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Outrage grows at scale of UK development assistance cuts; funding for UNFPA, UNAIDS cut by over 80%, UNICEF by 60%

Outrage has been growing about the UK government’s development assistance budget cuts, as details continue to emerge about the programs and partners that are affected.

In November of 2020, the UK government decided to temporarily reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget to 0.5% of its gross national income in 2021 (from 0.7% in 2020), with funding cuts of around £4.0 billion (US$5.4 billion) compared to 2019 volumes. The government’s decision to cut the budget was in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.

According to reports in newspapers with recently-emerged details, the UK will cut its funding to:

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, which has been reduced by 85% from £154 million (US$206 million) to £23 million (US$40 million);
  • The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which is to be cut from over 80% from £15 million (US$20 million) to £3 million (US$3 million);
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has been cut by 60% from £40 million (US$53 million) in 2020 to £16 million (US$21 million) in 2021;
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been cut by 95% with funding reduced from £100 million (US$134 million) to £5 million (US$7 million) in 2021; and
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in partner countries, which are reported as being cut by 80%.

It also appears that the Small Charities Challenge Fund, the Community Partnerships Fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct Impact, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programs have been canceled entirely, according to NGOs that receive money through these funds.

Civil society and members of parliament have said that the depth of the cuts puts lives at risk and diminishes UK global leadership on international development, in the very year when the UK is hosting the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

News article - BBC

UK sends oxygen supplies to help India combat deadly COVID-19 outbreak

The UK government is increasing its assistance to India as the country battles an overwhelming spike of COVID-19 infections.

The UK government has sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators from surplus stock to India. It is also sending three oxygen generation units, each of which is the size of a shipping container and is capable of producing 500 liters of oxygen per minute.

Press release - UK government

Spain and Mexico strengthen cooperation to tackle COVID-19 crisis worldwide

On April 30, 2021, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC), Arancha González Laya, met with the Mexican Secretary for External Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, to review current global challenges and advance bilateral cooperation partnerships.

As a result of the meeting, Spain and Mexico decided to strengthen collaborations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to foster equal and universal access to new vaccines, treatments, and other health goods. González and Ebrard also aligned strongly on other development areas, such as addressing gender equality and the climate emergency.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Netherlands adopts motion on vaccine patent sharing through C-TAP

On April 29, 2021, the Dutch parliament adopted a parliamentary motion asking the Dutch government to ensure that pharmaceutical companies share their information on COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

The motion was submitted by Dutch member of parliament (MP) Lisa Westerveld of the Green-Left party (GroenLinks) and co-submitted by MPs Jan Paternotte of Democrats 66 (D66), Lilianne Ploumen of the Labour Party (PvdA), Lilian Marijnissen of the Socialist Party (SP), Mirjam Bikker of the Christian Union (CU), and Laurens Dassen of Volt. The motion received 122 out of 150 votes in the parliament.

In addition to the motion, Westerveld submitted parliamentary questions regarding the Dutch government's global vaccination efforts. The parliamentary questions directed to the Dutch Minister of Health, Hugo de Jonge, and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, aimed to clarify how the Dutch government will support COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, in its future goals.

Westerveld also asked de Jonge and Kaag if the Dutch government sees possibilities to encourage pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge through C-TAP and whether the Netherlands has already made plans to work with the Belgian government on the revocation of vaccine patents, as has been proposed by the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and the Belgian government.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

US to send US$100 million in COVID-19 assistance to India

As India continued to break new COVID-19 case records, the US agreed to send US$100 million in pandemic-related assistance.

The shipments included 15 million N95 masks, one million rapid diagnostic tests, and 1,100 refillable oxygen cylinders, in addition to therapeutics and vaccine manufacturing supplies.

The federal supplies will also be supplemented by deliveries from states, private companies, and non-profits to help India address its spiking pandemic needs.

The US announced last week that it would start sharing its AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries, including India, as soon as the US Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency approval for the vaccine. 

News article - Axios

Press release - The White House

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

Norway calls for long-term financing solutions for global health security

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg made a statement at the Virtual United Nations Dialogue on Pandemic Preparedness and Response Architecture, emphasizing that global health security is a global public good and a social, economic, and security issue that needs long-term financing solutions.  

Solberg called for clearer international norms and standards, better coordination to develop and distribute technologies and tools, and support for capacity building. She also emphasized the role and importance of a fully-financed World Health Organization with operational independence.  

As co-chair of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council, Norway has taken part in developing a framework for how the contributors can all share the cost of getting ACT-A fully financed. Norway will work to facilitate discussions on a financing mechanism for global health security.  

Transcript – The Norwegian government  

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will have US$10.9 billion ODA budget for 2021-2022, nearly quarter less than in 2020

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Commonwealth and Development, Dominic Raab, announced on April 22, 2021, that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will be responsible for delivering £8.1 billion (US$10.9 billion) of official development assistance (ODA) in 2021-2022, which is a reduction of 23% based on the UK’s 2020 provisional ODA figures.

Other government departments will be responsible for an additional £1.8 billion (US$2.4 billion), as announced in January, making the total UK ODA budget £9.9 billion (US$13.3 billion) in 2021-2022.

Raab also provided headline budget figures for key thematic priorities for the FCDO. The FCDO has allocated:

  • £534 million (US$729 million) for climate and biodiversity and £941 million (US$1.2 billion) in 2021-2022 will be counted towards meeting the UK’s International Climate Finance commitment of providing £11.6 billion (US$15.6 billion) over the next five years;
  • £1.3 billion (US$1.7 billion) for global health and COVID-19 – it is assumed that this is bilateral spending, but it is not entirely clear with the text noting a focus on COVAX (the global vaccine initiative), the World Health Organization, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and it also specifies bilateral spending via individual countries;
  • £400 million (US$537 million) for girls’ education to be invested directly in over 25 countries, helping to achieve the global target of getting 40 million girls into education systems – Raab noted that the UK will generously replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) (the UK is co-hosting the GPE replenishment with Kenya this summer), but refused to reveal the exact UK commitment;
  • £906 million (US$1.2 billion) for humanitarian preparedness and response, which will include a £30 million (US$40 million) crisis reserve fund;
  • £251 million (US$337 million) in research and development across the UK's priority areas and a further £38 million (US$52 million) targeted directly at science, technology, and innovations;
  • £419 million (US$562 million) in support of open societies and conflict resolution;  
  • £491 million (US$659 million) on economic development and trade;
  • £3.1 billion (US$4.2 billion) will be provided as multilateral core contributions to key global funds and development banks, including keeping the UK’s pledge to be the top donor to the World Bank’s low-income lending arm (the International Development Association), and this bucket also includes funding to key bodies such as the British Council and the FCDO; and
  • Half of its bilateral ODA will go to Africa (with Raab noting that there will be a major tilt towards East Africa), and one-third of the bilateral budget will go to the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia, while funding to China will be cut by 90% and fall to £900,000 (US$1 million).

Many parliamentarians and civil society organizations criticized the government for a lack of clarity on where the cuts had actually been made and how spending would be affected beyond the broad thematic areas. The way the data had been presented made comparisons with 2020 and 2019 ODA spending extremely difficult. Commentators were also disappointed that there was no country budget level data announced, beyond China. Raab noted that country budget allocations were in the process of being decided and further information would be released once the decisions had been taken.

A joint statement made by numerous UK NGOs condemns the announcement as a "tragic blow" for the world’s poorest.

Press release - UK Government

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

Joint statement - Bond

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

Development Media International to host event on using mass media campaigns to contribute to SRHR and increase modern contraceptive uptake

Development Media International (DMI), a non-profit organization that runs evidence-based behavior change campaigns for improving health in low-income countries, will be hosting an event on April 20, 2021, on using mass media campaigns to contribute to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and increase modern contraceptive uptake.

DMI will present the results of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) that it conducted in Burkina Faso in partnership with the Abdul Jameel Latif Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The RCT tested the impact of a radio campaign on modern contraceptive uptake, and the results showed that there was a 20% relative increase in intervention zones following the campaign. According to DMI, this was a significant finding, and the radio campaign cost much less than other national family planning investments, making the campaign a highly cost-effective impact accelerator. 

This RTC follows the success of an earlier trial, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, that used mass media to promote increased child survival and maternal health, by providing parents with information about and encouraging them to seek treatment for children with symptoms of malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhea, as well as by promoting prenatal care and health facility deliveries. DMI’s other projects cover topics including SRHR, nutrition, tuberculosis, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).

To learn more, sign up for the event here. The event will have simultaneous English-French translation available. 

To read the Donor Tracker’s recent report on donor funding trends for SRHR from the last decade and watch a recording of that report's webinar, click here.

Event website - DMI

Press release - World Health Organization

Center for Global Development calls for UK government to return to 0.7% of GNI as ODA when economy returns to pre-pandemic size

The Center for Global Development (CGD), an international development think tank with a hub in London, has published a new blog exploring when the government should return to spending 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).

The government temporarily suspended its commitment in 2020 in the face of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public finances, and it has stated that it will only return to the 0.7% commitment "when the fiscal situation allows". The government has failed to outline how it will decide this, despite repeated questioning. In the absence of a straight answer, the Center for Global Development has proposed three different potential scenarios for measuring "when the fiscal situation allows" that the government could use:

  • Scenario 1 – Under this scenario, the government deficit would be used as the measurement. The CGD notes that historically, the UK has met the 0.7% commitment with a government deficit of 1.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), on average. By this measure, the UK could return to 0.7% in 2023 when the deficit is projected to be around 0.8% of GDP.
  • Scenario 2 – Under this scenario, the measurement for when the UK could return to providing 0.7% of its GNI as ODA would be when the budget deficit is eliminated. The UK Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has stated that this scenario is his intention. However, according to a projection by the UK Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), an official independent body on UK public finances, this is unlikely to be reached until 2025-2026. Even then it is not a given, as historically, very few governments have achieved this goal. 
  • Scenario 3 – Under this final scenario, the government returns to 0.7% when the UK economy recovers to its pre-pandemic size, which is expected in 2022. While this option might pose value for money problems as the budget was dramatically cut and then has to rise quickly again, it also allows for programs to be paused rather than canceled, with payments delayed for a year only. It would also enable the UK to announce (as it hosts the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021) that it will quickly resume its spending, maintaining global development leadership.

The CGD notes that its preference would be for the government to opt for Scenario 3, given the shortness of the cut, as well as the ability to press pause and to retain UK global development leadership. However, the CGD stresses that whichever scenario is chosen by the government, it is important for the government to set out a clear schedule for returning to the 0.7% target to enable those in the development community to plan effectively.

Op-ed - Center for Global Development

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

France and Spain call for new international treaty on pandemic preparedness

France's President Emanuel Macron and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez participated in the high-level event Reforming and strengthening the global health system to better respond to future pandemics’ to discuss the global response to COVID-19 and pandemic preparedness. 

While Macron underlined the importance of international solidarity for guaranteeing equal global access to COVID-19 vaccines, Sánchez highlighted the importance of reinforcing the multilateral system to make sure no one is left behind. Both leaders advocated for a new international treaty on pandemic preparedness and stated that COVID-19 has shown the need for a new and effective mechanism to prevent and respond to future pandemics.

This high-level meeting was organized alongside the 27th Ibero-American Summit held in Andorra la Vella, Andorra, on April 21, 2021. In addition to Macron and Sánchez, participants included Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Chile's President Sebastián Piñera, Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado, and the Secretary-General for Ibero-America Rebeca Grynspan.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

Japan to host Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment meeting in June; Foreign Minister reiterates Japan’s commitment to universal health coverage

On April 15, 2021, at the 'One World Protected' event hosted by the US and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan will be co-hosting the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Summit in June 2021.

Motegi also ensured Japan’s commitment to equitable vaccine distribution through the COVAX Facility, the global vaccine initiative co-led by Gavi, as well as through the 'Quad', a vaccine framework led by Japan, Australia, India, and the US.

He emphasized the importance of universal health coverage in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and achieving the delivery of basic healthcare to the world.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

'One World Protected' event hosted by US and Gavi raises US$400 million, launches campaign to raise additional US$2.0 billion for global efforts against COVID-19

On April 15, 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the US hosted 'One World Protected', an event to tackle the COVID-19 crisis globally. The event raised almost US$400 million and marked the beginning of a campaign to raise US$2.0 billion more for the vaccine financing instrument, the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

With the targeted US$2.0 billion, Gavi aims to provide almost two billion vaccine doses for people in 92 low-income countries and accelerate the vaccination rate.

The US$400 million, which contributed to Gavi's 2021 goal, included US$258 million from Sweden and US$47 million from the Netherlands.

The campaign will culminate in June of 2021 when Japan will host the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit.

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

New needle-free COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be trialed in Australia

Private Australian biotechnology company, Technovalia, announced that approval has been granted to allow a phase one clinical trial of its COVID-19 candidate vaccine, COVIGEN. The vaccine has been developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical company BioNet.

The vaccine trial is supported by the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund. It is being undertaken through a collaboration between Australian institutions and industry, including the University of Sydney.

COVIGEN is the first needle-free DNA-based vaccine candidate to be tested in Australia.

News article - Mirage News

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

Biden administration mulls over bigger role in global vaccination efforts

The Biden administration appears to be moving closer towards a policy of supporting vaccine sharing internationally. To date, the administration has provided financial support to increase the provision of vaccinations globally, including US$4.0 billion for COVAX (the vaccine-distribution initiative co-led by the World Health Organization) but has stopped short of committing to sharing any significant number of vaccines with the rest of the world.  

The US has bought enough vaccines to have each US adult vaccinated three times but has only made commitments to share a limited supply of vaccines with Canada and Mexico. Recent statements by both the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen indicated that the Biden administration may be changing that stance.

Blinkin acknowledged the calls for the US to do more and announced the appointment of Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign, as the US Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security.

Yellen spoke about the strong need for wealthy nations to increase their contributions to lower-income countries to offset the severe economic effects of the pandemic. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Yellen stated that the first task of wealthy countries "must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing, and therapeutics are available as widely as possible." 

News report - The Hill

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