Policy Updates

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New Inter-Institutional Coordination Platform will bring together major stakeholders in Italian global response to COVID-19

The Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Del Re, has announced the first meeting of the Inter-Institutional Coordination Platform on the Italian Global Response to COVID-19.

The coordination platform will bring together the main Italian actors involved in the global fight against Covid-19. Delegates from the Ministries of Foreign affairs, Health, Treasury, Economic Development, University, and Research and Agriculture will take part, as well as members of the Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, members of civil society organizations and universities, research institutions the National Health Institute, and representatives from the pharmaceutical industry.

Italy is interested in the global health impact of COVID-19, but also in the pandemic's socio-economic effects, including implications on the food systems of most vulnerable countries.

Interview- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Spain pledges US$11 million at Global Goal Summit

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez participated at the 'Global Goal: Unite for Our Future' COVID19 pledging summit. This event, held on June 27, was co-hosted by European Commission and the international advocacy NGO 'Global Citizen' and was aimed at raising finances for developing globally accessible COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments. 

Prime Minister Sánchez announced that Spain will provide €10 million (US$11 million) to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) aimed at combating hunger and guaranteeing nutrition standards in partner countries severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to the summit, Sánchez reiterated Spain’s engagement in the global response against COVID-19 and also expressed support for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the ACT-Accelerator initiative. Furthermore, Sánchez called upon the international community to take action for protecting the most vulnerable populations worldwide, particularly women and girls.  


Press release – European Commission

Video – Pedro Sánchez's Twitter profile (in Spanish)

Norad report evaluates Norway's efforts to focus ODA on narrower thematic and geographic priorities

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) recently released a report evaluating the geographical and thematical concentration of Norway's Official Development Assistance (ODA). The evaluation is based on a political decision from 2013, in which the government, led by Foreign Minister Børge Brende, determined that Norway would increase the geographical and thematic concentration of its ODA. The aim of the resolution was to more clearly define Norway's goals and priorities while encouraging more cost-effective ODA-management. 

Between 2012 and 2017, Norway's ODA became more concentrated on a smaller number of partners and agreements; the number of development contracts declined rapidly while the volume of ODA increased. Nonetheless, the report concludes that no substantial geographic or thematic concentration of Norway's ODA spending was achieved.

Article – Norad (in Norweigan)

Former Australian ministers seek greater agricultural research for pandemic prevention

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for greater preparedness for pandemics and outbreaks of other diseases affecting the world. Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, and former Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, are calling on the Australian government to integrate research and development in agriculture, health, and the environment in order to reduce the risk of future pandemics. An integrated approach is particularly necessary for dealing with food chains involving close contact between humans and animals.

The Australian government recently released a new development strategy titled 'Partnerships for Recovery', which outlines a shift in the country's development programming to focus on stability and economic recovery from COVID-19 in the Indo-Pacific region.

News article - Australian Financial Review

Japan announces plan to invest in transportation, agriculture, healthcare, human resource development in Philippines

Japan has announced that it will provide ¥154 billion (US$1.4 billion) in loans to alleviate traffic congestion, as well as ¥3.1 billion (US$29 million) to improve agriculture, healthcare, and human resource development in the Philippines.

Japan plans to support the construction of coastal roads and a bridge connecting Cebu Island to Mactan Island, as well as a bypass that connects the south of Davao City with its ports. Cebu is the second-largest metropolitan area in the Philippines (population: 2.85 million as of 2015) and is a rapidly growing trade center. The population of Cebu is expected to reach 3.8 million by 2030, however, its transportation capacity has not kept pace with its rapid urbanization. Similarly, Davao City has achieved high economic growth in recent years and its economic importance is expected to grow.

As part of this announcement, Japan also committed to 1) provide agricultural machinery (for example, tractors) to improve sugar harvest; 2) provide health and medical equipment (for example, CT Scanners and MRI systems) to bolster the Philippines' response to COVID-19; and 3) finance the enrollment of 22 young government officials in graduate schools in Japan to develop human resources. Compared to the Philippines’ economic growth rate of 6% to 7%, the agricultural sector has been growing at a significantly slower rate. As for COVID-19, there were over 16,000 cases and 920 deaths in the Philippines, and the medical infrastructure is not sufficient for tackling the pandemic. Finally, the Philippines lacks adequate human resources, organizations, systems, finances, and capabilities to address all of the development challenges it faces, including those described above.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Climate adaption and food security are crucial to surviving pandemic, says Norwegian Development Minister

Norwegian Minister of Development Dag-Inge Ulstein and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote about international cooperation in a joint op-ed in connection with the launch of a new report from Ban Ki-Moon’s Global Center on Adaptation. The report, released on May 22, 2020, focuses on how increased efforts towards climate adaptation and food security will be an effective measure to limit the effects of the pandemic and on reconstruction.  

According to the op-ed, the pandemic is accelerating the risk of a global hunger pandemic in two ways. With lockdowns in place, some are families are not in a financial situation to access food, even where it is still available. While schools are closed, 370 million children all over the world are robbed of their primary daily meal. In 2020, Norwegian official development assistance (ODA) for climate adaptation and the fight against hunger increased by NOK 500 million (US$48 million).  

Opinion piece – Norwegian Government  

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian)  

Chair of South Korean Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee calls for South Korean humanitarian assistance to North Korea

Yoon Sang-hyun, Chair of the Foreign Affairs and nification Committee at the National Assembly of South Korea, issued a statement urging the South Korean government to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea for relief from suspected food shortages due to COVID-19.  

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced this month that North Korea—among others—is facing potentially severe food insecurity due to border closures and disruptions in the global supply chain. The Ministry of Unification of South Korea estimated that the food shortage in North Korea will amount to 860,000 tons this year.  

In light of such circumstances, Yoon emphasized the need to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea, highlighting that the most vulnerable people including children will be most affected by the food crisis. To ensure that food relief is provided to those in need, he suggested that the World Food Programme (WFP) Pyongyang office could monitor the dissemination process. The South Korean government has already allocated US$34 million (KRW41.4 billion) to WFP to provide rice to North Korea, but these funds were not disbursed due to North Korea’s refusal.  

In addition to food supplies, Yoon also requested that South Korea provide necessary medical supplies and dispatch health and medical personnel to support North Korea in combatting COVID-19.  

In response to Yoon’s statement, Unification Minister Kim Yeon Chul stated that the Ministry of Unification is preparing for a comprehensive and sustainable measure on inter-Korean health and medical cooperation. Minister Kim also emphasized the need for wide public support on providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea and called for support from the National Assembly on the matter.  

News article – The Herald (in Korean) 

News article – News 1 (in Korean) 

Commission releases EU’s Farm to Fork strategy

The European Commission released its Farm to Fork strategy (F2F) for a “fair, healthy, and environmentally-friendly food system” on May 20, 2020. This is the EC’s first ever systemic strategy bringing together an aligned and comprehensive set of policies in the food, farming, and environmental sectors for the whole food production value chain. F2F calls for increased funding for agri-food research, including €1 billion (US$1 billion) for Green Deal priorities in 2020 and €10 billion (US$10.8 billion) for agri-food research via Horizon Europe (HE), the 2021-2027 research program. 

The F2F aims to make the EU a global standard setter on sustainable food systems to support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems through international cooperation and trade policy. This will be done by engaging with trade partners (particularly in low- and middle- income countries) on sustainable food system policies, creating Green Alliances, facilitating international cooperation on food research and innovation, incorporating the EU’s F2F policies into programming guidance for cooperation with third countries from 2021-2027, and by advocating for the global transition to sustainable food systems internationally through events like Nutrition for Growth and the UN Food Systems Summit. 

Farm to Fork Strategy - European Commission 

Press release - European Commission 

Farm to Fork Strategy Q&A - European Commission 

Farm to Fork Strategy Factsheet - European Commission 

Executive Director of Save the Children UK warns of lost decade for children

Kevin Watkins, the Executive Director of Save the Children UK, warns that unless immediate action is taken, the 2020s could be a lost decade for making progress on improving the lives of millions of vulnerable children.

Watkins highlights the fact that children in many countries are already missing out on their education as a result of school closures because of the COVID-19 crisis. These closures also mean that  370 million children are not receiving daily school meals, which represent a vital part of many children's daily nutrition.

Loss of income and the impact of rising food prices as a result of COVID-19 could also put a further seven million children around the world at risk of stunting. Furthermore, according to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the current suspension of routine vaccinations could result in more than 13 million people missing out on vital vaccinations.

Watkins calls for donors to:

  • Maintain their development assistance budgets, stressing the fact that poor countries require financial assistance now more than ever;
  • Support further debt relief for poor countries. The G20 already agreed to suspend official creditors debt to the poorest countries, which will free up US$14 billion, but Watkins calls for the G20 to push for a suspension of poor countries' commercial debt as well since overall, commercial debt is twice the size official creditor debt; and
  • Enable the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to support countries and expand their fiscal space.

News article - Devex

Italy launches 'Coalition for Food' initiative to combat COVID-19-related food insecurity

The Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Del Re, in a call with the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Belinda Trevelyan, presented the Coalition for Food initiative.

The initiative aims to mitigate food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. The multilateral action will ensure the sustainability and resilience of the agri-food sector during the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Japan to provide US$56 million in loans to Indonesia to strengthen cacao production value chain, support small farmers

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), with Olam International Limited (Olam Ltd.), has agreed to provide up to US$56 million in loans to support Indonesia’s cocoa industry.

The world’s third-largest cacao producer, Indonesia has over 1,000,000 households participating in the cacao industry. However, most cacao production is owned by small farmers, and issues exist over quality and productivity. Furthermore, cacao production is concentrated in the Sulawesi region where poverty rates are high.
This project will strengthen production capacity by expanding cacao plants owned by Olam Ltd.’s Indonesian subsidiary. By providing loans to small farmers, the project is intended to increase trading volume and raise incomes, decreasing regional disparities and alleviating poverty. Furthermore, by increasing Indonesia’s agricultural exports, it will help improve trade balances.

This project is co-financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which also signed a loan agreement for US$120 million. In May 2017, IFC and JICA agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding for efficient co-financing of the private sector in developing countries.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Australia proposes global reform to wildlife markets, assisting in Papua New Guinea's fight against African swine fever

Australia's Chief Veterinary Officer has suggested the need for global reforms on wildlife markets. He is calling on members of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to take a united approach to change the way these markets are managed. Australia's Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, said changes should be aimed at minimizing the risk of zoonotic and animal diseases associated with these markets.

Littleproud and Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, also announced jointly the Australian Government’s response to slow the spread of African swine fever in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and stop its entry into Australia. The government committed A$66 million(US$40 million) for a border response package late last year and is providing technical assistance and laboratory support, as well as communication experts to assist PNG with the fight against the African swine fever.

Press release - Minister for Agriculture

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Agriculture

Norway commits to upholding 1% GNI to ODA

The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein, responded to a question from the Progress Party in Parliament, addressing Norway’s commitment to maintaining Official Development Assistance (ODA) at approximately 1% of gross national income (GNI).

Ulstein explained the government’s priorities in development policy and laid out the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the framework for Norwegian development policy: in particular the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. Norway is committed to upholding the current level of assistance.

Norwegian citizens have also expressed strong support for the government’s ODA work. Statistics Norway presented insights in 2017, showing that 87% of the population supports assistance to lower-income countries and that 50% support an increase in Norway's humanitarian budget.

Letter to the parliament – Norwegian Parliament (in Norwegian)

USAID Administrator underscores importance of Sahel food security

In a hearing before a US Senate appropriations subcommittee, Mark Green, Administrator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), spoke to the importance of food security in maintaining stability in the Sahel. Without food security, Green said, the region faced further reductions in economic opportunity, greater displacement, and increased political radicalization.

USAID provides humanitarian assistance as well as development programs aimed at food security, governance, and resilience.  Green was also questioned about the possible reduction in US troops and how that would affect the stability of the region. Green conceded that a reduction in troops would make it more difficult for USAID to carry out its development programs. Green also spoke to the importance of working on issues that are particularly important to women and girls, including efforts against child marriage, and stressed that women needed to be included in the peace process.

News article - Devex 

Sweden provides US$5 million to combat effects of locust swarms in East Africa

To help prevent a looming humanitarian crisis following the recent locus invasion in East Africa, Sweden will provide SEK 45 million (US$5 million) in humanitarian support to the most affected countries. The locust is the worst invasion to hit Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years and Kenya in 70 years. Swarms have also spread to Djibouti, Eritrea, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, potentially affecting 20 million people in the region.

In response to an appeal from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Sweden has agreed to channel SEK 30 million (US$3 million) to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda through the FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation (SFERA). The support will be directed toward priorities set out for each individual country. An additional SEK 10 million (US$1 million) will be provided to Ethiopia and Somalia, also channeled through SFERA, with the aim of limiting the locusts' spread and ensuring food security. Lastly, SEK 5 million (US$526,000) has been allocated to Kenya and Somalia, channeled through Oxfam’s rapid response mechanism, to combat the spread of the locust and support household recovery. 

Including these recent additions, Sida’s support to FAO in 2020 amounts to SEK 97 million (US$10 million).

Press release – Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (in Swedish)

Agricultural research among most effective components of Australia's development spending, expert argues

Development spending on agricultural research has been an effective — though often overlooked — component of Australia's development scheme. With the government's review of their international development policy currently underway, the Chair of the Crawford Fund for International Agricultural  Research and former Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Mark Anderson, spoke out about the importance of agricultural research in development. He encouraged the Australian government not to cut funding to the sector.

Agricultural research only takes up 2% of Australia’s development budget but according to Anderson, it offers enormous returns in terms of poverty reduction and economic growth in recipient countries. It also creates opportunities for Australia to engage in trade and soft diplomacy. In his comments, Anderson said that agriculture research is furthermore important because it ensures that Australia has the scientific knowledge necessary to respond to emerging biosecurity threats and trends.

News article - The Land

Japan to provide US$9 million to improve agriculture and waste management in Bhutan

The Japanese government has announced that it will provide $US8.5 million (¥936 million) to improve agriculture and waste management in Bhutan.

In Bhutan, agriculture is a key economic sector accounting for about 15.2% of GDP and comprising 57.2% of the working population. However, the mountain landscape limits the area available for cultivation, and the self-sufficiency rate of Bhutan is only 46.7%. Furthermore, young people are moving rapidly to urban areas, and rural populations are aging and shrinking.

Therefore, Japan has allocated US$4 million (¥427 million) to provide agricultural machinery throughout Bhutan. Between 2018 to 2023, these funds are expected to increase the annual cultivated area from 10,492 to 17,800 hecatres, and annual area harvested by agricultural machinery from 805 to 1,945 hectares. In addition, this project is expected to contribute to the efficiency of agricultural work, promote the utilization of fallow land, increase agriculture productivity and employment in rural areas, and improve food security. 

The amount of waste generated in Bhutan has increased as population growth and urbanization have led to lifestyle changes and rising income levels. Mostly cities have been using donated waste management equipment that is aging and prone to failures. As a result, cities cannot perform regular waste management and proper disposal of waste, worsening living conditions.

To address these issues, Japan will direct US$6 million (¥590 million) to provide equipment related to the transportation and collection of waste (containers, bulldozers, etc.) to the cities of Thimphu, Phuentsholing, Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar.

Press release – Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Pacific Update conference on development announces 2020 dates

Pacific Update, an annual development conference focusing on the Pacific, has been scheduled for June 24- 26, 2020. Researchers, policymakers, and development practitioners will discuss economic, social, political, and environmental issues facing the region.

The conference will be held at the University of South Pacific (USP) in Suva, Fiji. It is organized by the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University and the USP's School of Economics. Calls for papers and panel proposals are now open.

Event website - Development Policy Centre, ANU

Japan to provide US$100 million in loans to Ghana to improve cocoa value chain

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has announced US$100 million in loans to strengthen the cocoa bean agricultural value chain and related industries in Ghana. This loan is part of a US$600 million loan co-financed by development finance institutions including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Development Bank of South Africa, Italian Promotion Bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, and several private financial institutions.

Ghana is the world’s second-largest cocoa bean producer, but it faces problems with productivity, processing, and distributing systems. To ameliorate this problem, the Ghanaian government established the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to manage the production and distribution of cocoa. JICA will hold technical projects and seminars with COCOBOD to strengthen cocoa bean inspection management capability. JICA will also work with the Ghanaian government to abolish the use of child labor in the cocoa industry.

The loans from JICA will be delivered in partnership with the AfDB, as the first action towards a joint investment commitment made at the 7th Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD7) in Tokyo last year. At the conference, JICA and the AfDB committed to providing $3.5 billion in joint financing for African private sector development.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Canada partners with Caribbean Community to tackle climate change

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, met with leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Barbados on February 17- 18, 2020 to discuss strategies for managing the impacts of climate change while promoting inclusive economic growth. New funding from Canada is supporting the work of CARICOM, specifically in dealing with the ramifications of climate change.

Canada is funding programs aimed at improving emergency response and preparedness and promoting climate-smart agriculture and the blue economy. Canada has committed to increasing the number of experts — in particular, technical assistance experts — assisting CARICOM nations. It has also agreed to include climate change-related fields of study in international educational exchange agreements.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada