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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

EU to contribute additional US$118 million in grants to COVAX Facility for global COVID-19 vaccine access

European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, announced during a session of the Paris Peace Forum (an annual event with the theme this year to improve global health governance and green financing) that the EU will be contributing an additional €100 million (US$118 million) to the COVAX Facility, a global mechanism to equitably source and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

This is on top of a previous EU contribution to the COVAX Facility of €400 million (US$471 million) in guarantees in August 2020.

COVAX, which is run by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), is part of the ‘vaccine pillar’ of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to develop, manufacture, and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

The EU’s contributions will help to finance access to vaccines for lower- and middle-income countries that are unable to self-finance. The funding will come from the European Development Fund’s reserves and will go directly to Gavi.
 
Press release - European Commission

European ministers, parliamentarians call on European Commission to include gender equality in EU trade policy review

European ministers, including Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Sigrid Kaag, as well as members of the European Parliament (MEPs), sent a joint letter to the European Commission (EC) calling upon the EC to include gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in its trade policy review of the EU.

In the letter, the ministers and MEPs urge the EU to take immediate steps to fill the information gap about the interconnections between trade and gender. The letter also included eight measures to make the EU trade policy more gender-sensitive, ranging from reinforcing gender in all EU bilateral trade agreements, to encouraging international development programs that are targeted at gender-specific barriers.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands

European Commission reaches fourth deal on future COVID-19 vaccines with BioNTech and Pfizer

The European Commission signed its fourth contract to purchase 300 million doses of a future potential COVID-19 vaccine with the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance. This follows the companies’ recent announcement that their vaccine candidate has so far shown to have a 90% efficacy rate. However, exploratory talks for a deal had already been completed in September 2020.

The deal includes 200 million doses of BioNTech/Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, the option to purchase 100 million more, and the potential to donate doses to lower- and middle-income countries or to redirect to other European countries. This is BioNTech/Pfizer’s largest initial order of vaccine doses so far.

The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials. It will be manufactured in both Pfizer’s Belgian and BioNTech’s German production facilities.
 
The European Commission has also signed similar vaccine deals with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Johnson & Johnson).
 
Press release - European Commission
 
Press release - Pfizer

European Commission presents plans for European Health Union developed based on COVID-19 lessons

The European Commission (EC) published a Communication on its plans to build a European Health Union, alongside three legislative proposals to address cross-border health threats, strengthen the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and extend the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

While the EU does not have many health powers, given that health is considered a member state level competency, the EC has proposed new EU-level health mandates that would not require EU treaty changes (all health recommendations would be non-binding).

The plans to build a 'European Health Union' were developed based on the early lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, including that the EC’s response was hampered by weak EU health agencies and the lack of EU health policies and capabilities. The EC hopes that its plans will address the “gaps” in EU health powers to enable the EU to better lead and coordinate responses to future emergency health threats.

In order to strengthen the European Health Union, the plans propose that the ECDC provide recommendations on response measures and that the EU recognize emergencies and also provide advice on response measures. Further suggestions include:

  • A new EU Executive Steering Group on medical devices;
  • A permanent EMA emergency taskforce;
  • Strengthened EU clinical trials infrastructure;
  • The development and implementation of an EU health crisis preparedness and response plan;
  • ECDC epidemiological surveillance;
  • New European Health Data Space; and
  • The creation of a contact tracing technological system. 

The EC also plans to create an ‘EU BARDA’ modeled after the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), but the legislative proposal will not be presented until late 2021.

News article - Euractiv

Communication - European Commission

Cross-border health threats legislative proposal - European Commission

ECDC changes legislative proposal - European Commission

EMA changes legislative proposal - European Commission

European Parliament and Council presidency reach agreement on next EU long-term budget with US$17.7 billion additional funding for development, health, research

European Parliament (EP) negotiators and the German presidency of the Council of the EU have struck a political agreement on the next EU long-term budget that provides €15.0 billion (US$17.7 billion) in additional funding for flagship programs such as health, research, and education and €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) more in flexibility funding for future needs and crises. 

These changes would apply to the €1.80 trillion (US$2.10 trillion) deal struck by EU leaders in their July European Council meeting that included €1.07 trillion (US$1.26 trillion) for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) and €750.0 billion (US$882.8 billion) for the EU recovery fund, Next Generation EU.

The additional €16.0 billion (US$18.8 billion) in the compromise agreement for flexibility and targeted programs will be funded via revenue from competition fines (€12.5 billion, or US$14.7 billion) and reallocations (€2.5 billion, or US$2.9 billion).

Increases to program funding in the compromise deal from the EU leaders’ July deal include: 

  • €4.0 billion (US$4.7 billion) increase for the Horizon Europe research program’s health, climate, and digital research for a final program budget of €84.9 billion (US$99.9 billion);
  • €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) increase for the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) for a total budget of €71.8 billion (US$84.5 billion); and
  • €3.4 billion (US$4.0 billion) increase for the new EU4Health program, tripling the total to €5.1 billion (US$6.0 billion).

The EP-Council presidency agreement also includes a roadmap to introduce new sources of 'own resources' (additional revenue streams) in addition to the planned plastics levy, including a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a digital levy, a financial transaction tax (FTT), and a common corporate tax base. The EP also successfully negotiated the ability to have more budgetary scrutiny over Next Generation EU and increased ambition on biodiversity.

The deal will need to be approved by the whole European Parliament and unanimously adopted by the Council of the EU. The Council must also approve the Own Resources Decision that will enable the EU to begin borrowing funding for Next Generation EU, and then the Own Resources Decision will need to be ratified in the 27 member states’ national parliaments. Following this, negotiations will need to be finalized on the legislative files establishing the various EU programs.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to veto the MFF and Next Generation EU over his objection to a new mechanism linking EU funding to the rule of law. Other member states have threatened to veto if the rule-of-law mechanism is not approved. 

News article - Politico

News article - Science|Business

Press release - Council of the EU

Press release - European Parliament

European Commission proposes MFF budget compromise of US$17.7 billion increase in research, health, development funding

The European Commission has proposed a new potential compromise on the next EU long-term budget plan—the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF)—to help address the European Parliament’s demand for more money for vital programs, including research, development, education, health, and security. 

The compromise proposal would increase funding for target programs by €15.0 billion overall (US$17.7 billion), including a €500 million (US$591 million) top-up for research by shifting funds from the budget margins, as well as a €1.0 billion (US$1.8 billion) top-up for development programs using reflows from an investment facility.
 
The Parliament’s demands included a €39.0 billion (US$46.1 billion) increase in funding for certain programs, whereas EU governments have only been willing to offer a €10.0 billion (US$11.8 billion) increase. Although it cannot offer amendments, the Parliament must approve the MFF deal before it can be officially adopted by the EU governments in the Council of the EU. 
 
Negotiations continued on November 9, 2020, and a final vote is expected in mid-November during a Parliament plenary session. 

News article - Euractiv

News article - Politico Pro

EU to provide US$20 million to strengthen health systems in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan

The EU will provide €17 million (US$20 million) to strengthen health systems in Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan by supporting pandemic preparedness measures that:

  • Benefit internally displaced persons, refugees, and their host communities in Somalia;
  • Provide protective equipment for frontline workers in South Sudan; and
  • Strengthen Sudanese health systems.

This 'Team Europe' funding comes from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which is funded by the EU and its member states and will be delivered in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 
 
Press release - European Commission

Canada, EU impose sanctions on Belarus due to "ongoing human rights violations", election fraud

In coordination with the EU, Canada has imposed sanctions against Belarusian government officials "in response to gross and systemic human rights violations" that have restricted freedom of the press, expression, and peaceful assembly. 

The sanctions are being put in place after the fraudulent election in Belarus in August 2020 and the resulting "systemic campaign of repression and state-sponsored violence against public protests and the activities of opposition groups" by the Belarusian government, indicated the Canadian government's press release. 

The sanctions imposed on officials prohibit Canadians from "dealing in any property of these individuals or providing financial or related services to them." Further, these individuals are "inadmissible to Canada" under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

European Commission awards US$151 million to 23 COVID-19 research projects

The European Commission has awarded €128 million (US$151 million) to 23 new research projects addressing the COVID-19 crisis and its effects.

The funding will support research to strengthen and adapt industrial capacity for manufacturing prevention, diagnostics, and treatment equipment, as well as research to improve mitigation measures. This funding comes from the Horizon 2020 research framework program and is a part of the Commission’s €1.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) pledge to the Coronavirus Global Response initiative.

The projects' goals include: 

  • Repurposing manufacturing for vital medical supplies and equipment;
  • Improving surveillance and care through medical technologies, digital tools, and artificial intelligence analytics; and
  • Developing solutions to the behavioral, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - European Commission

EU supports Mozambique with US$118 million for education, health, social protection

The European Commission committed €100 million (US$118 million) in short-term budget support for Mozambique's government to enable the continuation of its essential services during the COVID-19 crisis. The funding supports an expansion of social protection, and it will help ensure that children can safely return to school and that vulnerable people can access health services.

Including the new funding, the Team Europe COVID-19 support from EU bodies and EU member states for Mozambique totals €170 million (US$201 million). The Commission will also support Mozambique’s civil society to strengthen accountability processes and provide the government technical assistance on monitoring COVID-19-related spending. 

Press release - European Commission

EU could start vaccinating 700 million people in April, says European Commission president

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU could begin vaccinating 700 million people with a supply of potential COVID-19 vaccines in April 2021.

Speaking at a press conference with her special advisor, global health expert Peter Piot, von der Leyen outlined the EU’s best-case scenario, that significant vaccine supplies would be available starting in April, which could fully cover the EU’s population of 446 million and still leave doses available for donation to poorer countries.

The EU has signed advance purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV) for potential COVID-19 vaccines. If all of these vaccine candidates end up being safe and effective, the EU would have 1.2 billion doses available in 2021. However, von der Leyen acknowledged that not all candidates will be successful.

Press conference video - European Commission

News article - Politico

EU seeks to lead WHO reform efforts, will jointly table resolution at World Health Assembly

Following a recent videoconference of health ministers, EU member states have decided to adopt a common position on the World Health Organization (WHO) reform process and to strengthen their role as a bloc in leading WHO reform efforts and responding to Europe's rising COVID-19 cases. 

Member states released Council conclusions calling for increased transparency, effectiveness, and influence for the WHO, as well as boosting funding and information-sharing.

The coalition will jointly table a resolution at the World Health Assembly on November 9, 2020, and plans to campaign worldwide to gain more support for their proposals.

Press release - Council of the EU

EU commits US$46 million to Malawi for nutrition, social protection

The EU has allocated €39 million (US$46 million) in support for Malawi to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through funding for nutrition and social protection. 

This support includes a €16 million (US$19 million) top-up to €70 million (US$83 million) in funding for a program called Afikepo that will enable 280,000 children in 200 primary schools to receive school meals.

The EU’s support will also provide €23 million (US$27 million) to the National Social Cash Transfer Programme, increasing the total funding from €50 million (US$59 million) to €73 million (US$86 million). This will increase the cash transfer program’s reach among poor rural households with limited access to the labor market from 65,000 beneficiaries to 80,000 in the next year, as well as enabling 27,000 poor urban households to receive three months of cash support to lessen the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

Press release - European Commission

EIB lends US$28 million to biotech company to develop potential COVID-19 treatment

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a financing agreement with Atriva Therapeutics, a German biotech company, for a €24 million (US$28 million) loan to finance the research, development, and clinical testing of a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Atriva will use the loan to begin Phase II clinical trials on its antiviral therapeutic candidate, ATR-002, for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The treatment targets RNA viruses, which also include diseases like influenza and SARS, in addition to COVID-19. The loan is backed by the Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (a European Commission and EIB collaboration).
 
Press release - Atriva

EU pledges US$52 million in humanitarian support, food assistance to Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger for 2020

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič pledged on behalf of the EU nearly €44 million (US$52 million) for the rest of 2020 to three countries in the Central Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – to help address ongoing humanitarian and food crises.

Across the region, which is facing one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises, more than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of the EU’s pledge, €20 million (US$24 million) will support the World Food Programme in addressing the food crisis in the region, while the rest of the funds will support humanitarian actions.

Press release - European Commission

European Commission’s 2021 plans include formation of continental research and development agency, COVID-19 humanitarian assistance

The European Commission released its 2021 work program listing key initiatives for the upcoming year, which includes plans to present a proposal for an agency for biomedical research and development to be a "European BARDA" (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) as well as building a "global approach" to the topics of research, innovation, education, and youth.

As Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed in her recent State of the European Union address, the Commission plans to put forward several health-related proposals in late 2021 to strengthen the "European health union" which includes creating a common data space for healthcare. The plan to strengthen the health sector also includes a new agency that would emulate the role of the United States' BARDA, which has allowed the US to quickly fund vaccine research, development, and manufacturing via advance deals with vaccine producers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas the EU had to repurpose an emergency instrument with limited funds for this purpose. The European BARDA would support biomedical research, preparation, and response. 

The 2021 work program additionally includes the release of proposals on:

  • The EU’s role in strengthening multilateralism, including by leading the global response to ensure equitable access to a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine (early mid-2021);
  • A renewed partnership with the EU’s Southern Neighborhood (early 2021); and
  • Humanitarian assistance in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (early 2021).  

Press release - European Commission

European Commission signs third purchasing deal for future COVID-19 vaccines with Johnson & Johnson

The European Commission (EC) signed a contract with Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (a Johnson & Johnson company) to purchase future potential COVID-19 vaccines. Should the vaccine prove effective, the deal includes 200 million doses of Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s vaccine candidate, as well as the option to purchase 200 million more.

It also includes the potential to donate doses to lower- and middle-income countries or to redirect to other European countries. Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s vaccine candidate is currently in large-scale phase III clinical trials.

This is the third contract that the EC has signed with a pharmaceutical company; the previous ones were with Sanofi-GSK and AstraZeneca.

Press release - European Commission

EU budget negotiations reach impasse as Parliament pushes for more research and health funding

Progress has stalled on negotiations on the next EU long-term budget, the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the Council of the EU spar over increased funding for certain areas, such as research and health. Talks on October 8, 2020, ended after only an hour with nothing achieved.

MEPs have been pushing to restore the budget increases to various programs proposed by the European Commission, while EU member states in the Council are opposed to reopening the debate on budget ceilings after a deal was only reached by heads of state in a marathon four-day European Council meeting in July.

The German presidency of the Council has offered a “compromise” proposal via letter on October 7, 2020, to prevent a parliamentary veto of the budget deal by suggesting “an increase for the whole financial period amounting to an upper single digit number (in bln. Euro) might possibly be viable".

In a response letter, MEP Johan Van Overtveldt said he was “disappointed” with the Council’s proposal to increase funding for some programs without increasing the size of the overall budget, saying, “strengthening the flagship programmes without touching the ceilings of the MFF, or without placing the costs for NGEU outside the ceilings of the MFF, is neither viable nor acceptable for the Parliament,” given this would mean either reducing funding for other programs or reducing already “very tight” margins.

Next Generation EU (NGEU) refers to a fund that supports the member states' economies during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
 
German Council presidency proposal - Politico
 
News article - EU Observer
 
News article - Science|Business

Civil society calls for reverse of cuts to development funding in EU’s long-term budget

Civil society organizations (CSOs) issued a joint call to EU leaders to reverse cuts made in their July European Council deal to the development budget in the EU’s next multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027.

The eight organizations – CONCORD, Climate Action Network, the ONE Campaign, VOICE, the Human Rights and Democracy Network, the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, Cooperatives Europe, and the European Network of Political Foundations – warned that the cuts to development will prevent the EU’s ability to be a strong global actor or to tackle global crises. The NGO networks and organizations jointly called on EU member states and the European Parliament – the institutions currently negotiating the MFF – to increase development funding to the level of the Commission’s 2018 proposal.

Press release - Human Rights & Democracy Network