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Greenhouse emissions from beef cattle are dramatically reduced through adding seaweed to feed, says study

Methane emissions from beef cattle could be reduced by as much as 82% by adding seaweed to the cows' diet, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

The effectiveness of this does not diminish with repeated applications. The use of seaweed to reduce methane emissions is significant because agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, half of which is connected to cows and other ruminant animals.

The study was done by UC Davis through a collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the James Cook University in northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns (a startup that sources seaweed-based additives).

News article - Select Science

Cuts to public research budget threaten UK government’s ambition of being science superpower

Leading UK academics and members of the parliament have urged the UK government to reverse its short- and long-term cuts to the UK public research budget. Academics and parliamentarians noted that the cuts risk thwarting the government’s ambition of being a science superpower in the coming decade, as outlined in its recently published Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Critics of the government's approach, point to the immediate short-term costs of the intended 70% cut in 2021-22 to UK official development assistance (ODA) funded research, noting that it will jeopardize COVID-19 research programs underway, including those supporting genomic analysis, as well as studies of transmission and treatment.

However, they also point to long-term concerns regarding funding for the UK’s continued participation in the Horizon Europe research program. Previously, funding for UK participation came from its EU membership fees, but now that the UK has exited the EU, there is a large hole in the budget.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the main public science funding body, estimates that it could have to pay £2.0 billion (US$2.7 billion) a year from its current £8.5 billion (US$11.4 billion) budget to maintain British participation in the EU research program. Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of the UKRI, has noted, however, that UKRI is in active discussions with the government on how it can help to ensure the UK maintains engagement in the program.

News article - Financial Times

Australia launches new strategy to assist key agricultural research in Bangladesh

Andrew Campbell, CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), said a new strategy has been agreed upon by Australia and Bangladesh on long-term research partnerships.

Research priorities include crop improvement, water management, farming systems, soil fertility, and agricultural mechanization.

Shaikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), highlighted the importance that agriculture plays not only in ensuring food and nutritional security, employment, and economic growth, but also in building resilience to challenges such as the climate crisis.

Press release - ACIAR

UK government will cut ODA to 0.5% GNI without parliamentary vote

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that the government will no longer give the members of parliament a vote on the government’s plans to cut the UK development assistance budget from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%. The government announced a reduction in the UK development budget in November of 2020 as a result of the negative impact of COVID-19 on the government finances.

Johnson cited the change in plans, stating that because the cuts are temporary, they do not require legislative change given the extraordinary circumstances.

The move came as something of a shock to UK members of parliament who were given the impression following the announcement of the cuts in November, that they would be given a vote on whether or not the budget should be reduced. The number of members of parliament, particularly in the Conservative party in opposition to the cuts has been growing in recent months. 

News article - the Guardian

Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation launches new nine-year strategy

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), has launched a new strategy for the next nine years aiming to increase its efficiency as well as strengthen and systematize the development, sharing, and use of research-based knowledge in Norad.

The overall framework for the strategy is set around how Norad can adjust its work in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Norad plans to disburse funding more strategically, and its overall goal is that the budget will function as a strategic tool for eliminating poverty, slow down the nature and climate crises, and combat various forms of inequality.

Norad also aims to be a central partner in promoting sustainable development, and it wants to boost innovation in development assistance, creating a culture that is conducive to testing out new ideas and expanding on existing good ones.

Norad's Director, Bård Vegar Solhjell, said that to improve efficiency, Norad would likely want to make fewer agreements. 

News article - Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

Italy to host UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in July 2021

In partnership with the UN, the Italian government will host the Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on July 19-21, 2021.

Under the leadership of UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the Pre-Summit will bring together global voices and contributions in an effort to transform food systems. 

The Food Systems Summit will take place in September alongside the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Press release - The Italian government

Website - Food Systems Summit

UK civil society calls on G7 world leaders to deliver transformative agenda; civil society C7 Summit to be held in April 2021

Bond, the UK network of development non-governmental organizations, has called for G7 world leaders to deliver a transformative agenda at the G7 Summit this year focused on protecting the most marginalized and building an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future for everyone. The UK is hosting the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

In a recently published briefing, Bond set out seven key policy asks for G7 world leaders, calling on them to address the following topics:

  1. Health – Invest at home and abroad in stronger healthcare systems to ensure access to quality healthcare for all, redress health inequalities, and ensure that nations are resilient for future pandemics;
  2. Climate and environment – End all investment in fossil fuels, decarbonize the global economy, prioritize climate finance for vulnerable countries, and sign the Leaders' Pledge for Nature to stop biodiversity loss;
  3. Sustainable economic recovery – Ensure the private sector will be supported in any future international debt cancellations, as they are also needed to support decent work, social protection, and protect the livelihoods of marginalized people;
  4. Open societies and civic space – Be active champions of democracy and civil and human rights;
  5. Education – Ensure quality, inclusive, and equitable education for every child, with a special focus on addressing girls’ education;
  6. Food security and nutrition – Build sustainable and climate-resilient food systems and increase financial contributions for famine prevention and relief; and
  7. Conflict and atrocity prevention – De-escalate current conflicts, commit to action to address some of the most pressing crises, and support building peaceful societies.

Bond will be hosting a virtual Civil Society 7 Summit on April 19-20, 2021. The 'C7 Summit' will bring together civil society leaders from around the world and provide them with the opportunity to talk to the UK government and provide ideas for the joint communiqué of the G7 leaders’ summit.

Registration for the C7 Summit is open at the Bond website.

Report - Bond

Italian Joint Committee for Development Cooperation approves initiatives package including US$29 million to Gavi

The Italian Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Luigi Di Maio, participated in the first annual meeting of the Joint Committee for Development Cooperation, which approved a package of initiatives worth €106 million (US$129 million).

From the package, the Committee allotted €24 million (US$29 million) to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The Committee also allotted a budget of €3 million (US$4 million) for the organization of the Food Systems Summit and the pre-Summit meeting held in Rome in July 2021.

In his speech, Di Maio stressed the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation, and he listed the multilateral events in 2021 for which Italy will play a leadership role:

  • The G20 Presidency for 2021 and its Leaders’ Summit on October 30-31;
  • The Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21;
  • A session dedicated to Africa during the Foreign Minister’s meeting in Matera on June 29;
  • The pre-Summit for the Food Systems Summit, organized in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in Rome in July; and
  • The Italy-Africa Conference in October.

Press release - Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Japan publishes 2020 white paper on 'International Cooperation in the COVID-19 Era'

Japan published its 2020 White Paper on Development Cooperation, subtitled 'International Cooperation in the COVID-19 Era'.

The report provides an overview of Japan’s international development efforts, such as supporting COVID-19 responses abroad, strengthening universal health coverage, achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), working toward carbon neutrality, promoting a 'free and open Indo-Pacific', and more.

The report also includes a special feature on COVID-19, and Japan’s support for health and medicines, equitable access of vaccines, and staffing of international organizations.

In 2019, Japan provided ¥2.00 trillion (US$1.9 billion) in official development assistance.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Report – White Paper on Development Cooperation (in Japanese)

News article – The Nikkei (in Japanese)

Donor Tracker webinar will focus on donor governments' funding for sexual and reproductive health and rights; accompanying publication available now

On March 11, 2021, at 4:00 PM CET, the Donor Tracker will host its third gender equality webinar with a focus on development finance for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

The webinar accompanies the recent publication of a Donor Tracker Insight which analyzes the current funding landscape for the SRHR sector across three subsectors (STD control, including HIV/AIDS; reproductive health; and family planning), highlights trends in the last ten years of spending in the sector, profiles donor countries and multilaterals, and provides recommendations to donors for increasing engagement and impact in the sector.

The Donor Tracker will be joined in the March 11 webinar by Adam Wexler of the Kaiser Family Foundation, an expert on US funding flows to HIV/AIDS projects and global development funding for family planning.

The publication of the final Insight piece completes the Donor Tracker's Pillars of Gender Equality bundle, which also includes the previous two publications on funding for women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion and efforts to end gender-based violence.

Webinar registration - Zoom

Generation Equality? Trends from a Decade of Funding for SRHR - Donor Tracker

UK research community slams government’s decision to cut international development research budgets

The UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), which is responsible for science funding, has told researchers that its budget for international development research has been cut by more than half in 2021 from £245 million (US$329 million) to £120 million (US$161 million).

UKRI received official development assistance (ODA) funding predominately via the UK’s Global Challenge Research Fund, managed by the UK Department on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The cuts are part of the UK government's decision in November 2020 to reduce the UK ODA budget from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%.

The cut in funding will put in jeopardy hundreds of research and science projects aimed at addressing some of the world’s biggest global challenges, including tackling climate adaptation, ensuring food security, and addressing neglected tropical diseases. 

Jeremy Farrar, the Director of the Wellcome Trust, a global charity focused on supporting medical research, said the cuts were very concerning.

News article - The Guardian

News article - The Telegraph

'Team Europe' provides Equity Bank with US$146 million for Kenyan companies impacted by COVID-19, including in agriculture

The EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are together providing €120 million (US$146 million) to the Equity Bank of Kenya to provide access to financing for Kenyan companies most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, including in the agriculture sector.

The support package—the 'Kenya-Team Europe COVID-19 Response Access to Finance and Kenya Agriculture Value Chain Facility'—includes €100 million (US$122 million) in loans from the EIB to Equity Bank and €20 million (US$24 million) in grants from the EU. The EU will provide technical assistance to strengthen Equity Bank’s capacity for investing in longer-term agriculture value chain projects.

The financing will support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and will help unlock development potential, including in the agricultural sector, which contributes 51% to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Press release - European Commission

Dutch politicians discuss international dilemmas and solutions during 'Great Foreign Policy Debate'

On February 24, 2021, several Dutch politicians participated in the 'Great Foreign Policy Debate', which focused on the future outlook of political parties on international dilemmas and solutions.

Points of focus during the debate included global health, the climate crisis, agriculture, international trade, and development cooperation. The debate concluded with an overall consensus that the agenda for development cooperation needs to become more dominant in the Netherlands.

The politicians who took part in the debate were Anne Kuik (Christian Democratic Appeal), Renske Leijten (Socialist Party), Christine Teunissen (Party for the Animals), Tom van der Lee (Green Left), Marielle Paul (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), Kristen van de Hul (Labor Party), Stieneke de Graaf (Christian Union), and Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (Democratic 66).   

Event website - Great Foreign Policy Debate (in Dutch)

Sweden adopts new 2021-2024 strategy for cooperation with International Fund for Agricultural Development

On February 18, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new five-year strategy for its cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The strategy aims to strengthen IFAD's global efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and poverty, particularly focusing on women, small-scale farmers, and other vulnerable groups in poverty-stricken areas.

"Food security is under pressure in many parts of the world. And climate change and disappearing biodiversity make the situation even more difficult”, said Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation. Fridh highlighted that IFAD promotes sustainable agriculture in low-income countries that enables populations to be fed while also protecting the soil.

In particular, Sweden’s objective is to promote IFAD’s work in the areas of climate resilience, climate impact, and biodiversity protection. In addition, the strategy aims to support gender equality and female economic empowerment.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

University of Western Australia, Food and Agriculture Organization identify 150+ underused crops to reduce hunger

University of Western Australia researchers have indicated that the Asia-Pacific region’s overreliance on a limited number of crops has led to undernutrition and low dietary diversity, which has resulted in a significant prevalence of stunting and wasting.

More than 150 underused food crop species have been identified by the university's researchers and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The full study has been published in the journal Nature Plants, with the species ranked in terms of their nutritional value, climate change resistance, economic value, and availability.

News article - Mirage

Under Spain’s leadership, Sahel Alliance General Assembly adopts resolution to foster regional sustainable development

On February 16, 2020, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), Arancha González Laya, chaired the second General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance that took place in N’Djamena, Chad, to review the current situation of the region and advance coordination to effectively address the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result of this meeting, the Sahel Alliance adopted a joint statement aimed at improving the living conditions of populations in the Sahel in a sustainable manner and guaranteeing equal access to essential services. Among other measures, it underlines the need to strengthen actions addressing the COVID-19 crisis, rural development, food security, climate change adaptation, and gender equality in the Sahel region.  

González Laya stated that the Sahel Alliance is committed to working towards post-COVID-19 recovery, strengthening public health services, as well as achieving inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

Created in July 2017, the Sahel Alliance is a regional organization that gathers the G5 Sahel member states—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad—in addition to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, and EU institutions. Since June 2020, Spain holds the presidency of the Sahel Alliance for a one-year period.

Press release – MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Joint statement – General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance

Norway increases support to small-scale, rural farmers through IFAD by 40%

The Norwegian government is allocating NOK508 million (US$58 million) to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The funding will be distributed over a three-year period from 2022 to 2025. The amount is a 40% increase from their last project period and supports the ambitions of IFAD to double the organization’s work before 2030. 

The agreement is flexible, meaning that if other countries join the effort and IFAD can secure the funding for low-income countries itself, Norway will provide the full amount as core support. However, if IFAD does not manage to increase support for low-income countries, Norway will still ensure that a very high proportion of the Norwegian contribution goes to low-income countries through earmarked funds. Norway is cooperating with the other Nordic countries to encourage the rest of IFAD's member countries to increase their support. 

IFAD's work is aimed at increasing the pay of small farmers in low-income countries and improving their families' quality of life. The funding is a part of Norway’s action plan on sustainable food systems in the context of foreign and development policy. 

Press release - the Norwegian government

Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management outlines results of Climate Adaptation Summit, creation of '1000 Cities Adapt Now' coalition

On February 11, 2021, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen-Wijbenga, informed the House of Representatives of the results of the Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands in late January. The global summit was dedicated to elevating climate adaptation on the international agenda and presenting concrete actions. 

New initiatives discussed include the mobilization of more resources to facilitate climate adaptation and the creation of a coalition, 1000 Cities Adapt Now (1000 CAN), aimed at cooperating with 1000 cities worldwide to adapt to climate change over the next ten years.

The Netherlands itself committed to training 30 climate-resilient infrastructure officers to improve local infrastructures.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

Spanish NGOs meet development leadership officials to shape assistance system reform

On February 8, 2021, representatives from the development NGO umbrella organization ‘La Coordinadora’ met with the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, and the Director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Magdy Solimán. The objective of this meeting was to review the current government’s plans to deeply reform Spain’s development cooperation system.

According to La Coordinadora, Moreno reiterated the government’s intentions to increase Spain’s development assistance to 0.5% of the country’s gross national income by the end of the current term of office and underlined the need to strengthen Spanish cooperation and eliminate existing administrative bottlenecks in order to effectively address such budgetary grow.

La Coordinadora took advantage of the meeting to present its proposal paper to the Spanish government titled ‘A new cooperation system to change the world’, which was launched in January 2021 after gathering input and recommendations from up to 300 people involved in Spain’s development affairs.

Press release - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Proposal paper - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Under budget pressure, Australia abolishes development assistance evaluation groups

Following a freedom of information inquiry, the South China Morning Post reported that Australia had closed two development assistance evaluation entities primarily to achieve departmental budget savings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) abolished the Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) in September 2020 and ended the ODE's strategic evaluations of overseas development activities. DFAT also abolished an Independent Evaluation Committee overseeing evaluations.

Opposition spokesman Pat Conroy has claimed that the government's moves undermined Australia’s development program, just when major regional challenges needed to be faced. The DFAT, however, indicated that evaluations would be conducted by other areas of the Department including the Office of the Chief Economist.

Press release - South China Morning Post