reversed

US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rescind the infamous Mexico City Policy, widely known as the 'global gag rule', which eliminated funding to international NGOs which counsel on, provide, or legally advocate for abortion. According to global health experts, however, the reversal of the policy will not automatically reverse the far-reaching damage it has done. 

The policy was originally instituted by the Reagan administration in 1984, but the most restrictive version of the Mexico City Policy to date was put into place by US President Donald Trump. Biden's rescission of the policy within the first days of his presidency would follow the precedent set by Democratic presidents before him.

According to policy experts, there will still be a lot of work for the Biden administration to do after reversing the rule. It will take time to revise standards and contracts as well as to clarify the new spending rules to by now-wary foreign NGOs. Organizations will have to wait before they can hire more people, open more clinics, expand programs, and, in the case of large organizations, they have to wait until they bid on the next cycle of projects. 

For those NGOs that decided to forego US funding rather than abide by the rule, the funding will take time to be restored. Some, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation or MSI Reproductive Choice, may not want to seek US funding again, knowing the disruptions to their services that can come with the rule's potential reinstatement in four or eight years with a new president, further destabilizing their operations.

The Trump administration still has time to further expand the Mexico City Policy (which it renamed 'Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy') in the coming months, which would require extra time and work for the Biden administration to reverse once Biden assumes office in January of 2021.

News article - Devex

Influential US senator calls for reengagement in global health through COVAX Facility, WHO

US Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and a close ally of President-elect Joe Biden, called for the US to reengage in the global effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, including global vaccine development and distribution.

Coons, who is among those thought to be in the running for Secretary of State in Biden's administration, called on the US to "lead by example" to reverse the harm that the Trump administration has done to its nation's standing in the world.

The steps that Coon recommended the Biden administration should take include joining the COVAX Facility to support vaccine procurement and equitable distribution, as well as rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO), from which the Trump administration announced its withdrawal.

He also addressed the need to rebuild US capacities around global health security and surveillance, as well as to elevate global health within the US national security operations.

News article - Devex

US Senate foreign assistance bill holds funding at steady levels but omits COVID-19 funding

The US Senate Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2021 spending bill, which included US$55.2 billion for US foreign assistance. The overall levels were essentially the same as proposed by the Senate in the previous year and rejected the significant cuts proposed by US President Donald Trump.

However, the bill—unlike its companion from the US House of Representatives which provided an extra US$10.0 billion for global health—does not include any emergency global COVID-19 funding. While the final bill may contain some global pandemic response funding, the outcome is unclear. 

Other differences between the House and Senate bills include US$805 million for family planning in the House bill and US$461 million in the Senate bill. There are also different approaches to funding for the new US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), with the Senate providing US$821 million and the House providing US$311 million.

Development advocates have expressed concern around how the DFC's equity investments are scored; they say that rather than fixing the scoring issue, the Senate has simply appropriated more resources for the DFC which may come at the expense of other development priorities. 

News article - Devex

Trump's global gag rule has damaged fragile health systems worldwide, affected US$9.0 billion of US global health funding

US President Donald Trump imposed the most stringent version of the 'global gag rule' of any US president, causing a profound effect on fragile health systems around the world. Trump's expanded anti-abortion restrictions have affected US$9.0 billion of US global health funding, extending far beyond abortion funding to include funding for other health issues such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and water sanitation. 

By comparison, President George W. Bush's rule applied to about US$600 million in health funding. 

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged that on the first day of his presidency, he will reverse the rule in its entirety, but development assistance experts worry that the damage done by the Trump administration has permanently disrupted the provision of health services among the most fragile systems.

News article - Kaiser Health News

UN adopts resolution promoted by Spain to protect women and girls through COVID-19 response; US disassociates from sexual and reproductive health phrases

On November 10, 2020, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) adopted a resolution with the goal of placing women and girls at the heart of the global response against the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

Presented and promoted by Spain, and including more than 80 country co-sponsors, this UN resolution claims to guarantee that the COVID-19 crisis will not disproportionally affect women’s and girls' rights and quality of life. Among other topics, it includes specific references to women's rights to influence the pandemic response, the need to keep working to effectively end gender-based violence, the importance of advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the value of front-line women providing health and care services, the role of civil society organizations, and the right to quality education for everyone.

The US Mission to the UN, which presented several amendments to the draft resolution that were not approved by the UN General Assembly, published a statement disassociating itself from the paragraphs mentioning terms such as “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health-care services”, due to what it sees as "the promotion of abortion or a right to abortion that are unacceptable to our Administration".

Press release – Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEUEC)

Meeting coverage – United Nations

Statement – US Mission to the UN

White House fires USAID Deputy Administrator in apparent move to preserve leadership

In a surprise move, the US White House abruptly fired Bonnie Glick, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator, and promptly moved John Barsa, the Acting Administrator, into her position. The apparent motive behind this is the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which limits the amount of time to 210 days that a government employee, for whom Senate approval is required, can remain in post.

Barsa had taken over as Acting Administrator on April 11, 2020, and was facing the end of his 210 days, which would have meant that he would return to his post as Assistant Administrator of the Latin American and Caribbean bureau. Glick, who had been confirmed by the Senate, would otherwise have taken over as head of the agency.

This is not the first time this year that there is confusion over the leading role in USAID; Glick was in line for the role when Barsa was first appointed.

All political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, and it is expected that all Trump appointees will be removed at the start of the new US presidential administration on January 20, 2021.

News article - Devex

Uganda's suspension of cash transfer organization's operations prompts questions of legality, forces USAID to terminate direct assistance

As a result of a Ugandan government investigation of GiveDirectly, the largest global nonprofit that provides cash transfers, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was forced to end a US$10 million direct cash transfer program to the Ugandan people.

USAID's program, which provided cash to those who had lost income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, was part of the national COVID-19 response. Although GiveDirectly had received cabinet-level approval, Uganda's National Bureau for NGOs opened an investigation in September 2020. It raised questions about the organization's registration, approvals, and sources of funding and expressed concerns about whether cash transfers could lead to "laziness among recipients".

However, GiveDirectly's randomized controlled trial studies with independent researchers indicated that the cash transfer programs are effective in increasing productive hours, in part due to the food security they provide.

Despite this and the US embassy's recently-issued press release stating that no irregularities had been identified, the Ugandan government's suspension of GiveDirectly required the US to permanently terminate the program.

Lawyers questioned the legality of GiveDirectly's suspension. Magelah Peter Gwayaka, a lawyer from the Chapter Four Uganda human-rights nonprofit, said that according to Ugandan law, an organization should receive a fair hearing before the high court prior to operations being canceled.

The US is Uganda's largest development and humanitarian assistance donor.

News article - Devex

Trump's US foreign assistance approach will likely affect Biden's efforts to increase development priorities

Following the US presidential election, more attention is turning to what policies a Biden administration would favor for US global development.

President-elect Joe Biden has extensive experience in foreign policy and most experts agree that, if he is president, global development will be reestablished as a core element of foreign policy, alongside defense and diplomacy. He is also likely to reengage with the multilateral system.

What is less clear, however, is whether Biden will return to the pre-Trump approach to development or whether he will adopt a more progressive, human rights-based approach. Increasing pre-Trump global development priorities would seem even more liberal than before to some, due to President Donald Trump's consistent rejection of and budget cuts in foreign assistance, as well as the presence of fewer Republican lawmakers in Congress who champion development.

The Trump administration's departure from a once-shared bipartisan consensus on US leadership in humanitarian assistance may now test Biden's efforts to receive bipartisan support.

Progressives in the US, however, emphasize the importance of reassessing the use of military tools and the national security argument that has been prominent since the 9/11 attacks on the US. Nazanin Ash, a representative from the International Rescue Committee (a humanitarian relief NGO) indicated that the post-9/11 framework has detrimentally affected the possible impacts of humanitarian and development work. Ash highlighted that a rights-based approach entails fewer "paternalistic" projects and rather more empowerment of local populations to address the economic and political inequalities in their governments.

News analysis - Devex

Devex study highlights five potential effects of US election on global development policy

The November 3, 2020, US elections could have significant implications for the future of US global development policy. Authors of a Devex analysis pointed to five possible development changes following elections, in addition to the races to watch for:

  1. More money for a global COVID-19 response: Emergency COVID-19 funding has been stalled for months, so experts hope the election will revive those efforts and see some version of the Heroes Act (versions of which were approved by the House in May and October) or another package.
  2. The level of funding for US foreign assistance: Trump administration has made it clear that it will dramatically cut development budgets. Experts caution not to expect that a Biden administration or Democratic Senate majority would automatically mean more money, but it could mean the distribution of current development funds. New congressional leaders will also impact these funds, considering that both Democratic and Republican development champions will be leaving their roles.
  3. Changes in congressional committee leadership: The House of Representatives leadership was expected to shift, with an open leadership spot for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as for the Appropriations Committee and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate's future was less certain; it has ten senators on its Foreign Relations Committee up for re-election which could change the fabric of the Senate even if Republican Senator Lindsey Graham remains chairman.
  4. Renewed priority for foreign assistance reforms: The Trump administration significantly restructured and limited the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A Biden administration could provide an opportunity to recommit to assistance reforms that have been subsequently neglected, as well as give more weight to the development and diplomacy sectors again since the defense sector has had more focus under Trump.
  5. Changes in the US's credibility of democratic governance over foreign assistance programs: The analysis highlights that Biden has promised that if elected, his administration would seek to prioritize democracy and governance. 

News article - Devex 

US to provide CEPI US$20 million for vaccine development against COVID-19, emerging infectious diseases

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it was providing US$20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support the development of vaccines to combat emerging infectious diseases.

The funding, which is planned for a five-year period, will need annual approval from Congress. The money will support vaccine development for CEPI's priority diseases, which include Lassa fever and Ebola, as well as support innovative platform technologies for rapid vaccine development to fight COVID-19 and 'Disease X' (the term used to represent currently unknown pathogens which could cause future pandemics).

CEPI was founded in 2017 and is a coalition of public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations to accelerate the development of vaccines against future emerging diseases as well as to ensure the equitable distribution of such vaccines.

Press release - Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

US joins international anti-abortion declaration in latest move threatening SRHR and LGBTQ+ rights

The United States joined Egypt, Brazil, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda as co-sponsors of a non-binding anti-abortion declaration. Critics pointed out that this is the latest example of the Trump administration allying with leaders accused of human rights abuses while supporting global restrictions on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

At the signing ceremony, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that this Geneva Consensus Declaration "defends the unborn and reiterates the vital importance of the family". He also explicitly stated that "there is no international right to abortion" although UN human rights groups have sought to protect abortion rights.

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus sign indicates more) rights are also challenged by the declaration. The text specifies family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society", wording which is used to exclude, target, and in some countries, sentence to death LGBTQ+ people.

News article - The Washington Post 

African leaders disagree with US warnings on Chinese investments; Senegalese president advises partners to listen closely to African nations

At an investment conference with African leaders in Washington DC, the US announced a series of new deals and partnerships with African countries. Robert O’Brien, the US White House national security adviser, remarked that China "pushes unsustainable and opaque loans" which results in "erosion of national sovereignty", while the US's financing allows for "independence" and "sovereignty". US warnings on China, however, faced pushback from African leaders including Senegal's President Macky Sall, who disagreed that China's investments were a threat to the "sovereignty of Africa".

According to Sall, since Africa never had any Marshall-type plan that Europe benefitted from, it needs the long-term funding that China provides. He advised that partners would "gain a lot in listening, listening deeply to Africa and Africans.”

Multiple leaders expressed that their nations want to partner with the US as well as with others and would like to see more investments that lead to fast growth. While these include big energy projects, Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi pointed out that these should also include other important sectors, such as agriculture.

News article - Devex 

US Development Finance Corporation releases first development strategy

The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) released its first development strategy which outlined its priorities for investments and targets through the year 2025. The new development finance institution set goals of investing US$25.0 billion and mobilizing US$50.0 billion from the private sector, as well as being more risk-tolerant and investing more in low-income and fragile states. 

The framework prioritized a number of sectors including energy (US$10.0 billion) and financial inclusion (US$6.0 billion). Commitments to food security and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), however, were much smaller at $US500 million and US$250 million respectively. The strategy also included attempts to better measure impacts on people and to track metrics.

News article - Devex

US House Democrats push for more foreign assistance for COVID-19

A group of Democrats from the US House of Representatives are pushing for more foreign assistance for the global COVID-19 response. Led by Congressman Joaquim Castro, who is seeking to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the next Congress, the proposal would address both vaccine distribution and poverty alleviation. 

Castro believes that the US needs to reassert its position as a global leader and is worried that the current stalemate over an additional pandemic relief bill would further damage the prestige of the US. Castro specifically criticized the Trump administration's response to the COVID-19 crisis, including the decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization. 

News interview - Foreign Policy

After passing US House, COVID-19 global response bill joins queue of relief packages mired in Capitol Hill turmoil

On October 2, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed an updated HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) to provide supplemental assistance related to COVID-19 and which contained US$9.0 billion for the international response. Since then, US President Donald Trump has issued contradictory statements on the status of the stimulus package negotiations.

After leaving the hospital, where he was being treated for COVID-19, Trump ended all talks on COVID-19 funding until after the election. Since then, he has called for piecemeal relief, which would not address the international response. Should this position prevail, it will have significant adverse effects on the COVID-19 global response, including on work to develop and distribute a vaccine and on other pandemic-related threats such as increased poverty and hunger.

News article - Foreign Policy 

Australian vaccine producer receives US$22 million grant from US government for needle-free vaccine patch technology

Vaxxas, an Australian vaccine producer, has developed a vaccine technology that does not require refrigeration and can be administered needle-free via a patch to the skin. The technology, called high density micro-array patch (HD-MAP), seeks to improve the performance of pandemic vaccines, including those for COVID-19, as well as of vaccines for non-pandemic infectious diseases.

The US$22 million funding is provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services to advance clinical demonstration of the HD-MAP technology to fight against the threat of pandemics.

Originating from the University of Queensland, Vaxxas has previously received funding from the pharmaceutical industry and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

News article - Business Wire

US House passes revised 'Heroes Act' with US$2.20 trillion for COVID-19 and global health relief; opposed by Senate and White House

While negotiations for another supplemental COVID-19 bill with the White House dragged on, the US House of Representatives passed its revised Heroes Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), which is a response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Unlike the previous US$3.40 trillion version of the bill, which passed the House in May but failed to get sufficient support in the US Senate, this US$2.20 trillion legislation contains significant foreign assistance funding.

Most of the funding is directed toward global health, including US$3.5 billion for Gavi (The Vaccine Alliance), US$3.5 billion for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, US$1.0 billion for The US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and US$227 million for strengthening health care systems. There is also funding for humanitarian assistance as well as funding for basic and higher education efforts related to COVID-19. There is little likelihood for passage of the US$2.20 trillion bill unless the White House and the US House leadership reach a compromise.

Press release - US House Appropriations Committee

News article - The Washington Post

Trump adminstration extends anti-abortion position to OECD negotiations

The Trump administration, which has sought to export its anti-abortion position to a number of international fora, has now extended that effort to negotiations at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The current battle concerns the OECD's new strategy document to combat gender-based violence. 

The US draft has eliminated phrases such as "sexual orientation", "gender identities", and "health services" as the Trump administration tries to exert its domestic conservative positions on international organizations and has taken the firm position that such phrases are "red lines" for them. The US efforts are likely to cause significant pushback from European countries that want strong international efforts to curb gender-based violence.  

News article - Foreign Policy

US to provide US$152 million in emergency assistance to Sahel

The United States' special envoy to the Sahel announced that the US will provide US$152 million in new humanitarian assistance to the Sahel region in West Africa.

The assistance will include "emergency food and nutrition, shelter, safe drinking water, as well as healthcare and medicine" to vulnerable populations in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. According to the special envoy, there are more than 2.5 million displaced people and 3.3 million people in the Sahel region in need of emergency assistance and protection. 

The funding comes from both the US State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

News article - VOA