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UK government launches consultation on new trading rules for low and lower-middle income countries

The UK government has started to consult on a new set of trading rules, the proposed ‘Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS)', for low- and lower-middle-income countries. The rules are aimed at helping low- and lower-middle-income countries trade their way out of poverty and will also benefit UK consumers with hopefully lower costs.

The UK government is still operating under the same rules as the European Union’s scheme but is now keen to take a simpler and more pro-growth approach to trade with these countries. The proposed DCTS would apply to 70 countries and aims to lower tariffs compared to those in the EU scheme and simplify rules of origin required for exporting in order to reduce bureaucracy. 

The consultation was launched on July 19, 2021 and will last for eight weeks and seeks views from all stakeholders.

Press release - UK government

Development priorities of Slovenian EU presidency will include education, gender equality, food security, health, and water

Ministers from Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from July 1-Dec. 31, 2021, briefed Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the presidency’s priorities, including its focus on helping EU partner countries recover from the pandemic through focusing on education, gender equality, food security, health, and water. 

Dr. Stanislav Raščan, a State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told MEPs that the Slovenian presidency will continue promoting gender equality through all of the EU’s external actions, while also working to integrate water policy across external policies.

Slovenia’s Education, Science, and Sport Minister, Simona Kustec, told MEPs the presidency’s priorities on research include European partnerships, the European Research Area, international cooperation, and gender equality. 

Press release - European Parliament

EU has struggled to maintain solidarity during the pandemic, finds Chatham House report

Researchers from Chatham House, an independent international affairs think tank, concluded in a new report that the EU has struggled to maintain solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. They cite the EU and its member states’ use of export bans, border closures, fraught negotiations over a recovery fund, and a slow start to vaccine procurement. 

The report does note that the EU was active on the international stage through its support for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 medical tools. But it also criticizes the EU for supporting COVAX, ACT-A’s vaccines pillar, while simultaneously cutting bilateral deals with vaccine producers that undermined COVAX’s success. 

Research paper - Chatham House

Council of the EU proposes cuts to development budget of US$19.5 billion in draft 2022 EU budget, but budget would still exceed 2021 allocations

The Council of the EU adopted a position on the European Commission’s draft 2022 EU budget that would cut funding for the Neighborhood, Development, and International Instrument (NDICI) by €500 million (US$602 million) for a new allocation of €16.2 billion (US$19.5 billion).

The proposed cuts still preserve a significantly higher 2022 budget for NDICI than the allocation of €12.1 billion (US$14.6 billion) in the 2021 EU budget. 

Within the Council’s cut to NDICI in the Commission’s draft budget, €100 million (US$120 million) would come from the common provisioning fund for the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD+) and €400 million (US$482 million) would come from the emerging challenges and priorities cushion.

Press release - Council of the EU

Team Europe to support Senegal in building vaccine manufacturing facility for COVID-19 and other diseases

The European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a grant agreement with Senegalese President Macky Sall to provide support in building a manufacturing facility for vaccines, including for COVID-19, in Senegal.

This project is a part of the new ‘Team Europe’ (EC, EIB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and EU member states) initiative, which aims to help African nations manufacture vaccines, medicines, and health technologies and reduce their dependence on imports for these products for health and pandemic response and help boost their economies.

Financing and technical assistance will be provided by the EC, the EIB, Germany, France, and Belgium, as well as other non-European partners such as the US and the World Bank Group. 

Press release - European Commission

Press release - European Investment Bank

Members of European Parliament to hold debate on how to combat food security in low-income countries

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the Development Committee will hold a debate on July 13, 2021, on the global humanitarian and food security situation with UN World Food Programme's (WFP) David Beasley presenting on WFP’s work. 

The number of people facing acute food insecurity in 2020 hit a five-year high due to conflict, extreme weather, the COVID-19 crisis, and other economic shocks.

This discussion will help inform an upcoming committee report on food security in low-income countries.

Press release - European Parliament

Gender-based violence costs EU US$441.0 billion yearly, finds European Institute for Gender Equality

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) will publish a study on the cost of gender-based violence (GBV) in August of 2021. GBV is estimated to cost €366.0 billion (US$441.0 billion) per year in the EU, with the cost of violence against women equaling 79% of this cost.

Supporting people who experience this violence is not enough—the EU needs to invest in actions and structures that prevent the violence and protect victims and survivors, said EIGE Director Carlien Scheele.

The study calculated the costs of GBV through the following categories:

  • Physical and emotional impact (56%);
  • Criminal justice services (21%); and
  • Lost economic input (14%).

Other relevant costs include civil justice services (child custody proceedings, divorces, etc.), housing assistance, and child protection.

To calculate data accurately, EU countries need detailed information from public services (including the justice sector and law enforcement), as well as data from surveys because GBV is under-reported. Detailed data collection is required under the Istanbul Convention, which all EU members signed (21 ratified). 

Press release - EIGE

At Generation Equality Forum, EU pledges US$4.9 billion to women’s and girls’ empowerment, commits to proposing new legislation to combat gender-based violence by end of year

At the Paris-held Generation Equality Forum, the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment, the EU committed to providing at least €4.0 billion (US$4.9 billion) in its 2021-2027 long-term budget to be explicitly dedicated to women’s and girls’ empowerment. The EU also pledged to propose new legislation by the end of 2021 to combat gender-based violence and hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people, as well as adding all forms of hate crimes to the list of crimes in the EU treaties. 

The European Commission was a leader of Action Coalition 1 on Gender-Based Violence along with Iceland, Kenya, the UK, Uruguay, UN Women, the World Health Organization, the Ford Foundation, European Women’s Lobby, and civil society and private sector organizations. 

In November of 2020, the European Commission published the EU’s new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in External Action 2021–2025 (GAP III), which featured plans to have one gender-focused project per partner country and a target of 85% of all new external relations actions to contribute to gender equality and women's empowerment by 2025. GAP III’s key thematic areas of engagement included ending gender-based violence; sexual and reproductive health and rights; economic and social rights and empowerment; equal participation and leadership; women, peace and security; and green and digital transformations. 

Video of speech - European Commission

At Generation Equality Forum, UK government commits to financing US$91 million for Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program

At the Paris-held Generation Equality Forum, the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment, the UK government committed to providing £68 million (US$91 million) to support its seven-year Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program. The program, which builds on earlier initiatives, will support innovation and scale up proven methods to prevent violence.

The UK is a leading member of the Gender-Based Violence Action Coalition along with Kenya, Iceland, Uruguay, UN Women, the EU, and the Ford Foundation. The Coalition is committed to supporting evidence-based policies and financing women’s organizations to:

  • Ensure that 550 million more women and girls live in countries with laws that prohibit all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) against women by 2026;
  • Increase by 50% the number of countries that include one or more prevention strategies in their national policies by 2026;
  • Ensure that more women and girls will live in countries with multi-sectoral action plans against GBV which include the provision of police, justice, health, and social sector services by 2026; and
  • Improve and increase international funding by 50% to women’s rights organizations, activists, and movements, including those working to address GBV of all kinds against women and girls by 2026.

On the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab, committed as a leader of the Action Coalition to "tackle the root causes of violence, including using education to stop violence before it starts." Raab said that the UK will continue its work on "preventing sexual violence in conflict, supporting survivors, and holding perpetrators to account."

The UK government also took the opportunity to use the Generation Equality Forum to remind member states to provide ambitious commitments to girls' education, ahead of the Global Education Summit on July 28-29, 2021, in the UK.

Twitter - UN Women

Twitter - Emily Esplen, Gender Advisor at FCDO

Twitter - Wendy Morton MP, Minister for Foreign, Common, and Development Office UK 

Generation Equality Forum concludes with major financial and political commitments for gender equality

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF), the UN Women-convened summit to accelerate gender equality investment, kicked off in Mexico City on March 29-31, 2021, and culminated in Paris on June 30-July 2. The Forum brought together high-level stakeholders including heads of government, corporations, and NGOs to accelerate major financial and political commitments to achieving gender equality by 2026. 

Country donors announced the following commitments:

  • Canada committed CA$180 million (US$146 million) to address the root causes of gender inequality around the world, including unpaid and paid care work in low- and middle-income countries. Canada also announced that it will commit CA$100 million (US$81 million) in new funding for stand-alone international assistance directed to inequality in unpaid and paid care work;
  • The EU committed at least €4.0 billion (US$4.9 billion) in the EU’s 2021-2027 long-term budget to be specifically dedicated to women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment. The EU also pledged to propose new legislation by the end of 2021 to combat violence against women and hate crimes against LGBTQI+ people, as well as adding all forms of hate crimes to the list of crimes in the EU treaties;
  • France committed an additional €100 million (US$122 million) in this sector for the next five years. It also announced that €250 million (US$304 million) will be mobilized by the French Development Agency (AFD) through the bilateral channel for sexual reproductive and health rights (SRHR);
  • Germany increased its commitment to women's economic empowerment initiatives by €140 million (US$166 million), bringing Germany's total commitment to the GEF to US$285 million (€240 million). US$30 million (€25 million) of that will go to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative;
  • The Netherlands pledged US$620 million to feminist organizations and movements, including supporting the Action Coalition on economic justice, the Action Coalition on bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the Action Coalition on climate justice;
  • Sweden pledged to support the implementation of the Common Agenda for Comprehensive Abortion Care and increase resources and support for existing funding mechanisms through the Action Coalition on feminist movements and leadership;
  • The UK recommitted to providing £68 million (US$91 million) to support its seven-year-long Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention program; and
  • The US pledged US$175 million to support programs against gender-based violence and to mobilize US$12.0 billion through 2025 in investments by the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in businesses that advance gender equity in emerging markets through the 2X Women's Initiative.

Newsletter - Donor Tracker

News article - Forbes

News article - UN News

More than 200 civil society organizations call on EU not to block international negotiations on COVID-19 intellectual property waiver

More than 200 civil society organizations (CSOs) globally have signed an open letter to the EU calling on it to engage in text-based negotiations for a waiver on the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for COVID-19 medical products.

The European Commission and most EU member states have expressed opposition to a temporary TRIPS waiver to increase global access to COVID-19 vaccines and other medical products. The Commission presented an alternative proposal to increase COVID-19 vaccine access, but CSOs say the proposal does not go far enough. The European Parliament, however, has called for the EU to engage in text-based negotiations, and national parliaments in Spain, France, and Italy have also expressed support for a waiver. 

Open letter - Health Action International

European Parliament adopts report urging EU member states to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

The European Parliament voted in a recent plenary session to adopt a report calling for EU member states to ensure universal access for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). 

The report recognizes the negative impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women’s health and rights and urges member states to ensure access to safe and legal abortion as well as high-quality contraceptive methods and family counseling. The report emphasizes the need for comprehensive sexuality education for primary and secondary school children to help reduce sexual violence and harassment. Members of the European Parliament also endorsed exemptions for value-added tax (VAT) on menstrual products. 

Press release - European Parliament

EU member states commit to strengthening EU approach to development

EU member states representatives in the Council of the EU released several sets of Council conclusions on enhancing the European financial architecture for development, affirming the EU’s commitment to human development (including through the global COVID-19 response), establishing tailored partnerships with middle-income partner countries, and "building back better" after COVID-19 through implementing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. 

Conclusions included: 

  • To enhance the European financial architecture for development, the whole European financial ecosystem, especially the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, should strengthen cooperation with European development banks in a 'Team Europe' approach and combine resources for better results on the ground.
  • The Council affirmed its support for human development through official development assistance (ODA). The EU should continue to ensure universal, equitable access to essential medicines, vaccines, and health technology, notably through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccines pillar, COVAX. The Council calls on the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take "concrete financial actions" to reach the EU's spending target of 20% of ODA for human development.
  • The Council affirmed the EU's commitment to establishing tailored partnerships with middle-income countries (MICs) in line with the European Consensus on Development, the EU’s development strategy. The EU should do more to support MICs’ sustainable and inclusive recovery, but also to support lowest-income countries in becoming lower-middle-income countries to transition to newer, more sustainable forms of development financing and cooperation.
  • The COVID-19 crisis is threatening global progress on the SDGs, so the EU should help partner countries to “build back better and greener” by taking concrete actions to implement the SDGs.

Conclusions on European financial architecture for development - Council of the EU

Conclusions on human development - Council of the EU

Conclusions on middle-income countries - Council of the EU

Conclusions on SDGs - Council of the EU 

Former Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs appointed new EU Special Representative for Sahel

The European Council appointed Emanuela Del Re as one of three new European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs), with Del Re's role to be specifically on the Sahel from July 1, 2021 to August 30, 2022.

Del Re served as Italy’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from August 2018 to February 2021.  She was elected to the Italian parliament for the first time with the Five Star Movement in March 2018. Del Re is a sociologist and specialized in topics pertaining to migration, refugees, conflict studies, religion, and minority populations.

Press release – European Council website 

NGO Plan International’s representative calls for feminism to be at heart of EU’s foreign policy

The Head of the EU Office and EU Representative of Plan International, Serap Altinisik, penned an op-ed in Euractiv calling on the EU to put feminism at the heart of its foreign policy.

Altinisik said the EU is still “rightfully seen as a global gender equality champion”, especially in light of the European Commission’s recently released ambitious Gender Action Plan for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in its external action. However, the EU faces opposition internally from some member states such as Hungary and Poland. 

To be a “global feminist champion”, Altinisik recommended that the EU should mainstream an “intersectional and gender transformative approach” across its policies and directorates.

Op-Ed - Euractiv

European Commission proposes new actions on pandemic preparedness and response in paper on COVID-19 lessons learned

The European Commission published a ‘Communication on COVID-19 Lessons Learned’ that included proposals for actions on pandemic preparedness and response, to apply lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

The Communication emphasized the need for a global approach, proposing that the EU should continue to lead the global response through COVAX (the global vaccine initiative), vaccine sharing, and export openness, in addition to strengthening the global health security architecture, such as through the World Health Organization.

Other proposed actions included: 

  • Setting up a global surveillance system;
  • Appointing a European Chief Epidemiologist;
  • Operationalizing a new Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) by early 2022;
  • Creating a large-scale EU platform for clinical trials; and
  • Strengthening member states’ health systems.

Policy paper - European Commission

Annual report says collective EU was biggest global ODA provider in 2020

The Council of the EU’s 11th annual report to the European Council on EU development assistance targets showed that the EU institutions (EUI) and the EU member states were collectively the biggest global official development assistance (ODA) provider, having provided 46% of total ODA.

The EU's collective ODA reached €66.8 billion (US$79.9 billion) in 2020, or 0.5% of the EU’s gross national income (GNI), which is up from €57.9 billion (US$69.3 billion) in 2019 (excluding the UK), or 0.41% of GNI. However, ODA to lowest-income countries decreased to 0.1% of GNI, which falls short of the EU’s 0.15-0.2% target.

EU member states collectively had a nominal 15% increase "through a Team Europe approach" in COVID-19 response, which mobilized €40.5 billion (US$48.4 billion, as of January 2021) to help partner countries in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Report - Council of the EU

Spain calls upon EU to strengthen COVID-19 response in middle-income countries

On June 14, 2021, during an informal meeting of EU development ministries, the Spanish State Secretary for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, underlined the need for providing middle-income countries with technical and financial assistance in order to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.

Ángeles Moreno proposed to create a new fiduciary fund at the International Monetary Fund to ensure that middle-income countries, particularly those in the Latin American and the Caribbean region, can have access to international funding to respond to COVID-19. Moreno also underlined the importance of continuing to promote human development as a key instrument to foster nutrition, health, and education worldwide.

Press release – Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (in Spanish)

G7 leaders agree to provide one billion vaccine doses to low-income countries; critics say this is far from enough

The leaders attending the UK-hosted G7 Summit on June 11-13, 2021, agreed to provide one billion vaccine doses to low-income countries, with the UK committing to provide 100 million.

The communique commits to sharing at least 870 million doses directly over the next year, but it is not clear whether this is related to surplus doses only.

While the move is welcome, it has been widely criticized by civil society groups and UK opposition parties as falling far short of the mark, as the World Health Organization has estimated that 11 billion doses are needed to end the pandemic. Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, from the UK Labour Party, stated that the Summit was an "unforgivable moral failure". 

News article - Devex

Spain and EU to provide US$6 million to fight COVID-19 in Central American countries

On June 11, 2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) decided to disburse, in collaboration with the European Union, €5 million (US$6 million) for Central American partner countries to purchase essential medicines and health supplies to respond to COVID-19 in the region.

This funding will be channeled through the Central American Integration System (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA)) in 2021. While the EU will provide an overall amount of €4 million (US$5 million), Spain's AECID will disburse up to €500,000 (US$600,000) to this initiative.  

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)