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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release - UK government

News article - BCC

News article - The Guardian

EU to sign deal for 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines with more flexibility for dose donations

The EU is set to sign a new deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, which will provide more flexibility for the EU to resell or donate doses. 

While the deal is set to help provide for different scenarios in which the EU would require more vaccine doses, such as if booster shots are needed or for vaccinating children, it will also enable the EU to engage more in ‘vaccine diplomacy’ through donating doses to low- and middle-income countries with lower access to vaccines.

The European Commission has said it will create a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help facilitate donations from EU member states. 

News article - The New York Times

European Parliament adopts 2021-2027 EU research program, Horizon Europe, with strong focus on health, climate crisis, digitalization

The European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to adopt Horizon Europe, the EU’s new €95.5 billion (US$113.6 billion) research program for 2021-2027, which has a strong focus on research and innovation for global challenges like the climate emergency, digitalization, and the COVID-19 crisis. 

Horizon Europe consists of three pillars:

  1. Excellent Science;
  2. Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness; and
  3. Innovative Europe.

The program has applied since January 1, 2021, when it was provisionally put in place by the European Commission. 

Press release - European Parliament

European Commission President calls for African Green Deal for pandemic recovery

During a recorded opening message for the EU-Africa Forum on Green Investment in Africa, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for an ‘African Green Deal’ to drive a green recovery on the continent. 

Von der Leyen said that just as the EU’s recovery will be driven by the European Green Deal, the same could be true for Africa because the green transition is intended to fight the climate crisis as well as provide an economic opportunity.

The EU will work with African governments to see how it can be a partner in efforts toward a green transition in Africa, she said, including through green investing ahead of the COP26 (the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference) and the next EU-Africa Summit in spring of 2022.

News article - Euractiv

European Parliament calls for EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy to promote global transition to fair and sustainable agri-food system

A report by the European Parliament’s Committee on Development has called for the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy to help enable a global transition to resilient, fair, and sustainable agri-food systems that provide safe and affordable food for the global population. 

The report stated that the EU should help tackle all forms of malnutrition in humanitarian and development contexts, including in low-income countries. It emphasized the need for the Farm to Fork strategy to explicitly address gender inequality, strengthen resilience to climate change for smallholder farmers, and protect workers’ rights. 

The Committee on Development also encouraged the EU to support capacity-building for regional integration efforts such as the African Continental Free Trade Area. 

Report - European Parliament

EU Council reaffirms solidarity in global fight against COVID-19 crisis

The Council of the EU released conclusions reaffirming Team Europe’s (made up of the European Commission, EU member states, the European Investment Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) commitment to global solidarity in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic impacts.

The Council called for an inclusive and green post-pandemic recovery and for EU development funds to be programmed to support a transformative impact that is aligned with the development needs of EU partner countries. 

Conclusions - Council of the EU

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

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

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

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

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

Press release - UK government

Nearly 400 European parliamentarians call on EU and members states to support intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 medical tools

Members of the European Parliament and members of national parliaments in the EU have signed a joint appeal to the EU and EU member states’ governments to support a temporary waiver of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 medical tools. 

The 388 politicians who signed the agreement called for sharing proprietary technology and information with low- and middle-income countries to increase the manufacturing and availability of COVID-19 tests, vaccines, treatments, and protective equipment.

A TRIPS waiver had been proposed by South Africa and India to the World Trade Organization in October 2020, but the Commission and EU member states opposed the waiver. 

Joint appeal - Health Action International

C20 publishes statement ahead of Global Health Summit, calls on international leaders to support universal health coverage

The C20 (Civil 20), the G20 Engagement Group that brings together global civil society, published a statement ahead of the civil society consultation on sustainable health security preparedness and response that was held on April 20, 2021.

The consultation took place ahead of the Global Health Summit, which will be co-hosted by the Italian Presidency of G20 and the European Commission on May 21, 2021.

The C20 called on international leaders to support universal health coverage and consider health a global public good. Women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups and communities, must be at the center of global health strategies and responses, said the statement.

The civil society members emphasized the importance of a multilateral approach in response to the COVID-19 crisis and other pandemics. They also asked for growing support to the global partnership, Access to COVID 19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), and its vaccine pillar, COVAX.

Press release - Civil 20

EU Council approves new strategies for Indo-Pacific and Mediterranean cooperation on development, climate

The Council of the EU has approved conclusions on strategies for cooperation with both the Mediterranean region (or, the ‘Southern Neighbourhood’) and the Indo-Pacific region, which cover issues such as development, investing in young people, climate and the green transition, health, trade, and security.

Given the intense geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific, the EU will seek to contribute to regional stability, prosperity, and sustainable development in the region through trade and investment, tackling the climate crisis, and working together on security, defense, and inclusive socio-economic recovery.

In the Southern Neighbourhood, the EU will invest in socio-economic recovery, job creation, a just and inclusive green transition, and in the people of the region, especially young people. The EU will promote human rights and the rule of law, as well as seek to partner on security, migration, healthcare preparedness, and response capacities. 

Press release on Mediterranean region - Council of the EU

Press release on Indo-Pacific region - Council of the EU

Negotiations close on new EU/Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The EU and the members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) have concluded talks on a new Partnership Agreement to succeed the 21-year-old Cotonou Agreement, which is due to expire. 

The new agreement will govern relations between the EU and OACPS countries for the next twenty years. It covers issues such as human rights, sustainable economic development, migration and mobility, democracy, governance, peace and security, human development (e.g., health, education, and gender equality), and the climate crisis.

The agreement must be approved by the Council of the EU with consent from the European Parliament before it can be signed, which is expected to happen in the second half of 2021. 

Press release - European Commission

Q&A - European Commission

Agreement text - European Commission

OECD figures show EU and member states significantly increased ODA spending to US$79.5 billion in 2020

The EU and its 27 member states significantly increased official development assistance (ODA) to €66.8 billion (US$79.5 billion) in 2020, according to preliminary figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The €8.9 billion (US$10.6 billion) gain represents a 15% increase in nominal terms. 

In 2020, the EU and its member states’ combined ODA made up 0.50% of the EU27’s collective gross national income (GNI). This increase from 0.41% in 2019 is due in part to the increase in ODA but also due to a decrease of 4.70% in collective GNI.

The EU Institutions, made up of the European Commission and European Investment Bank (EIB), increased ODA by €3.7 billion (US$4.4 billion), or 27%, from 2019 for a total of €17.0 billion (US$20.2 billion).

The Commission’s ODA increased by €2.8 billion (US$3.3 billion), or 22%, from 2019 to €15.8 billion (US$18.8 billion) in 2020. Due to loans to the private sector, EIB-managed ODA increased by €830 million (US$988 million), or 211%, to €1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion).

Press release - European Commission

Q&A - European Commission

News article - Euractiv

Press release - OECD

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

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

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

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

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

Press release - UK government

Pandemic spending brought global foreign assistance to all-time high in 2020, but "much greater effort" needed, says OECD

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) released the preliminary data on its official development assistance (ODA) flows for 2020. Spending on COVID-19 relief pushed foreign assistance to an all-time high in 2020 (US$161.2 billion, +3.5% from 2019), but the OECD says funds are still insufficient.

Although governments internationally have provided the equivalent of US$16.00 trillion in COVID-19 stimulus measures, just 1% of that spending has been mobilized to help low-income countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis, said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. A "much greater effort" is needed to support vaccine distribution and health services and to support the income and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, he said.

The data showed that in 2020, 22% of bilateral ODA was provided as "non-grants" (loans or equity investments), an increase of 17% from previous years and a 39% increase from 2019 levels. By income group, flows to low-income countries decreased by 4% compared to 2019 while ODA to lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries increased by 7% and 36%, respectively. These trends imply that part of the ODA increase in 2020 is due to loans to middle-income countries at a time when debt relief is increasingly discussed, with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund recently calling for greater assistance to middle-income countries for tackling debt and the climate crisis.

Some of the donor-specific information includes the following:

  • Australia's ODA decreased by 11% due to cuts to bilateral assistance;
  • Canada's ODA increased by 8% due to heightened climate financing and in-country refugee costs;
  • EU Institutions saw a 25% increase in ODA due to a significant amount of additional funds for COVID-19 related activities and with sovereign lending increasing by 136% in real terms over 2019;
  • France's ODA increased by 11% due to an increase in its bilateral assistance and funding for COVID-19, including through lending;
  • Germany's ODA increased by 14% due primarily to the mobilization of additional ODA resources to fight the pandemic;
  • Italy's ODA decreased by 7% due to a drop in bilateral grants as well as in-country refugee costs;
  • Japan's ODA increased by 1% due to heightened bilateral lending;
  • The Netherlands' ODA decreased by 3% due to a loss of gross national income (GNI), as ODA levels were set based on maintaining the previous year's ODA-to-GNI ratio (0.59%);
  • Norway's ODA increased by 8% due to a rise in health-related ODA and contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • South Korea's ODA decreased by 9% due to cuts in its overall assistance program;
  • Spain's ODA decreased by 2% due to decreases in bilateral assistance;
  • Sweden's ODA increased by 17% due to heightened contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • The UK's ODA decreased by 10%, driven by the decrease in GNI while meeting the ODA to GNI ratio of 0.7%; and
  • The US' ODA increased by 5% due to increased contributions to multilateral organizations.

Press release - OECD

ODA 2020 detailed summary - OECD

More information - OECD

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

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

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

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

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

News article - The Guardian

Council of EU approves emergency US$147 million top-up in EU 2021 budget to combat COVID-19 crisis

The Council of the EU approved a top-up of €122 million (US$147 million) for efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis in the EU’s 2021 budget.

This emergency funding will be financed by the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve (SEAR) and will go toward Digital Green Certificates for reopening travel, diagnostics, variant sequencing through the HERA Incubator (Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority), an exchange platform for 'passenger locator forms' through which travelers provide contact information, and wastewater monitoring.

This top-up is one component of a broader European Commission request for a total increase of €345 million (US$417 million) in funding for the EU’s COVID-19 response. In addition to the approved financing from SEAR, €216 million (US$262 million) will be provided as fresh funding through an amended 2021 budget and will reinforce the above priorities, as well as putting aside €100 million (US$121 million) for emerging needs. The remaining €8 million (US$9 million) of the overall Commission request will be reallocated from existing 2021 budget envelopes. 

Press release - Council of the EU

‘Team Europe’ announces US$31.4 billion disbursed in 2020 to support partner countries’ COVID-19 response

On the one-year anniversary of the announcement that ‘Team Europe’ would pledge €20.0 billion (US$24.2 billion) to provide support for EU partner countries’ COVID-19 response, the European Commission announced that Team Europe ultimately disbursed €26.0 billion (US$31.4 billion) in 2020 of what is now a €40.0 billion (US$48.4 billion) response package.

The participants in the Team Europe pledge consisted of the EU, its member states, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The €26.0 billion (US$31.4 billion) represents 65% of the overall pledged amount disbursed so far. 

To date, Team Europe has provided support to more than 130 countries, including: 

  • €3.2 billion (US$3.9 billion) for emergency response to humanitarian needs, which is 90% of the funding that it committed;
  • €3.5 billion (US$4.2 billion) for strengthening health, water, and sanitation systems, which is 41% of the funding committed; and
  • €19.5 billion (US$23.6 billion) for mitigating the social and economic consequences of the pandemic, which is 68% of the funding committed. 

Press release - European Commission

Website - European Commission

EU announces US$149 million for research to combat new COVID-19 variants

The European Commission has mobilized €123 million (US$149 million) from Horizon Europe, the new EU research and innovation (R&I) framework program, as emergency funding for research on COVID-19 variants.

This funding builds on the €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) that the EU committed to COVID-19 R&I from its previous R&I program, Horizon 2020.

This new Horizon Europe funding will target projects that:

  • Establish large-scale, multinational cohorts, including outside of Europe; 
  • Develop new therapeutic or vaccine candidates; and
  • Speed up data sharing and delivery of research support and expertise.

These projects will help build the EU’s proposed new authority, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA). The calls will open on April 13, 2021, with a submission deadline of May 6, 2021. 

Press release - European Commission

EU Health Commissioner underlines EU support for global health cooperation on World Health Day

In a statement on April 6, 2021, a day before World Health Day, Stella Kyriakides (European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety) emphasized the EU’s continued support for global health cooperation, including by supporting COVAX, the initiative to provide global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as well as by strengthening health systems in other countries. 

Kyriakides said this support affirms the EU’s commitment to improving health, reducing inequalities, and protecting against global health threats for a fairer, healthier world. 

She also highlighted the new €5.1 billion (US$6.2 billion) EU4Health program, calling it the EU’s “most ambitious health financing program ever”. 

Press release - European Commission

European Commission launches public consultation on proposed new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA)

The European Commission launched a six-week public consultation online, which will run until May 12, 2021, on its proposal for a new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

The Commission is also conducting consultations on HERA with member states and stakeholders. Based on all of the input received, the Commission will finalize a legislative proposal in the final quarter of this year. 

The new authority is one of several proposals that make up the Commission’s plans to build a European Health Union. HERA’s focus would be on improving the EU’s preparedness and response to cross-border health emergencies. 

Press release - European Commission