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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

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

At G7 summit, Japan commits US$79 million to COVAX, discusses international cooperation and Tokyo Olympics

On February 19, 2021, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended the virtual G7 summit, where he discussed COVID-19 vaccines, international cooperation, and the Tokyo Olympics.

Suga highlighted the importance of the COVAX Facility in achieving the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide. 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.

He also discussed relations with China, including "Japan’s concerns on attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China Sea", as well as his desire to hold a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics during the summer of 2021.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement - G7

Japan provides US$668 million to African Development Bank fund for economic growth and poverty alleviation

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided ¥73.0 billion (US$668 million) to the African Development Bank for the Fifteenth Replenishment of the African Development Fund (ADF-15).

This loan will contribute to economic growth and help alleviate poverty in low-income countries in Africa during the ADF-15 period, from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2022. The loan will be used for activities focusing on the African Development Bank’s 'High 5s', or development priorities: "Light up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa."

This loan consists of grant participation and concessional lending, with an annual interest rate of 0.11%, a repayment period of 40 years, and a grace period of 10 years.

Press release - Japan International Cooperation Agency

News article - Reuters

Japan provides emergency grant assistance of US$6 million for people affected by crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region

Japan announced that it will provide US$6 million in emergency grant assistance for people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia since an armed conflict broke out in November 2020.

Through the World Food Programme, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Japan will provide health-related humanitarian assistance, including mental health services and the repairing of health centers, as well as the provision of relief items such as food and hygiene products.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Japan provides US$4 million to support women in refugee camps in Kenya

Japan has provided ¥485 million (US$4 million) to support women in refugee camps in Kenya.

Refugees, especially women, in Kenya are at increased risk of violence from Al-Shaabab, a militant group based in Somalia and designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 2008. The refugees are also threatened by natural disasters, such as droughts and floods.

Japan will work with UN Women to provide vocational training and to protect survivors of sexual violence. This initiative aims to empower women and improve security.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

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

Japan contributes additional US$70 million for distribution of vaccines to low-, middle-income countries

During the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council meeting, Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan will provide an additional US$70 million from the amount committed in October 2020, making the total US$200 million, to the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), a financing instrument to support low- and middle-income countries access COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Motegi emphasized the importance of strengthening international collaboration and achieving universal healthcare coverage. Motegi also stated that Japan will strengthen health systems through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and promote the distribution of therapeutic drugs through Unitaid.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Fourth International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Liaison Office established in Japan

An International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)’s Liaison Office was established in Japan to raise the importance of investing in small-scale farming and reducing hunger in low-income countries. This is the fourth IFAD’s Liaison Office in the world.

The IFAD Liaison Office in Japan will help tackle issues such as food insecurity, undernutrition, and poverty in rural areas. These actives will contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 1 ('No Poverty') and SDG 2 ('Zero Hunger').

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Japan provides US$28 million to develop fishing ports, fish markets in Indonesia

The Japan International Cooperation (JICA) announced plans to provide up to ¥3.0 billion (US$28 million) to Indonesia for the Programme for the Development of Fisheries Sector in Outer Islands (Phase 2).

The project aims to strengthen and establish fishing ports and fish markets on the outer islands of Indonesia, which will stimulate the local fishing industry and improve the living conditions of coastal communities.

This initiative will contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): SDG 8 (‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’), SDG 10 (‘Reduced Inequalities’), and SDG 14 (‘Life Below Water’).

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Japan, Asian Development Bank sign memorandum of cooperation to promote green energy in ASEAN region

Japan and the Asian Development Bank signed a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) under the Cleaner Energy Future Initiative (CEFIA) for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote renewable and low-carbon energy.

This MOC will support the implementation of CEFIA projects, as well as develop policies that accelerate research activities and foster the sharing of data and knowledge. As of 2020, the Asian Development Bank’s investment in clean energy in the ASEAN region reached US$440 million, which consisted of 22% of their portfolio.

Press release – Asian Development Bank (in Japanese)

Japanese Prime Minister discusses policy priorities during Davos Agenda

On January 29, 2021, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga provided an overview of Japan’s policy priorities during the virtual Davos Agenda, a meeting of global leaders gathered by the World Economic Forum.

Japan’s policy priorities include becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, contributing to digital expansion such as through increasing research and development and strengthening international rule-making, and promoting multilateral trade systems and free and fair economic zones. Suga also stated that a successful 2021 Olympics would symbolize global unity in overcoming COVID-19.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Japan provides US$289 million for COVID-19 response in Papua New Guinea

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided up to US$289 million in loans for the COVID-19 response in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Due to a reduction in economic activity and a decrease in the price of crude oil, economic growth is expected to drop.

This loan is expected to contribute to the recovery, stability, and sustainable development of PNG through financial support co-financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as well as through the curbing of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Japan to contribute US$10 million to UN Peacebuilding Fund

On January 26, 2021, Japan’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Uto Takahashi expressed Japan’s commitment to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), noting the increasing need for peacebuilding in light of the COVID-19 crisis and announcing that Japan will provide US$10 million for the Fund’s 2020-2024 Strategy.

The PBF is the UN's "financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict" which can include cooperation with "UN entities, governments, regional organizations, multilateral banks, national multi-donor trust funds or civil society organizations".

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Japan provides additional US$763 million for international cooperation on COVID-19

Japan’s House of Representatives, the Lower House, agreed on a supplementary budget of US$185.0 billion to counter the COVID-19 crisis, and US$763 million will be used for international cooperation to tackle the pandemic.

The US$763 million will be used on projects such as strengthening COVID-19 countermeasures abroad including in countries such as Afghanistan, as well as investing in Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Unitaid, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and other research and international cooperations working on addressing the crisis.

News article – The Japan Times

Press release – Ministry of Finance (in Japanese)

Press release – Ministry of Finance (in Japanese)

Japan to provide US$4.5 billion to low-income countries in 'COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan'

On January 21, 2021, the 17th Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial Meeting was held to strengthen competitiveness and international cooperation among the 35 participating countries.

Japanese Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Konosuke Kokuba emphasized the importance of strengthening international cooperation and achieving universal health coverage.

Kokuba also affirmed that Japan will support various efforts to counter the COVID-19 crisis, stating, "to bolster economic activities in developing countries, Japan is implementing the COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan of up to ¥500 billion, or US$4.5 billion, over the course of two years."

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Statement - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Japanese NGOs publish policy recommendations on intellectual property rights, cooperation for pharmaceuticals and medical technology

A network of Japanese NGOs jointly published policy recommendations on relaxing intellectual property rights and promoting cooperation on pharmaceutical and medical technology to overcome COVID-19.

While clinical trials, funding, and support are provided by high- and low-income countries, high-income countries are monopolizing vaccines, leaving low-income countries behind. To address this issue, the NGOs recommend the Japanese government:

  1. Support or not oppose South Africa's and India’s proposal to the World Health Organization to ensure fair and rapid access of medicines and technology for COVID-19;
  2. Support initiatives, such as the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), to share intellectual property rights and promote access to technology (as well as accelerate the development of new technology by removing barriers and encouraging cooperation) for the prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19;
  3. Expand contributions on international partnerships, such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), to create a framework for achieving equal access to technology; and
  4. Promote dialogue between Japan and civil society to ensure fair and open access to medicines and medical technology.

Press release - Share (in Japanese)

Letter - Share

Japanese Prime Minister and Bill Gates emphasize importance of vaccines, universal healthcare coverage

In a January 12, 2021 call, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed universal healthcare coverage, the Tokyo Nutritional Summit, and the importance of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Suga and Gates agreed on the importance of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries and that a successful vaccination campaign will be crucial before the opening of the Tokyo Summer Games. The success of the 2021 Olympics would send a strong message of unity and optimism to the rest of the world, said Gates, a year after COVID-19 has ravaged the globe.

Suga also highlighted the importance of universal healthcare coverage from the perspective of human security, a topic about which Gates has long been passionate.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

News article – Japan Broadcasting Corporation (in Japanese)

News article – The Sankei News (in Japanese)