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International Planned Parenthood Federation poised to launch legal challenge against UK government’s development assistance budget cuts

The NGO International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has alerted the UK government that it plans to call for an urgent judicial review of the UK’s government’s decision to stop funding IPPF, arguing that the decision to cut the development assistance budget from providing 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% without changing the legislation on 0.7% is unlawful.

The UK government had committed to providing IPPF with £21 million (US$28 million) for their ACCESS program to support marginalized groups' access to sexual and reproductive health rights in low-income countries in 2021, but IPPF could potentially lose £72 million (US$96 million) if funding cuts are maintained over the next three years with catastrophic impacts predicted on women and girls. 

Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, noted that the decision to challenge the cuts was not taken lightly, and has been driven by the injustice of the decision on women and girls the organization serves.

News article - MSN

Germany announces US$306 million in funding to WHO, 30 million vaccine doses to be shared

During his visit to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) headquarters in Geneva on July 15, 2021, German health minister Jens Spahn committed to contributing €260 million (US$306 million) to the WHO. These funds are part of previously announced pledges worth €2.2 billion (US$2.6 billion) that Germany made to the Access to COVID-19 Tool Accelerator (ACT-A).

The €260 million (US$306 million) will contribute to the development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 test kits, treatments, and vaccines. Germany will also share 30 million vaccine doses with other countries, announced Spahn.

Spahn emphasized that only an international and cooperative approach will successfully end the pandemic. Still, he defended Germany’s rejection of vaccine patent waivers, proposed by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization. Germany is one of the last key opponents to the waivers after the US and France announced their support for a patent waiver.

News article – Ärzteblatt (in German)

News article – Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German)

Australia's Monash University starts phase 3 clinical trials for inhalable oxytocin with potential to eliminate thousands of maternal deaths in low-income countries

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne and Johnson & Johnson have jointly developed a form of oxytocin that does not require refrigeration and can be delivered through an inhaler.

Oxytocin is used to stop post-partum hemorrhages, a leading cause of global maternal mortality. This new form of inhalable oxytocin would be easier to distribute and less invasive than the commonly used injectable oxytocin, giving it great potential for maternal health projects in low-income countries.

The project is about to enter phase 3 clinical trials. Commercial production could still be several years away.

News report - ABC News

UK development assistance budget cut to last for years as parliamentarians vote to lock in cut

The UK government, in a surprise decision, allowed UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote on the government’s decision to cut its ODA budget, after many months of the government rejecting the need for a parliamentary vote on the issue. On July 13, 2021, UK parliamentarians voted to accept the government’s proposal to cut the official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of the country's gross national income to 0.5%.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who announced the cuts, offered parliamentarians two choices. The first was to override the government's decision and restore the ODA budget to 0.7% of national income by January 2022. The second was to support the government’s proposal to cut the ODA budget and agree that it will only be increased back to 0.7% when the national debt is falling and borrowing is no longer used for day-to-day spending. The government proposal won with a majority of 35 votes, with 25 Conservative MPs rebelling against the vote.

The government has noted that under its new criteria laid out in the parliamentary motion, the ODA budget could be back at 0.7% in a couple of years. However, Conservative rebel MPs argue that in reality, the new criteria would lock the UK out of spending 0.7% in the long term. Three former Prime Ministers from the Conservative Party condemned the decision, with John Major noted that it was a "stamp of little England, not global Britain".

News article - BBC news

News article - The Guardian

Philanthropists to provide US$125 million to fill funding gaps to key programs as result of UK government development assistance cuts

A group of philanthropists has committed £94 million (US$125 million) to cover key programs that have faced funding gaps as a result of the UK government’s decision to cut its development assistance budget. The philanthropists include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

The funding will focus on helping projects tackling preventable diseases and providing family planning and sexual health services—all areas that have suffered as a result of the UK government’s decision to reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2021 as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

News article - BBC

UK government to consult on new development strategy

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs, Dominic Raab, announced in Parliament that the government will consult with external stakeholders on the creation of its new development strategy.  

Raab, who was speaking to members of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that the strategy is being actively worked on by the government and that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was engaging with a range of stakeholders including NGOs and international partners. The strategy is intended to guide all UK official development assistance spending.  

When pressed on the exact date when the new development strategy would be released, Raab responded that it will be in a matter of months, not years, but did not give more details.

News article - Devex

Japan holds meeting on global health strategy, emphasizing universal healthcare coverage, post-COVID-19 strategies

On July 9, 2021, Japan held its first 'Global Health Promotion Strategy' meeting. Members from multiple government agencies met to discuss their individual strategies and the future direction of Japan’s global health strategy.

Those included in the meeting were the Japan International Cooperation Agency; Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry; the Ministry of the Environment; and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development.

Participants discussed topics such as the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, creating partnerships with countries and various stakeholders, and establishing resilient universal healthcare coverage in other countries.

News article - Japan Broadcasting Corporation (in Japanese)

Press release - Prime Minister’s Office of Japan (in Japanese)

G20 Panel on Financing Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response calls on G20 to increase funding for global health by US$15.0 billion per year

The G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (HLIP) presented its official report, 'A Global Deal for Our Pandemic Age', to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on July 9, 2021. The Panel called the G20 and international community for a public funding increase in global financing of at least US$15.0 billion per year over the next five years.

The report said that the additional US$15.0 billion per year should include US$10.0 billion annually to a Global Health Threats Fund, which should be established to support investments for pandemic preparedness and response, and US$5.0 billion per year to increase funding to existing global health international institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as creating dedicated pandemic preparedness concessional financing windows in the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).

The Panel also asked to create a new Global Health Threats Board, bringing together finance and health ministers as well as international organizations.

The Panel emphasized the importance of all nations prioritizing and sustaining domestic investments in pandemic preparedness over time.

The G20 will be taking into account the Panel’s recommendations in the lead-up to the G20 Joint Finance and Health Ministers’ Meeting hosted by Italy in October.

Report – G20

Press release G20

Australia will provide up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Pacific and Timor-Leste

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, has announced that Australia will provide up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Timor-Leste and countries in the Pacific. The doses will be provided by the middle of 2022 and aim to help achieve comprehensive vaccine coverage of the Pacific.

These doses are in addition to the 500,000 doses that Australia has provided to partner governments in the region.

Payne stated that the Australian assistance built on Australian commitments to COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, and that Australia has also helped with equipment for vaccination programs in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

UK government publishes new 10-year vision for life sciences supported by US$1.3 billion of investments

The UK government has announced a new 10-year strategy for the UK’s life sciences sector, a sector which has "been integral to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic", including vaccination development, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The strategy aims to place the UK at the forefront of solving some of the world’s largest health challenges facing the UK and the world. The vision focuses on using innovation and technology to support prevention, diagnostics, and treatments in seven key areas:

  • Treating dementia;
  • Enabling early diagnosis and treatments of cancer;
  • Discovering, developing, and manufacturing vaccines;
  • Treating and preventing cardiovascular diseases;
  • Reducing mortality and morbidity from respiratory disease in the UK and globally;
  • Exploring underlying biology of aging; and
  • Increasing understanding of and addressing mental health.

The new vision will be accompanied by a new Life Sciences Investment Programme which will be backed by £200 million (US$268 million) from the government, delivered via the British Patient Capital, a part of the government-owned British Business Bank. The UK government's investment is intended to leverage further private sector resources and British Patient Capital has already agreed to a collaboration with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE's) Mubadala Investment Company, which will provide a further £800 million (US$1.0 billion).

The government’s Life Sciences Investment Programme will be supported by a scientific advisory panel, chaired by Professor Sir John Bell.

Press release - UK government

Report - UK government

German ministries initiate international alliance against health risks in wildlife trade to prevent zoonotic diseases and pandemics

On World Zoonoses Day on July 6, 2021, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), in cooperation with international partners and NGOs, launched a new international alliance against health risks in the wildlife trade to help prevent zoonoses (diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans).

Around 50 organizations from different sectors such as human and animal health, agriculture, and nature conservation cooperate currently under the initiative. Amongst them are governments, UN organizations, scientific institutes, and NGOs, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

German Development Minister Gerd Müller pointed to the importance of the fight against illegal wildlife trade to prevent the transmission of zoonotic viruses and fight zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential. He also emphasized Germany’s funding efforts in the fight against illegal wildlife trade and the protection of biodiversity. According to Müller, these topics are priorities for the German development cooperation, addressed under the ministry’s 'One Health' initiative area, which takes into account the shared health of people, animals, and the environment.

Press release – BMZ (in German)

Press release – BMU (in German)

Sydney Global Health Security Conference in 2022 relocated to Singapore

The uncertainty about whether the Australian borders will reopen by the middle of 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the Sydney Global Health Security Conference (GHS) 2022 being relocated.

The conference will now be held on June 28-July 1, 2022, at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre in Singapore. This move will allow holding a face-to-face conference and should enable a wider range of participants to attend, according to the organizing committee.

Report - GHS Conference

UK and Germany announce joint declaration to work together to promote global security, democracy, health, education, gender equality, and fight climate emergency

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Dominic Raab, and the German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, announced a joint declaration setting out a series of global issues where the two countries will work together.

The declaration identified rules-based international order, security, and defense as key areas for close cooperation. The document also included other development issues as important to work together on, including global health and education, gender equality, the climate crisis, and conflict prevention and stabilization.

On global health, the declaration states that the UK and Germany will work together to strengthen multilateral approaches in response to and to prevent future global health crises, with a focus on the World Health Organization. The two countries will also work to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The countries are committed to adopting a 'One Health' approach, which takes into account human, animal, and environmental health and recognizes the need for more resilient health systems.  

On conflict prevention and stabilization and peace-building, the UK and Germany announced the establishment of a new 'UK-Germany Stabilisation Partnership', and the declaration shows shared regions/countries of interest to carry out stabilization efforts, including within Africa such as in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

The two countries noted a shared sense of urgency in addressing the climate emergency, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss and agreed ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held in November 2021, to align their ask of other countries to increase their impact and, where appropriate, undertake joint advocacy.  

The declaration also notes that there will be an annual German-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue that will cover all matters of foreign policy and international affairs and lead cooperation and coordination.

Press release - UK government

US releases COVID-19 Global Response and Recovery Framework

In support of both the commitments made at the G7+ and in US President Joe Biden's National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness released in January 2021, the White House released its US COVID-19 Global Response and Recovery Framework. The Framework sets forth five objectives that will support the overarching goal to end the pandemic, mitigate its negative impacts, and strengthen pandemic preparedness.

 The five objectives for the US response are:

  • Accelerate the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations; 
  • Strengthen health systems in order to reduce the severe effects of COVID-19 and to better prepare for future threats;
  • Address the acute needs that COVID-19 has caused, including reducing household economic shocks and building resilience;
  • Provide economic and other support to critical systems that COVID-19 has put under stress; and
  • Bolster international health security architecture for a better response to pandemic threats.

The US effort will be a whole-of-government response and will include partnerships with both international organizations, other governments, private and non-profit sectors, and frontline communities. 

Press release - The White House

Sweden releases report on official development assistance for global health in 2020

On June 22, 2021, the Swedish government released its annual report on Sweden’s official development assistance (ODA) for global health in 2020, summarizing statistics from Sweden's Government Offices and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) on ODA for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Sweden's ODA for global health reached its highest level ever in 2020, amounting to SEK 6.2 billion (US$743 million), of which 58% was channeled through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the remaining 42% through Sida. Primarily, the support has been allocated toward combatting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, investments in sustainable health care systems, and support for protecting SRHR.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Japan highlights importance of addressing climate emergency during 10th meeting of SDGs Promotion Headquarters

On June 22, 2021, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi, among others, participated in the 10th meeting of the SDGs Promotion Headquarters to assess Japan's progress on the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their relation to the climate emergency.

The meeting discussed a Voluntary National Review (VNR) based on the report titled 'Towards Achieving the SDGs in the Post-COVID-19 Era', which evaluated Japan's progress on the SDGs to date. The members of the meeting decided to present the report at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which will be at the UN in July 2021.

During the meeting, Suga emphasized the importance of international cooperation in achieving SDGs and that the climate emergency is a humanitarian issue. Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese) 

UK government creates new Ministerial Council and Office for Science and Technology in bid to drive breakthroughs in key challenges facing UK and world

On June 21, 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of a new Ministerial Council on Science and Technology. The Council will be chaired by Johnson and will set the strategy for how science and technology can be used to tackle societies' biggest challenges within the UK and around the world.

Johnson also announced that the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, will take on an additional role as National Technology Advisor and head a new Office for Science and Technology Strategy. The Office will support the Council in the development of the strategy and drive forward its implementation, ensuring that science and technology lie at the heart of policy and public service development across all elements of the government. One of the Office’s first tasks will be to identify the potential technology breakthroughs that the UK should strategically prioritize.

The announcement supports the government’s Integrated Review of Foreign, Diplomatic, Defence and Security Policy recommendation that the UK should strive to be a scientific powerhouse in the next 10 years.  

The UK government is investing £14.9 billion (US$20.0 billion) in research and development (R&D) in 2021-22, the highest level that it has been.

Press release - UK government

Australian researchers move forward on trials of local mRNA vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine nasal spray

The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Melbourne, Australia plans to undertake the first phase clinical trial of a locally developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate. This trial would begin in October 2021 with initial results expected by the middle of 2022.

In addition, researchers at Brisbane's Nucleus Network ("the only Phase 1 clinical trials specialist with clinics in Australia and the United States") plan to shortly commence clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine delivered through a nasal spray. The vaccine aims to reduce infection risk by delivery in the same area where the virus enters the body.

News article - The Australian 

News article - Voice of America News

WHO criticizes UK funding cuts to neglected tropical disease program, as parliamentary inquiry reveals "car crash" of government's management and impact of cuts

The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticized the UK government’s decision to stop funding its 'Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases' (NTD), or ASCEND, program. The WHO has not been able to fill the funding hole left by the UK’s exit and this has resulted in the program closing down early, as it was initially due to continue until March 2022. WHO noted that the premature end of the program risks causing 30,000 needless deaths, as ASCEND provided critical support to national NTD programs in 19 countries.

The revelation was made as part of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee’s inquiry into the UK development assistance cuts. The Committee has been inundated with "damning" evidence from UK partners on both the impact of the cuts but also the management of them. Many partners noted a chaotic and messy process which often gave partners limited time to manage the cuts, with devastating impacts on recipients of the assistance. A statement released by Plan International UK, a charity for children's rights, said that the cuts appear to have been rushed without much consideration of resulting impacts and that "car crash" could be used to describe the situation.

News article - Global Citizen

News article - Devex

Germany supports COVID-19 vaccine production in Senegal with start-up financing worth US$24 million

German development minister Gerd Müller visited the Institute Pasteur de Dakar, a vaccine production site certified by the World Health Organization that developed a concept for the establishment of COVID-19 vaccine production capacities on site. Müller promised the Institute a German start-up financing worth €20 million (US$24 million), which shall be provided by April 2022 at the latest.

Müller called the planned build-up of production capacities the “jumpstart in the fight against the pandemic in Africa”. COVID-19 vaccines are supposed to be filled from April 2022 on and a production line to be built at the same time. Vaccines will be produced under license.

Müller visited the Institute in Senegal's capital city of Dakar at the end of his trip to West Africa, which included also visiting Togo, Gambia, and Sierra Leone.

Press release - Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

News article - Handelsblatt (in German)