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Australia’s annual agricultural research advocacy conference will focus on food and nutrition security will focus on nexus between biosecurity, health, trade

The annual conference of the Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research will be held in Parliament House, Canberra, on December 14, 2021. This year’s conference will focus on food and nutrition security, focusing on the nexus between biosecurity, health, and trade. 

The conference will cover food systems and the interaction of food production with zoonotic diseases and human health. Doctor Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, will be the conference's headlining speaker.

The Crawford Fund’s conference follows soon after the global Nutrition for Growth Summit being held in Tokyo on December 7-8, 2021.

Press release - The Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research

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

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

UK government supports new, industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce to harness global private finance for pandemic recovery

The UK government has given its support to a new industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce that seeks to expand private finance at the global level to ensure a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Impact investment is an approach through which investors seek both financial rewards and also positive environmental and social impacts from their investments.

The Taskforce, chaired by Nick Hurd—a Conservative Member of Parliament who was formerly the Minister for London—will develop a set of recommendations for Foreign and Development Ministers and the financial sector at the global level, and it will coordinate efforts at the G7, G20, and COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference). The Taskforce will explore recommendations around the:  

  • Potential global standards for measuring the social and environmental impacts of financial investments; and
  • Type of financial instruments/tools that are best suited to raise capital for socially impactful investments in climate, health, or education.

The Taskforce will meet for the first time in August 2021.

Press release - 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)

G20 foreign affairs and development ministers sign declaration on food security, call for partners to join Italy's Food Coalition

The G20 foreign affairs and development ministers met in Matera, Italy on June 29, 2021, to discuss the fight against COVID-19, speeding up the recovery of the global economy, the global climate change emergency, and food shortages in countries in Africa. The meeting culminated in the 'Matera Declaration on food security, nutrition and food systems. A call to action in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond'.

The signatories of this Matera declaration "agree to deliver on food security priorities by enhancing efforts in ensuring safe and adequate nutrition for all, ending all forms of malnutrition, preserving agrobiodiversity, as well as relying on science, innovation, advanced business practices and responsible behaviour complementing traditional knowledge, local food culture and best practices to achieve" the targets of the second sustainable development goal (SDG 2), 'Zero Hunger'.

The meeting renewed calls for partners to join the Food Coalition launched by Italy in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Food Coalition is a multistakeholder platform that aims to reduce the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security.

Development Ministers Meeting Communiqué - G20

Press release - FAO

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

Spain presents Special Ambassador on Global Food Security as candidate for FAO committee chairman

On June 18, 2021, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC) announced that Gabriel Ferrero, the Ambassador on Special Mission for Global Food Security (the former MAUC’s Director-General for Sustainable Development), is Spain's candidate to chair the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

The new chair for CFS will be appointed on October 11-14, 2021. 

Ferrero’s career has been dedicated to sustainable development and food security. Between 2011 and 2012, he worked at the United Nations in different posts such as Coordinator of the UN High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

South Korea’s grant agency commits US$13 million for agricultural development in Vietnam

South Korea's Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) announced that it will invest US$13 million by 2030 for human resource development in Vietnam's livestock industry, in partnership with the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This investment will support the Vietnamese government’s goal of increasing the share of livestock in the agricultural sector to 40% by 2030.

News article – Yonhap News (in Korean)

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office announces new details on governance and management structure

The UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has released information about its governance and management structure. The FCDO will have five boards and committees, which will be as follows:

  • FCDO Supervisory Board – This Board will provide strategic guidance and oversight to the department. It will be responsible for reviewing risks and proposals for mitigating them. It will also assess how well the department is delivering on its key performance indicators. The Management Board, as well as the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, support and will report directly to the Supervisory Board. The Foreign Secretary will chair the Board. The Board is composed of some Director-Generals in the FCDO and non-executive Directors.
  • FCDO Management Board – This Board is focused on the delivery of departmental priorities and management, and it manages risk, performance, and reputation. It is chaired by Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service. It is composed of all the Director-Generals within the FCDO and other key Directors and some non-executive Directors.
  • Audit and Risk Assurance Committee – This committee reviews decisions and systems to ensure internal control. This includes risk management, financing reporting, and safeguarding. To ensure independence, the Committee is composed entirely of non-executive members and has no executive responsibilities. It meets five times a year.
  • FCDO Senior Leadership Board – The Senior Leadership Board focuses on talent and staffing. It reviews recommendations and agrees on appointments for senior staff in the UK and overseas. Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, chairs the Board.
  • Executive Committee – This committee reports to the Management Board and takes decisions on strategic challenges that require time-bound decisions, and it manages the day-to-day management of the FCDO. Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the Diplomatic Service, chairs the Executive Committee.

Press release - UK government 

EU adopts new US$95 billion development instrument, NDICI-Global Europe, for 2021-2027

The EU has adopted its new €79.5 billion (US$95.0 billion, current prices) development instrument, the 'Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument' (NDICI), or 'Global Europe', for 2021-2027. 

NDICI-Global Europe consolidates several instruments in the previous EU long-term budget, as well as the off-budget European Development Fund, to streamline the EU’s funding for external action. It has three main pillars: geographical, thematic, and rapid response. Under its geographic envelope, NDICI-Global Europe also includes an investment framework, the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+), and a requirement that at least 93% of its funding must be eligible as official development assistance (ODA). 

The European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have already been working on the programming process, which, for geographic funding, is done together with partner countries. 

The regulation entered into force on June 14, 2021, but it applies retroactively from January 1, 2021. 

Press release - European Parliament

Press release - European Commission

Factsheet - European Commission

Survey shows record-high support for Norwegian development assistance

A recent survey conducted by Statistics Norway, on behalf of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), indicates that support for Norwegian development assistance has never been higher. Nine out of ten people support development assistance to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This is an increase from the survey in 2017 and is on par with the highest support recorded in the last 50 years.

The main findings included the following: 

  • When it comes to the structure of development assistance, there seems to be support for more development assistance for global public goods such as biological diversity, climate, peace, and economic development assistance, and this is true especially among the youngest. 
  • The survey also shows increased support for funding that is set aside for development assistance compared to previous years. There seems to be high support among the various population groups studied, but there is a clear tendency that the younger age groups increasingly believe that the budget should be increased further compared to the older age groups. 
  • Most people (90%) know at least one assistance organization. The Red Cross is mentioned by most (58%), but other organizations such as Save the Children, Red Cross, and Norwegian Church Aid are also mentioned.  
  • A majority of the people asked (89%) say that they are interested in matters regarding low-income countries in the media. 
  • Even though the support for development assistance is high, the knowledge about Norwegian assistance is low. Only one in three (33%) are familiar with the countries that receive support. The five most mentioned countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, and Sudan. Very few are aware that Syria, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia received the most money from the assistance budget in 2020. 

News article - Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

Report - Statistics Norway (in Norwegian) 

UK MPs' attempts to reinstate 0.7% ODA budget thwarted in Parliament

A group of prominent conservative party Members of Parliament (MPs), including the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, attempted on June 7, 2021, to use a technical procedure in parliament to force the UK government to go back to allocating 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA).

There was high drama in parliament on the week that the UK is hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, as a group of up to 40 highly prominent, rebel Conservative MPs, led by Andrew Mitchell MP, the former Conservative International Development Secretary, proposed an amendment be attached to the parliamentary bill creating the UK’s new Advanced Research and Invention Agency, that would mandate the new agency to make up any shortfall in ODA spending if the government missed the 0.7% target.

Conservative MP rebels were confident that if the amendment was accepted by the House of Commons Speaker, they would have had the numbers (along with opposition party MPs) to vote it through. However, the proposed amendment was rejected by the House of Commons Speaker at the last minute, on the grounds that it was not sufficiently in the scope of the bill.

Tensions have been mounting for months over the legality of the UK government’s decision to temporarily not meet its legal commitment to deliver 0.7% of its GNI as ODA and reduce the ODA budget to 0.5%. Originally the UK government has noted that the move would require the law to be changed with MPs given a vote, but a couple of months later (and in the face of growing opposition to the move) the government said that the law allowed for provisions in a temporary reduction and did not require MPs to vote on it. Rebel MPs, however, have challenged this interpretation of the law.

The Speaker was though was sympathetic to the demands of the MPs, and called for the government to bring the cut to the ODA budget to parliament for a vote and noted that he would look into other ways to give MPs a binding vote if the government failed to do this.

News article - The Guardian

News article - BBC news

New analysis by global development think tank shows that UK development assistance could be refocusing on human development and global public goods

The Centre for Global Development, a global development think tank, has released a blog analyzing the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) recently published official development assistance (ODA) budget for 2021-2022. The author of the blog, Ranil Dissanayake, ponders on whether the new budget signals the beginning of a radical refocus of UK ODA on a smaller set of priorities with a focus on supporting human development as opposed to economic development, global public goods, and more traditional foreign policy objectives of "open societies".  

Dissanayake compares the UK’s 2021-2022 ODA budget’s thematic allocations to the average UK development assistance spending in these thematic areas between 2016-2019 using the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Creditor Reporting System. Dissanayake finds the following:

  • A high level of thematic concentration in the new UK ODA budget – The seven policy areas discussed are climate change and biodiversity; COVID-19 and global health; girls’ education; humanitarian preparedness and response; open societies and conflict; science, research, and technology; and trade and economic development. Dissanayake notes that the seven policy areas identified by Dominic Raab (Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs) as priorities in his letter to Parliament in December 2020 appear, at face value, to consume the totality of the UK’s bilateral budget. This is assuming that spending on agriculture has not been rebranded under ‘climate’ and spending on water and sanitation has not been rebranded under ‘health’. Dissanayake notes that in the past, the two offices that became the FCDO – the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCO) – allocated only around 75% of bilateral ODA to these seven policy areas. Under the FCDO’s new budget, it is 100%.  
  • A pivot to global public goods – The only two winners in terms of increased absolute spending compared to 2016-2019 averages are COVID-19/global health and climate change/biodiversity. Dissanayake argues that these two winners are most closely associated with public goods generating returns both outside and inside of low-income countries' borders. In other thematic areas such as girls’ education and humanitarian assistance there have cuts in absolute spending, but both have seen a modest increase in the share of bilateral ODA received. Funding to open societies has remained around the same share.
  • The budget upended a past trend of increased spending on economic development with a significant cut to funding – Dissanayake also argued that the budget breaks with the past spending trend of increased spending on economic development by the DFID and the FCO.  The allocation in the 2021-2022 budget to economic development is significantly smaller in absolute and proportionate terms than in recent years and is the only thematic area to see a cut in proportionate terms too. Dissanayake notes that this increase in spending in recent years was actually at odds with the DFID’s 2017 Economic Development Strategy that called for greater use of non-ODA financing to support economic development. 

Dissanayake concludes that these three strategic shifts hint at the FCDO aiming to be in one part like pre-0.7% (referring to the percentage of ODA compared to gross national income) DFID with a focus on human development rather than economic development, in one part a new entity for pursuing global public goods that matter to both UK foreign and development policy, and one part (though relatively small) supporting more traditional foreign policy objectives with its focus on "Open Societies".

Op-ed – Centre for Global Development

World Organisation for Animal Health introduces Wildlife Health Framework

Mirage News reported on Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp completing his term as President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). 

The 88th Annual General Session of the World Assembly of the OIE was held virtually from May 24-28, 2021.  

The organization agreed on new standards across governments on animal health and welfare and developed a Wildlife Health Framework. In part, these efforts responded to the continuing emergence of zoonotic diseases including COVID-19. The OIE has also introduced an OIE Observatory to collect data and provide information to support animal health challenges. 

News article - Mirage News

Japan initiates project to utilize artificial intelligence to address global issues, including climate crisis

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) partnered for a project to utilize digital technology to address social global issues.

The initiative will use digital technology such as Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create new business and value and promote the implementation of a digital environment.

Specifically, JICA will collect satellite data and other information using AIST's large-scale AI cloud computing system. This information will, in turn, be utilized to establish a monitoring and projection system on infrastructure in other countries. JICA and AIST also will conduct activities on issues such as natural resources, the climate crisis, energy, environment, and food.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Sweden allocates US$4 million for Blue Action Fund and additional US$3 million for Global Center on Adaptation

In an effort to preserve biodiversity and promote the sustainable management of marine areas in low-income countries, Sweden contributed SEK 30 million (US$4 million) to the Blue Action Fund, of which Sweden has been a Board Member since 2018.

The Fund is a leading international financial instrument in the field of safeguarding marine biodiversity and promoting sustainable livelihoods for coastal populations in partner countries.

"Every second breath we take comes from the oceans, yet for far too long we have seen oceans as waste sites with endless resources. But they are not,” said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation, urging countries to better treat coastal environments and the populations, including humans, who depend on oceans. 

The Swedish government also continued supporting the Global Center on Adaptation with SEK 25 million (US$3 million). The Center focuses specifically on climate adaptation in the African continent and seeks to increase the involvement of the younger generation in these efforts. The Swedish support is primarily directed at rural development and increased water supply in growing cities. In June 2021, Fridh became a member of the Center’s Advisory Board, chaired by Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Japan selects 12 joint research projects with low-, middle-income countries

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) selected twelve joint research projects with low- and middle-income countries as part of their 'Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development' (SATREPS) initiative.

SATREPS is an initiative to build knowledge around global issues, such as the environment, energy, natural resources, disaster prevention, climate mitigation, and infectious diseases control, as well as to develop the capacity of researchers and research institutions in countries based on their needs jointly funded by JICA, the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED).

Projects will be implemented in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tajikistan, South Africa, Colombia, India, Bangladesh, Argentina, Turkey, and Bhutan.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Australian agricultural research advocacy conference will resume in 2021

The Crawford Fund has announced that its 2021 annual conference will cover “Food & Nutrition Security – The Biosecurity, Health, Trade Nexus”.

The conference will be held in Parliament House, Canberra, on August 23-24, 2021, and will focus on food systems and their interaction with human health and zoonotic diseases. Specific topics for the annual conference will be risks to human, plant, and animal health, and the implications for global nutrition and food security. The Fund is an advocate for strong Australian support for international agricultural research.

Scholarships for young scientists are available as part of the conference. Presentations by local speakers will be in person at the Parliament House venue, with international speakers participating online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Press release - The Crawford Fund