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)

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister announces Spain's ODA will increase to 0.5% GNI by 2023

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Arancha González Laya, has announced that Spain’s official development assistance (ODA) will increase to 0.5% of its gross national income (GNI) by 2023. The announcement was made at the Spanish Congress of Deputies' development commitment hearing which was aimed at reviewing the Spanish government’s plans for development cooperation during the current legislature. 

Minister González Laya announced that Spain’s development policy has been restructured to support low- and middle-income countries in addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, key development priorities will include:

Vertical priorities

  • Global health, nutrition, water, and sanitation;
  • Climate change;
  • Education; and
  • Socioeconomic progress.

Horizontal priorities

  • Feminist development policy;
  • Human rights;
  • Humanitarian assistance; and
  • Innovative partnerships.

Minister González Laya also presented Spain's 'Joint Response Strategy', a strategic plan aimed at responding to COVID-19 globally. This plan will focus Spain’s development efforts on humanitarian and emergency assistance, multilateralism, and capacity building in partner countries.

Press release – Cooperación Española, MAEUEC (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)

Spain's AECID coordinates efforts with regional governments to strengthen humanitarian assistance

On June 8, 2020, the Spanish development agency (AECID) hosted a meeting with local and regional government representatives to review Spain’s global response to COVID-19 and to coordinate humanitarian assistance efforts.

The AECID and several regional representatives agreed to strengthen their humanitarian efforts to effectively address the COIVID-19 pandemic in partner countries including by disbursing up to €1.6 million (US$1.7 million) to multilateral instruments working in addressing the COVID19 crisis in emergency contexts, such as the International Committee for Red Cross and the World Food Program.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

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

UK's new Shadow International Development Minister outlines Labour Party's development priorites

The Labour Party’s recently appointed Shadow International Development Secretary, Preet Gil, has set out the party’s new vision for international development. Gil has called for a strong, independent Department for International Development (DFID) that can function as a global leader in tackling poverty and inequality. While the Labour party’s immediate priority would be to focus some of the UK’s ODA budget on addressing COVID-19, Gil argued that the ODA budget must also be used to tackle long-standing inequalities related to gender, climate, healthcare, water and sanitation, and nutrition.

Gil also identified solidarity as a guiding principle of Labour’s approach to international development. In practice, this means forging partnerships with a wide variety of actors around the world (including faith groups, charities, academics, trade unions, co-operatives, movements, and businesses) and ensuring that the UK's development assistance prioritizes the inclusion and amplification of excluded or marginalized voices.

Op-ed - LabourList

Experts praise strong COVID-19 focus of Australia’s new development policy, but stagnant budget and lack of regional focus raises eyebrows

Some experts have welcomed the announcement of a COVID-19 centered Australian development policy given that it emphasizes working to support partner governments in the delivery of critical services and is accompanied by a new performance framework. However, they have also identified some problems with the government's new approach, in particular, the policy's minimal references to South Asia and the role of non-health sectors. It is also of concern that despite the magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis, the Australian government has no plan to increase its official development assistance (ODA) budget.

At the end of May of 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Australia published a new development policy that will guide its development cooperation efforts for the next two years. It focuses specifically on stability, health security, and economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

Blog post - ANU Devpolicy Blog

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 

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

Norway signs framework agreement with Norwegian Institute of Marine Research for knowledge sharing with low-income nations

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norad, has signed a new framework agreement with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research. Norwegian institutions have the expertise and longstanding experience in managing fisheries and marine resources that is often in demand by administrations in low-income countries; the new agreement will ensure access to this knowledge.

The agreement will mainly benefit two existing programs, 'Fish for Development' and 'Ocean for Development'. The aim of the Fish for Development Program is to create jobs, improve levels of food security, and to sustainably increase countries' income. The Ocean for Development Program aims to contribute to the sustainable reduction of poverty through support for the management of the sea and marine industries in low-income countries. 

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian) 

Norway's humanitarian budget reaches historic high

Norway’s humanitarian budget is at a record-high this year and large parts of the available NOK 5.5 billion (US$538 million) are now being allocated to specific groups. Organizations like the UN, the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and several Norwegian humanitarian organizations will be receiving funds for their work on topics such as education and civillian protection in crisis areas.

Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan are among the countries receiving the most Norwegian humanitarian support this year. Norway will also provide support to efforts to prevent sexual and gender-based violence and the protection of civilians from landmines and other explosives.

Because of the current global situation, an increased portion of the humanitarian budget is being held in reserve to enable quick response to pandemic-related needs as they arise during the year. Several countries may, therefore, receive additional support later in the year.

Press release – Norwegian Government

Canada participates in UN meeting on food security and nutrition impacts of COVID-19 crisis

On April 17, 2020, Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, convened a virtual meeting of the UN's Group of Friends on Food and Nutrition Security. At the meeting, UN members and international organizations discussed strategies for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on food access in low-income countries. 

Canada voiced particular concern about the impact of restrictions, imposed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, on "food distribution, trade, and the international movement of farm labor". To address this issue, Canada, in partnership with other governments, the UN, the G20, and international finance institutions, is working to address immediate food supply needs and to develop a more "resilient and sustainable food system". As a part of Canada's previously announced global funding for COVID-19,  US$11 million has been allocated to food security and nutrition. US$10 million will go to the World Food Programme and US$1 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

The Group of Friends on Food and Nutrition Security is made up of over 40 members. Its focus is on advocacy and promoting global action for food security and nutrition.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Sweden's US$11 million in COVID-19 funding prioritizes relief for refugees, young children, emergency health workers

Sweden has reallocated a total of SEK100 million (US$11 million) from its humanitarian reserve toward mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income countries.

Of this funding, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has allocated SEK30 million (US$3 million) to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), including for maintaining health care and access to clean water and hygiene in refugee camps; providing protective equipment for health care professionals and caring for the ill; granting cash support; and making temporary housing available to infected refugees.

In order to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic for children, Sida has also allocated SEK40 million (US$4 million) to the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF. Support will be focused primarily on strengthening risk communication, providing access to clean water and hygiene, strengthening access to education and social protection for families, and providing protective equipment for health professionals.

Sweden has also allocated SEK30 million (US$3 million) to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for supporting hospitals and health care facilities with adequate equipment and providing access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation; psycho-social support for people already traumatized by violence and conflict; and information and training to stop the spread of infection.

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Australia's World Public Health Nutrition Congress canceled

The World Public Health Nutrition Congress 2020,  planned to take place in Brisbane Australia from March 31- April 3, 2020, has been canceled due to COVID-19. The meeting is normally held every four years with the objective of improving nutrition globally, especially in vulnerable countries.

Conference site - WPHNCongress2020 

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)

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)

Japan to provide US$13 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees

Countries neighboring Venezuela have been struggling to manage the drastic influx of refugees fleeing that country's deteriorating economy and social collapse. In response, Japan has announced that it will provide US$13 million in humanitarian assistance for Venezuelan refugees in countries neighboring Venezuela: Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. Through the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Japan will help protect vulnerable people, promote social integration, and distribute food, shelters, blankets, tents, and other supplies.

The distribution of assistance by country is as follows

  • Brazil (US$3 million; 220,000 refugees)
    • Distribute non-food assistance to 1,000 households and provide shelter to vulnerable people; and
    • Support the social integration of refugees into their host communities.
  • Columbia (US$4 million; 1.6 million refugees)
    • Provide assistance to 65,000 refugees and help secure their rights;
    • Provide shelter to 5,200 refugees; and
    • Support the livelihoods and promote the social integration of 40,000 refugees.
  • Ecuador (US$3 million; 380,000 refugees)
    • Provide shelter to 2,500 refugees;
    • Provide supplies to meet the basic needs of 4,500 refugees;
    • Provide psychosocial support to refugees, including 20,000 trauma victims;
    • Provide legal assistance to 18,600 refugees; and
    • Protect 12,900 vulnerable refugees, including victims of gender-based violence and children, as well as promote their social integration.
  • Peru (US$4 million; 860,000 refugees)
    • Distribute shelters and non-food assistance to 9,500 people;
    • Protect 17,000 vulnerable refugees, including victims of gender-based violence and children; and
    • Support the social integration of 3,000 refugees into their host communities.

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

Japan to provide US$24 million in humanitarian assistance to Sahel refugees

Deteriorating security in the Sahel region has led to a rise in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons. Therefore, Japan has announced that it will provide US$24 million in humanitarian assistance to the Sahel region: Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali. Japan will allocate US$12 million to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and US$12 million to the World Food Programme (WFP).

The distribution of assistance by country is as follows:

  • Chad (US$4.2 million)
    • Provide shelters, blankets, tents and more to 11,000 people to improve living conditions.
  • Burkina Faso (US$8 million)
    • Provide shelters, blankets, tents and more to 14,000 people to improve living conditions; and
    • Provide food to 177,000 people to improve nutritional status.
  • Niger (US$7 million)
    • Provide protection for 157,000 vulnerable people, including victims of sexual violence and children;
    • Provide water, sanitation and health services to 156,000 people to improve living conditions; and
    • Provide food to 37,000 people to improve nutritional status.
  • Mali (US$5 million)
    • Provide educational opportunities to 1,500 children and conduct training for 30 teachers;
    • Provide protection for  66,000 people, including victims of sexual violence and those in need of legal assistance; and
    • Provide food to 97,000 people to improve nutritional status.

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