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Canada announces new US$59 million contribution to ACT-A

Canada has announced an additional CA$75 million (US$59 million) to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), "the global platform created to secure equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments". 

This new funding brings Canada's total commitment to ACT-A to CA$940 million (US$744 million).

Canada, to date, has committed approximately CA$2.0 billion (US$1.6 billion) to the global COVID-19 pandemic response.

Press release - Prime Minister of Canada

At UK-led G7 meeting, "collective G7 support" to ACT-A totals US$7.5 billion, but experts criticize UK for retaining surplus doses until citizens are fully vaccinated

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 leaders' meeting on February 19, 2021, after which "collective G7 support" totaled US$7.5 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an increase of over US$4.0 billion.

ACT-A's vaccine pillar, COVAX, is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines, including to low-income countries.

At the meeting, the US under the new Biden administration pledged to provide US$4.0 billion in development assistance to COVAX over the next three years, Germany pledged an additional US$1.8 billion, and the EU pledged an additional US$608 million.

These commitments were welcomed by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, but he noted that more needs to be done. At present, only 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations worldwide, with 130 countries not yet receiving a single dose.

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for greater action to address the imbalance, with a drive to get Europe and the US to provide 5% of their own supplies to low-income nations. The UK has ruled out doing this and has committed only to providing its surplus vaccines after its entire population has been vaccinated. This decision has been criticized by some UK global health experts, who have questioned the ethics of such a decision, whereby young people in the UK will receive the vaccine ahead of health workers and elderly in other countries.  

News article - BBC

News article - Devex

Canada commits over US$70 million to Caribbean Development Bank's Special Development Fund

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, has announced a funding commitment of CA$81 million (US$64 million) to the Caribbean Development Bank's Special Development Fund over the next four years.

This pledge is 16% larger than Canada's previous contribution to the Fund. With this recent announcement, Canada remains the largest country contributor to the Special Development Fund.

Canada has also allocated an additional CA$9 million (US$7 million) to the World Food Programme to specifically help Caribbean countries respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

With additional G7 pledges of US$4.3 billion, ACT-A commitments to date stand at US$10.3 billion; funding gap of US$22.9 billion remains

On February 19, 2021, at the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, US$4.3 billion in new commitments were made to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccine pillar, COVAX, to contribute to closing the funding gap in global COVID-19 response and ensure equitable vaccine distribution. 

The contributions included the following:

  • Canada committed US$59 million to ACT-A;
  • Japan committed US$79 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a COVAX funding mechanism to support access to vaccines for lower-income countries, as well as to Unitaid;
  • Germany committed US$1.8 billion to ACT-A, covering all of ACT-A's pillars and including "tests, treatments, vaccines, and health systems strengthening";
  • US committed US$4.0 billion to COVAX AMC (US$2.0 billion in already appropriated funds and an additional US$2.0 billion over the next two years); and
  • The EU committed US$363 million to COVAX AMC, along with a US$242 million loan from the European Investment Bank backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

ACT-A initially needed US$38.1 billion for 2020-2021; following an early February Facilitation Council meeting, ACT-A announced that the remaining funding gap was US$27.2 billion.

Following the new contributions announced at the G7 meeting, the total committed to ACT-A to date was US$10.3 billion and the funding gap was brought down to US$22.9 billion, according to the WHO press release.

Press release - WHO

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

UK hosts first G7 finance ministers’ meeting, centering green recovery, support to vulnerable countries, jobs protections, taxes on digital economy

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting on February 12, 2021. The UK Chancellor for the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, led the meeting by calling upon his counterparts – the Finance Ministers and Central Governors from France, Italy, Germany, Canada, the US, and Japan – to ensure a green recovery post-COVID-19 by putting the climate and nature at the center of all economic and financial decision-making in 2021.

Sunak also called for G7 countries to work with international institutions to enable vulnerable countries to manage the pandemic. This included supporting a rapid and fair vaccine distribution, and supporting debt relief, with a call for private-sector creditors to help ensure sustainable debt treatment to the poorest countries and ensure access to credit and grants for low-income countries.

Sunak also called for the G7 finance ministers to focus in the year ahead on protecting jobs and reaching a global solution to the tax challenges created by the digitalization of the economy.

The meeting comes ahead of the UK’s first G7 virtual leaders meeting on February 19, 2021.

Press release - UK government

News article - Devex

Canada commits US$79 million to women impacted by COVID-19 crisis, opens call for proposals

Canada's Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Maryam Monsef, has announced a call for proposals for the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund by March 25, 2021, "to fund eligible organizations to support a feminist response and recovery from the current impacts of COVID-19".

The Fund has dedicated CA$100 million (US$79 million) to support new projects that "increase women and girls' participation in Canada’s economic, social, democratic and political life".

Applications that specifically support marginalized or underrepresented women, including "Indigenous women, Black women, women of colour, women who are members of LGBTQ2 communities, and women living with disabilities or in rural or remote communities" will be given priority.

The Fund comprises three key focus areas:

  • Stopping gender-based violence;
  • Improving "economic security and prosperity" for women and girls; and
  • Promoting leadership roles for women and girls.

Press release - Women and Gender Equality Canada

ACT-A Facilitation Council announces funding gap of US$27.2 billion, asks countries not to compete with COVAX vaccine contracts

The Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) had its fourth meeting on February 9, 2021, to discuss its 2021 agenda and needs, including closing the funding gap of US$27.2 billion for 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, co-hosted and began his introductory remarks by welcoming the newly-joined US under President Joe Biden to ACT-A. 

Ghebreyesus stressed that more than 90% of countries currently administering COVID-19 vaccines are wealthy, and 75% of all doses given have been given in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries, he said, have not administered a single dose.

ACT-A and the COVAX Facility were created as part of global efforts coordinated by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among others, in order to increase access to vaccines and promote vaccine equity internationally, and these goals are being threatened, said Ghebreyesus.

He called for:

  1. Full financing of ACT-A and COVAX: The financing gap is at more than US$27.2 billion for 2021. He called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing and to unlock capital in multilateral development banks to help close the gap.
  2. Respect for COVAX contracts from all countries and a non-competition commitment: He referred here to countries who continue to sign bilateral vaccine deals while many nations have no vaccine doses at all. Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO's goal that the vaccination of health workers should be in progress in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021, which means that countries with more doses need to share and donate doses before going on to vaccinate their lower-risk populations. He warned that if COVID-19 is not suppressed globally, that variants of the virus could result in the world "back at square one".
  3. An urgent increase in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines: This could include "innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks".

Experts have warned that all countries need to take an "internationalist", not nationalist, approach to vaccination rollout and tacking COVID-19, otherwise experts fear that some low-income countries may not receive vaccines until 2024.

Visuals from the 'ACT-A Prioritized Strategy & Budget for 2021' presentation illustrate the contributors of a total of US$6.0 billion to ACT-A, as of February 3, and the breakdown of the US$27.2 billion needed for 2021. According to an update as of February 12, ACT-A has an additional US$4.0 billion in projected funding, so the US$27.2 billion funding gap "will be reduced to US$23.2 billion as projected funds are operationalized."

Transcript - WHO

Event website - WHO

Canada responds to global refugee education crisis with 'Together for Learning' campaign

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced the launch of a three-year 'Together for Learning' global campaign responding to the "education crisis for refugees and internally displaced children and youth" as a result of COVID-19, working to provide high-quality educational opportunities for refugees and displaced children.

The campaign aims to: 

  1. Deliver effective programs based on high-quality evidence;
  2. Amplify local voices, and;
  3. Enhance diplomatic engagement.

The campaign also includes the formation of the Refugee Education Council, composed of relevant stakeholders with lived experience of being forcibly displaced or hosting forcibly displaced peoples. 

 Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Canada commits US$1.8 million to civil society organizations advancing democracy in Belarus

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, has announced Canada's continued support to civil society organizations "working to help advance democracy in Belarus." 

Canada will provide CA$2.3 million (US$1.8 million) to civil society organizations. This commitment is in addition to a CA$600 thousand (US$470 thousand) commitment made in 2020 to support women and independent media in Belarus.

Canada is committed to working with international partners to combat threats to democracy and human rights violations in Belarus.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

WHO Europe director urges wealthier countries to share COVID-19 vaccines as soon as 20% of own population is vaccinated

The head of the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Kluge, called on high-income countries to show solidarity with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as 20% of their own populations have been vaccinated. 

He pointed out that some richer countries—including the US, UK, Canada, and those in the EU—have already purchased, through bilateral deals with vaccine companies, "four to nine times more doses" than what they would need.

Kluge urged them to not wait until they have reached the threshold of 70% vaccinated for herd immunity before they begin sharing vaccines with LMICs.

He also opposed the idea of ‘vaccine passports’ to enable those who have been vaccinated to be able to travel because he said it would increase inequities. 
News article - France24

UK should ensure G7 summit shows "Western unity", finds solutions to climate and health crises, includes more African leaders, says think tank

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), a UK security think tank, has published an article arguing for the UK government to focus on four key issues at the G7 summit that the country is hosting this year:

  1. Showing "Western unity": After limited US engagement during the Trump administration, RUSI called for the G7 summit to focus on the display of strong unity between the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and the EU, the current G7 members. While the UK government’s invitations to India, Australia, and South Korea as guests to the G7 summit in 2021 is welcome, RUSI argued that its keenness to permanently expand the G7 to include these countries and create a 'G10' risks causing divisions. RUSI particularly referred to India's differing foreign policy relationships.
  2. Addressing the twin crises of our time, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic: RUSI also calls for the G7 to ensure that as hard times fall, that world does not turn its back on globalization and resort to economic nationalism, by showing that the solution to these crises requires collective action, for example, by promoting a collaborative approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  3. Recognizing the strategic significance of "sub-Saharan Africa" by belatedly inviting African leaders to key G7 meetings: RUSI noted that the UK government’s failure to invite African leaders to the summit, as has been the case for the last five G7 summits, along with the steep cut in UK development assistance, risks signalling that an Indo-Pacific "tilt" comes at the expense of Africa. According to RUSI, it is not too late to remedy the situation by inviting key African leaders to certain G7 meetings.
  4. Tackling threats to liberal democracy posed by populism and extremism: RUSI wrote that many of the threats are transnational in nature and require common and coordinated responses. 

The UK government also launched its G7 youth engagement initiative, 'Y7', which aims to gather youth leaders from around the world to enable their voices to be heard and to ensure that the G7 helps build a greener and more prosperous world for all in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - RUSI

Canada will receive vaccine supply from first COVAX Facility allotment; critics say distribution should prioritize low-income nations

The COVAX Facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine procurement mechanism, has announced that Canada will receive 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June 2021.

While over 180 countries are a part of COVAX, Canada is the only G7 country that will receive vaccines from the first COVAX allotment. The majority of countries "drawing" from this first supply are low- and middle-income countries (with the exception of New Zealand and Singapore). Canadian federal opposition leaders are critiquing the government's decision, claiming that the first batch of supply should go to countries who are more in need. 

Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, responded to the backlash by stating that from the beginning, COVAX was a key part of Canada's procurement strategy and that "the COVAX mechanism is working precisely as designed." 

News release - CBC

Sweden and Canada jointly commit US$28 million to pandemic research in low-income countries focused on artificial intelligence

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have agreed to jointly invest SEK 232 million (US$28 million) in the Global South AI4COVID Program, which is supported by Pulse Lab Jakarta (a joint data innovation facility of the government of Indonesia and the UN).

The new research program will support multidisciplinary research in low- and middle-income countries focused on evidence-based artificial intelligence (AI) and data science methods to facilitate emergency management and recovery from COVID-19, as well as strengthen readiness for future pandemics. Three specific areas will be targeted: policy research, AI innovations, and training for local researchers. The program will support about 130 researchers in countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America over a period of two to four years. Currently, methods are being developed to collect more inclusive COVID-19 data as well as data on the impacts of the pandemic on socio-economic variables, gender-based violence, and human rights.

"Research depends on large amounts of local and specific data. The data available today for more advanced automated systems with artificial intelligence is often adapted for people in our part of the world, and in many cases not very useful in Sida's partner countries," said Anna Maria Oltorp, Head of Research Collaborations at Sida. "This is something that the research program within AI will address."

Website - The Global South AI4COVID Program

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Kaiser Family Foundation releases 2019 report on family planning funding

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit organization that focuses on US and global health, released its 'Donor Government Funding for Family Planning in 2019' report in January 2021.

The report found that:

  • Donor governments' funding levels for family planning in 2019 were similar to those of 2018;
  • In 2019, half of the studied donors increased bilateral funding for family planning;
  • The US was the largest donor to family planning, followed by the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada; 
  • Funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) remained steady compared to 2018 levels; and 
  • Funding levels in the future may be negatively affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, but there might be more support from the Biden administration if future funding requests are approved by Congress.

Report - KFF

Canada contributes US$12 million to UN Peacebuilding Fund

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, announced at the virtual UN Peacebuilding Fund Replenishment Conference, that Canada will commit CA$15 million (US$12 million) to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. 

The Fund, started in 2006, "empowers UN entities, local governments, regional organizations, financial institutions and civil society and helps prevent conflict and build peace in fragile states." Canada has consistently proven itself to be a top donor to the Fund. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Climate Adaptation Summit convenes world leaders, launches Adaptation Action Agenda to enact resiliency measures

World leaders convened digitally at the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) to launch partnerships to tackle the climate crisis, pledge financial support, and sign on to adaptation measures to be enacted while countries fight to prevent further environmental devastation. The Summit was hosted by the Netherlands on January 25-26, 2021.

CAS resulted in the "2030 Adaptation Action Agenda for accelerating climate adaptation action", which aims to make 2021-2030 a "make-or-break" decade of action against the climate crisis. The Agenda takes into account the new challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, with further commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015 by all UN member states.

The Climate Adaption Summit also helps prepare for COP26, the annual UN Climate Change Conference, which will take place in November 2021 after being postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government participants included the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the UK, many of whom made announcements or pledges:

Australian Minister for Environment, Sussan Ley, announced that Australia would develop a new climate resilience and adaptation strategy this year, and the country will join the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, an initiative of COP26.

France’s Climate Ambassador, Stéphane Crouzat, announced a new €4 million (US$5 million) contribution to the CREWS Initiative, "a mechanism that funds Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for risk informed early warning services".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged €220 million (US$268 million) to support low-income countries adapting to the climate crisis.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new 'Adaptation Action Coalition'—developed in partnership with Bangladesh, Egypt, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, and the UN—that aims to turn political commitments made through the UN 'Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience' into tangible support. Around 120 countries including the EU and 90 organizations have signed this.

Newly-appointed US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, reiterated that the US is rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and is working on its new nationally determined contribution (NDC). The US will announce its NDC "as soon as practical" and plans to "significantly increase the flow of finance, including concessional finance" to help adaptation and resilience measures.

International institution and business leaders also attended and announced initiatives:

President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert Houngbo, officially launched a climate adaptation fund, the 'Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program', to help smallholder farmers. IFAD aims to mobilize US$500 million to support more than 10 million people.

President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, announced the launch of the 'Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program' (AAAP), in coordination with the Global Center on Adaptation. The program aims to mobilize US$25.0 billion to "scale up and accelerate climate change adaptation actions across Africa".

Without "internationalist" COVID-19 response, low-income countries may go unvaccinated until 2024, say Canadian academics

In an op-ed, Canadian academics Dr. Marie-Joëlle Zahar and Dr. Maïka Sondarje challenged the notion that COVID-19 is a "great equalizer", arguing that COVID-19 and its impacts will be "experienced differently by the Global North and South".

Despite statements from many countries supporting universal vaccine access, there is a risk that some low-income countries will not receive COVID-19 vaccines until 2024, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

A "nationalist" approach to COVID-19 is limited in its ability to address the pandemic's consequences. The authors suggest that Canada take a truly "international" approach by:

  1. Temporarily suspending intellectual property rules; 
  2. Advocating for migrants' and refugees' access to healthcare;
  3. Raising budget allocations for international assistance portfolios; 
  4. Preventing violent conflicts; and 
  5. Supporting international organizations.

Op-ed - Open Canada

Canada launches investigation into UNRWA educational materials

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has issued a statement of concern regarding educational materials used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that "contained references that violated UN values of human rights, tolerance, neutrality and non-discrimination."

These educational materials were given to Palestinian refugee children in the West Bank and Gaza when schools were closed during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in the Gaza Strip, was quoted as saying that hostile parties have been "spreading misleading materials and news about UNRWA or circulating existing facts out of their true context." The organization has been struggling financially since the Trump administration cut funds from the US, previously the largest individual donor, to the agency in 2018, and in the meantime, the number of refugees continues to rise.

Canadian officials are currently investigating the UNRWA.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Canadian scholars call on government to support Ethiopia and Tigray reconciliation

In a recent op-ed, Canadian scholars called on their government to support Ethiopia with post-conflict reconciliation.

Ann Fitz-Gerald and Hugh Segal argue that the conflict between the state of Ethiopia and the country's northern region of Tigray could lead to increased tensions in other African regions. The authors believe that lessons learned from Canada’s ongoing development and implementation of truth and reconciliation policies for indigenous communities could prove useful to Ethiopia in moderating a rapidly escalating crisis.

Op-ed - Policy Options 

Canada recognizes milestone of world's first refugee vaccinated against COVID-19

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has recognized the world's first COVID-19 vaccine delivered to a refugee as a major milestone. Gould stated that vaccinating the most vulnerable populations, globally, is essential for ending the pandemic. 

Canada has committed CA$865 million (US$680 million) to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an international effort to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and CA$220 million (US$173 million) to the COVAX Facility, an ACT-A initiative that helps low- and middle-income countries access vaccines. Gould is the co-chair of the international engagement group for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financial mechanism.

News article - CTV Canada