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Norway increases humanitarian assistance budget by US$45 million to meet rising sector concerns; total assistance rises to US$734 million

The UN Emergency Aid appeal for 2021 estimates that more than 235 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection, an increase of 40% from 2020. The Norwegian government, therefore, proposes an increase of NOK400 million (US$45 million) for emergency and humanitarian assistance in 2022, totaling NOK5.2 billion (US$587 million).

In addition to the additional funding, the World Food Program (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will receive NOK1.35 billion (US$ 152 million). In total, the proposed assistance budget for 2022 is a record-breaking NOK6.5 billion (US$734 million). With the proposed increase, the Norwegian humanitarian budget has doubled since 2013.  

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian) 

Canada must do more to address humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, critics say

Since Canada’s federal election is over, critics at Canada’s Institute for Research on Public Policy are calling for urgent policy change in response to the Afghan crisis.

The organization created a post-election to-do list for the Afghan crisis, which includes urgent action to:

  • Get people out: Canada should intensify its diplomacy work to encourage the Taliban to allow safe passage out of Afghanistan;
  • Increase government-assisted refugees: With Canada recently committing to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, at least half should be government-assisted refugees;
  • Speed up the resettlement process: Fast track Afghan refugee claims in Canada;
  • Clarify the new humanitarian program: The government announced a promising new program to resettle vulnerable Afghans, including women leaders, human rights advocates, and LGBTQ+ individuals, but the government must do more to communicate the eligibility and processes of the program; and
  • Increase international assistance: Identified as the most important task on the to-do list, the Canadian government must increase humanitarian aid for organizations working on the ground in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries, such as Pakistan and Turkey, which are experiencing large migration flows from Afghanistan.

Op-ed - Institute for Research on Public Policy 

Australia will partner with Pacific Island countries to improve agriculture quality and biosecurity

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced that Australia will partner with Pacific Island countries and the international consulting organization, DT Global, to enhance agricultural trade and improve biosecurity. The program will assist producers in the Pacific in finding new markets and improve the quality of their products.

The Australian Department of Agriculture will also participate in the program, which will address regional pests and diseases like African Swine Fever and the Fall Army Worm. Improved biosecurity will enable Pacific Island producers greater access to the New Zealand and Australian markets.

Press release - Minister for International Development and the Pacific

UK ODA fell by US$937 million in 2020 in major budget reform

The UK government released its official statistics on international development for 2020 on September 30, 2021; the report shows that the UK spent £14.5 billion (US$19.3 billion) in official development assistance (ODA) in 2020.

While the government kept its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on ODA, the actual budget decreased by £698 million (US$963 million) - 4.6% - due to the UK's shrinking economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budget cuts were made during the middle of 2020, as the government stated it wanted to meet but not exceed its 0.7% GNI ODA target. 

The official statistics reveal:

  • A shift toward multilateral ODA - multilateral ODA rose by 3.6% (£173m); 
  • Bilateral ODA fell by 8.4% (£871 million) compared to 2019, which may indicate that the cuts in the budget predominately fell on the bilateral program. Eight of the 14 top thematic sectors of UK bilateral ODA received a reduced budget; 
  • Health initiatives accounted for 16.7% of UK bilateral ODA, taking the top spot- the health sector as the largest spend area for UK bilateral ODA, increasing by £164 million (US$220 million) in 2020, compared to 2019. Within health, the top three spending areas were: Medical Research (£373 million (US$501 million)), COVID-19 response (£317 million (US$439 million)), and infectious disease control (£169 million (US$227 million)).
  • The largest cut was to the education sector with spending reduced by 31%. 
  • The African continent continues to receive the majority of UK region-specific ODA – It received over half (52%) of all UK region-specific bilateral ODA in 2020, but the amount of bilateral ODA provided to the region decreased by £375 million (US$503 million) in 2020. The top three recipients of UK bilateral country-specific ODA were Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Somalia.
  • In 2020, the UK estimates that it spent £1.6 billion (US$2.2 billion) of its bilateral ODA on COVID-19 pandemic response.
  • The EU remains the largest recipient of UK multilateral ODA, accounting for 31% of all UK Multilateral core ODA, followed by the World Bank’s IDA (19%) and then the Global Fund (10%).
  • NGOs have criticized the UK government's lack of transparency and are requesting access to the original 2020 ODA budget spending plans in order to adequately assess cuts. 

Report – UK Final Statistics on International Development 2020

News article – BOND

New parliamentary report calls for UK to bolster WHO reforms, support COVAX, and develop comprehensive global health strategy

The UK House of Common’s Foreign Affairs Committee released its Global Heath, Global Britain report on September 30, 2021.

The report argues that "health security cannot be separated from foreign policy" and notes that the government’s cuts to its global health development assistance are ‘ill-considered" and risk "endangering Global Britain’s reputation as a science superpower and force for good.’’

The report recommendations include a call for the UK government to:

  • Prioritize driving reform at the World Health Organisation (WHO) to bolster its independence and power. It also recommends that the UK support the recommendations made by the WHO’s Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) for the organization to be given greater powers to independently investigate outbreaks. It calls for the UK to encourage other countries to increase their core funding to the WHO to give it more independence and power moving forward;   
  • Speed up and increase the number of vaccines it donates through COVAX as both a moral imperative and a crucial aspect of UK security. Importantly, it calls for a clear strategy to guide the UK’s bilateral donations that enable predictable and sustained support in a timely manner to vulnerable people;  
  • Put in place mechanisms for ongoing cooperation with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and assess the impact of maintaining UK access to the ECDC’s Early Warning Response System on the UK’s ability to access key data and enhance global health security;  
  • Help enable greater manufacturing capacity of key vaccines and drugs in lower-income countries via transfer of knowledge and technical support;   
  • Ensure global health spending is maintained post-COVID-19 crisis, including for vital health system strengthening;
  • Publicly commit to allocating previous levels of funding to development assisted health research programs when the fiscal situation allows; and,
  • Publish a new global health strategy by the end of 2021. 

Report - Global Health Global Britain

UK NGOs raise concerns over additional cuts to UK development assistance budget

UK NGOs raised concerns over the UK Treasury's plan to make further cuts to the UK’s development assistance budget as a result of so-called ‘accounting tricks.’ 

The UK government announced that it will only spend 0.5% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) from 2021 onwards. However, UK NGOs are concerned that in addition to this cut, the Treasury will count the following spending items in its ODA budget, further reducing the discretionary funds available to the UK in 2021-2022:

  • Cancellation of a multi-million-pound debt owed by Sudan to the UK, despite the debt having been written off years ago;
  • 30% of Special Drawing Rights given by the IMF, which the UK has agreed to recycle and hand on to low- and lower-middle-income countries in order to help with the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, despite this funding providing additional new resources to the UK budget; and,
  • The cost of giving COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries as official ODA, which could amount to £1 billion (US$1.4 billion).

While these spending items are all allowed under the international rules for measuring ODA set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation, UK NGOs argue that they either don’t represent current real flows of money (Sudan’s historic debt relief) or should be given in addition to the UK’s ODA budget as they come from an additional budget or are responding to exceptional circumstances.   

NGOs note that if the Treasury decides to count these items as part of its ODA spending, the discretionary spending of the UK’s development assistance budget will be significantly reduced. The budget has already been cut by £4 billion (US$5.4 billion) due to the government’s decision to reduce the volume of ODA to 0.5% of UK's GNI in 2021/22. However, these additional costs could cut the UK’s discretionary spending by a further £2 billion (US$2.7 billion), leaving the UK with only £8 billion (US$10.7 billion) for its discretionary ODA budget in 2021/22.

News article – DEVEX

Norway enters US$56 million agreement with Global Crop Diversity Fund to ensure food security

Norway is entering a ten-year agreement with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to improve food security and to secure increased chances of viable crops for vulnerable small farmers despite more extreme weather occurrences.  

At the UN Food Systems Summit, Norway promoted a new initiative on seed safety. It is important that small farmers choose which seeds to sow, which are subsequently input into the seed system. The seed system is important for both farmers' rights and food security.  

Norway supports the Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods, and Development (BOLD) program as part of its agricultural development strategy. One of BOLD's core aims is to improve the genetic characteristics of seeds so they can withstand more extreme weather to increase food safety.

The agreement consists of approximately NOK500 million (US$56 million) over ten years. As a part of the program, 15 national gene banks in low- and lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) will receive assistance to support biological diversity and, thus, ensure regional food security. Furthermore, seeds will be preserved in Svalbard's global seed vault. 

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian) 

EU Commission commits US$165 million to CGIAR and US$29 million to ECW at Global Citizen Live

The European Commission announced new commitments of €140 million (US$165 million) to CGIAR, a global partnership on agriculture and food security research and development (R&D), and €25 million (US$29 million) to the UN Education Cannot Wait (ECW) global education fund at the Global Citizen Live concert on September 25, 2021.

CGIAR brings together organizations around the globe that conduct R&D to reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve health and nutrition, and foster the sustainable management of natural resources. 

The EU is a founding supporter of ECW, a global fund to finance education during humanitarian crises for crisis-affected children. The Commission has committed nearly €53 million (US$62 million) in total to ECW since its inception in 2016.

Press release - European Commission

Impact report - Global Citizen

FCDO’s annual report reveals striking ODA cuts to UK bilateral country programs

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and, Development Office's (FCDO) newly published '2020-2021 Annual Report and Accounts' reveals some of the impacts of the UK's cuts to official development assistance (ODA) in fiscal year (FY) 2021/22. 

The report indicates decreases in ODA allocations to the FCDO central programs. Expenditures of the global health central program departments will fall 27% to US$1.2 billion (GBP£916 million). ODA spending on education, gender, and equality will also fall by more than half to £124 million (US$167 million).

The report also reveals that the FCDO plans to spend £1.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) in direct country bilateral ODA in FY2021/22. This entails a concerning 45% cut compared to FY2020/21, mainly driven by reductions in funding to the poorest countries.

While some partners on the Asian continent will receive large cuts, analysis by Devex shows some evidence of an Indo-Pacific tilt: 

  • £32 million (US$43 million) will be allocated to the FCDO’s newly established South East Asia & Pacific Department; 
  • ODA to Indonesia will increase by 22% to £14 million (US$18.8 million); 
  • India’s ODA will also increase by 33% to £55 million (US$74 million); however, 
  • ODA to Bangladesh will fall by 62%; and
  • Pakistan, historically the largest recipient of UK bilateral ODA, will see a funding cut of 40%, from £160 million (US$215 million) to £97 million (US$130 million).

The Devex analysis also shows that fragile states and countries on the African continent are scheduled to receive large cuts.

  • Lebanon’s ODA is set to fall by 85%, from £85 million (US$114 million) to £13 million (US$18 million);
  • ODA to Somalia is set to fall by 41%, from £121 million (US$163 million) to £71 million (US$94 million); 
  • ODA to Nigeria is set to fall from £209 million (US$281 million) to £95 million (US$128 million); 
  • Ethiopia's ODA is set to fall from £240 million (US$322 million) to £107 million (US$144 million); and
  • ODA to Kenya, a primary UK development and security partner, is falling by 39%, from £67 million (US$90 million) to £41 million (US$55 million).

News article - Devex

Report - FCDO 2020-2021 Annual Report and Accounts

Japan’s PM Suga pledges further development of sustainable food systems to address global food security

During the United Nation’s Food Systems Summit 2021, Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, vowed to continue to create and improve sustainable food systems to address global food security.

Leaders from over 150 countries as well as representatives from international organizations, private companies, and civil society organizations discussed how to tackle food security issues that have deteriorated due to the COVID-19 crisis.

To address specific food security issues, Suga indicated the following points as crucial:

  1. Promoting sustainable production through innovation, digitalization, science, and technology; 
  2. Maintaining free and fair trade, including removing some trade regulations; and 
  3. Supporting approaches in line with regional development efforts by taking into account countries' culture and climate.

News article – Japan Broadcasting Corporation

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

US pledges US$6.0 billion in assistance at UN Food Systems Summit

Samatha Power, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announced at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, that the US will commit US$5.0 billion over five years to the Feed the Future (FTF) program. Feed the Future is the US government's global hunger and food security program, which works with partners in the private sector and local actors.

Power also announced the expansion of Feed the Future's Global Food Security Strategy to include more countries and improve approaches to complex issues involved in tackling global hunger. The goal of these expanded investments is to reduce poverty and child stunting in Feed the Future countries by 20% and to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the Summit, the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) additionally announced its intent to invest US$1.0 billion to combat food insecurity and bolster agriculture over the next five years. Acting CEO of the DFC, Dev Jagadesan, highlighted the importance of food security in global development in the statement. He suggested that the new targeted investments would encourage private sector advancements in addressing global agriculture and food systems in addition to mitigating climate change.

Press release - USAID

Press release - DFC

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party wins minority government in Canadian election; platform promises increased international development spending

Canada’s federal snap elections on September 20, 2021, ended with a minority government led by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, similar to that of the previous formation. The Liberal Party’s campaign platform made several promises regarding Canada’s global engagement, including new spending for international development.

The Liberal Party campaign platform promised to:

  • Increase Canada’s international development assistance each year until 2030 to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • Quadruple Canada’s annual investment in the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives to enable Canadian embassies to support the work of feminists, LGBTQ2 activists, and human rights defenders;
  • Donate at least 200 million vaccine doses to COVAX, the World Health Organization's (WHO) vaccine alliance, by the end of 2022 and provide additional funding to support testing and production efforts in low and middle-income countries;
  • Continue engagement with international allies to raise humanitarian funds and support the establishment of enduring democracy in Lebanon;
  • Continue Canadian support for global education, including new funding for girls’ and refugees’ education;
  • Provide increased assistance to people with disabilities in low and middle-income countries; and
  • Double Canada’s funding to grassroots women’s rights organizations and continue to make significant investments in comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services

Platform - Liberal Party of Canada

News article - Cooperation Canada

G20 Agriculture Ministers sign Florence Sustainability Charter to improve food security

The G20 Ministers of Agriculture met in Florence, Italy on September 17-18, 2021, and approved the Florence Sustainability Charter to address food security in the three-dimensional sustainability framework: economic, social, and environmental.

Furthermore, the Ministers reaffirmed their intent to reach zero hunger, which has been severely threatened by ramifications from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Charter will strengthen cooperation between G20 members and low-income countries on food and agriculture; the agreement allows nations to share knowledge and establish internal production capacities best suited to local environments, contributing to the resilience and further recovery of agriculture in rural communities.

Florence Sustainability Charter - G20

Liz Truss appointed as new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development in UK Cabinet reshuffle

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, appointed Liz Truss as the new Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development (FCDO). 

The move is part of a broader cabinet reshuffle by the Prime Minister. Dominic Raab, the former Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development, was demoted to the role of Secretary of State for Justice, but will take on the Deputy Prime Minister title. The move was largely seen as a result of Raab’s management of the UK withdrawal from Afghanistan, with many Conservative Members of Parliament highly critical of his approach.

Raab is the second western world leader, following Sigrid Kaag in the Netherlands, to leave their post following Afghanistan withdrawals. 

Truss was the Secretary of State for International Trade between 2019 - 2021 and holds the title of Minister for Women and Equalities. She will retain her role as Minister for Women and Equalities in her new post as the Foreign Secretary. Devex reports that civil society and development commentators’ views of her appointment have been mixed but all agree that she will have a challenge ahead, managing the COVID-19 crisis, climate change, and conflict on a limited budget.  

Other political appointment changes within the FCDO include the appointment of Amanda Milling as an FCDO Minister of State, replacing, Nigel Adams, former Minister for Asia. Vicky Ford replaces James Duddridge as Minister for Africa. Deborah Stedman-Scott joined the FCDO as Minister for Women, but simultaneously maintains a role at the Department for Work and Pensions. Finally, Kemi Badenoch joined the FCDO with responsibilities concerning equality, which she shares with Truss.

Truss penned an article in the Sunday Telegraph in which she acknowledged the UK's status as a global leader in development, champion of girls’ education, and supporter of freedom, free enterprise, democracy, and equality around the world.

News article - Devex

News article - The Telegraph

European Parliament Development Committee urges European Commission to prioritize global food systems

Tomas Tobé, the Chair of the Committee on Development in the European Parliament, submitted several oral questions to the European Commission concerning the EU’s role in improving global food systems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While acknowledging that resources will be limited in the EU budget’s Global Europe instrument and that tough choices will have to be made, Tobé said he hopes the EU will aim to lead by example by taking action at the UN Food Systems Summit.

Tobé posed the following questions:

  1. How will the Commission ensure the EU can take a leadership role in reaching SDG2 including by making financial commitments for nutrition under the 2021-2027 EU budget given the current huge global funding gap?
  2. How does the Commission intend to use EU trade policy to support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems in accordance with the 'Farm to Fork' Strategy?
  3. What measures does the Commission intend to propose to support partner countries and the local farmers, fishers, foresters, and food producers in moving toward more sustainable practices in key areas such as animal welfare, the use of pesticides, and the fight against antimicrobial resistance?

​​Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, responded to the questions by recognizing the need to ensure the shift to sustainable food systems is global. He said the EU has been active in the preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit.

The Development Committee will begin working on a report on food systems in low- and middle-income countries, which will incorporate the Commission’s answers to the committee’s questions.

Video - European Parliament

Norway commits additional US$11 million for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan

Norway confirmed an additional NOK100 million (US$ 11 million) in humanitarian support for Afghanistan at the High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan on September 13th, 2021. 

Norway has earmarked NOK261 million (US$ 29 million) for Afghanistan humanitarian assistance thus far. The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross will channel the Norwegian funding. 

The High-level Ministerial Meeting for Afghanistan was hosted by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The goal of the meeting was to ensure funding for protection and life-saving assistance for the people of Afghanistan.  

The additional NOK100 million (US$11 million) was diverted from long-term development assistance to humanitarian assistance. 

Press release – Norwegian Government  

Japan to provide US$3 million for food assistance in Burundi

Japan announced that it will provide ¥350 million (US$3 million) for food assistance in Burundi through the World Food Programme (WFP).

Burundi has been facing a food crisis due to the prolonged rainy season in 2019, which led to a decline in food production and an increase in prices. These funds will contribute to Japan’s pledge to build a “resilient and sustainable society” as announced during the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7).

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

G20 Health Ministers commit to vaccinating at least 40% of global population by end of 2021

The G20 Health Ministers met in Rome on September 5-6, 2021, and committed to vaccinating at least 40% of the global population by the year's end.

The Health Ministers' final declaration focuses on the fight against COVID-19 (particularly, the support of global access to vaccination) and the importance of preventing future pandemics, emphasizing the role of the One Health approach that includes animal and planetary health.

Final declaration - G20

UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office loses 200+ development professionals following merger in 2020

A new analysis by Devex reveals that 212 development professionals left the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) following the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in September 2020. 

While the FCDO told Devex that the number of former DFID staffers who departed after the merger was similar to the previous year’s turnover, the Chair of the UK parliament’s International Development Committee, Sarah Champion, has expressed concerns over staffing. She indicated that the Committee's previous concern that the merger could lead to a development brain-drain from the FCDO is coming true. This staffing issue is of particular concern, given that the UK was renowned globally for its staff expertise in development. 

Staffing losses come as the FCDO faces increasing criticism for its management of the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, has received significant criticism following revelations that an internal FCDO risk report predicted that the fall of the government in Afghanistan could be swift following withdrawal. This conclusion contradicted Raab’s statements that defended the UK's actions due to intelligence failures and lack of accurate predictions of quick government breakdowns. 

News article: The Guardian

UK’s development superpower status under threat, warns Center for Global Development

The Center for Global Development (CGD), a global development think-tank with an office in London, has published a new blog reflecting on the first anniversary of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCOD) following the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The blog argues that some of the UK's core development strengths under DFID have been eroded as a result of the merger, highlighting that the FCDO is less poverty-focused, its commitment to development effectiveness is weaker, and its expertise has declined. CGD argues that these trends, coupled with the substantial budget cuts to the UK development assistance budget, threaten the UK’s development superpower status.

CGD argues that the purpose of UK development assistance has shifted as a result of the creation of FCDO and is now more concentrated on meeting UK national interests than addressing poverty. CGD recognizes that this shift began prior to the merger, but notes that the merger has accelerated the move away from poverty reduction.

On development effectiveness, CGD argues that while it is too early to empirically evaluate how the merger has impacted the quality of UK development assistance, CGD predicts that it will further decline, especially in the category of transparency. A recent review by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), the UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, highlighted that the FCDO has been less transparent in its engagement with the ICAI than in prior years and the Chair of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee has criticized the UK government for a lack of clear information, particularly with regards to its spending plans.

Finally, on staffing CGD notes that when the merger happened, only 2 of the 7 initial appointments to the Management Board were former DFID officials. More recently, the FCDO has announced 20% cuts to its staffing costs, with most of the cuts likely to fall on staff managing development projects have been stopped due to cuts in the development assistance budget.

Blog - Center for Global Development