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On September 11, 2020, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, spoke virtually at a United Nations (UN) meeting about the work of the 'Recovering Better for Sustainability' discussion group. This group, co-led by the UK, Rwanda, Fiji, and the EU, explores how countries can create more sustainable, healthier, and more inclusive societies and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) despite the COVID-19 crisis. In his speech, Ahmad outlined the steps the UK has been taking to support lower-income countries to "build back better". These include:
- Supporting climate-resilient growth, protecting biodiversity, and promoting sustainable ways of living;
- Prioritizing the establishment of strong and resilient health systems, underpinned by universal health coverage; and
- Ensuring no one is left behind with a focus on ensuring girls and vulnerable children continue to learn, even when schools are closed, and are supported to safely get back to school.
Ahmad noted that the UK government will continue to push these priorities in its presidencies of the UN COP26 and G7 next year.
Japan has agreed to provide a ¥1.9 billion (US$18 million) grant to improve the training environment for teachers in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education in Laos.
According to a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) press release, these funds will improve educational facilities and equipment in target areas by rebuilding Teacher Training Colleges, procuring educational equipment and text, and providing consulting services.
The Italian Council of Ministries approved the new triennial guidelines document for 2019-2021. The document outlined Italy's cooperation priorities for the coming years; 75% of Italian cooperation resources will be focused on the priority areas given in the document. The remaining 25% will go toward other sectors and debt treatment operations.
The identified priorities are:
- Food security and nutrition;
- Health (including health system strengthening, the fight against pandemics, access to immunization, and noncommunicable diseases);
- Cultural cooperation and protection of cultural heritage;
- Migration (including strengthening and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, and facilitating orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people);
- Protection of the environment (including management of natural resources, and the fight against climate change);
- Inclusive and sustainable growth;
- Fighting against all kind of discrimination;
- Supporting efforts to promote conflict resolution through peace processes; and
- Supporting the global partnership for sustainable development.
The document also identified the 22 priority countries for Italian cooperation, given by region:
- Africa: Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Mozambique;
- Middle East: Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine;
- Balkans: Albania and Bosnia;
- Latin America: Cuba and El Salvador; and
- Asia: Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
The UK government has announced its interim leadership team for the forthcoming Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). FCDO will formally open on September 1, 2020, following the UK government’s decision to merge its Department for International Development (DFID) with its Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The announcement comes after the recent appointment of Sir Philip Barton as the permanent secretary to the FCDO, the highest-level civil servant in the new department.
The team is comprised of five directors-general, appointed on an interim basis of five months only to help manage the transition. The team also includes one political director, appointed on a permanent basis. Each Director-General leads on a specific geographic area and a set of thematic areas.
- Juliet Chua will be the new director-general of finance and corporate performance. This was a post she held in DFID.
- Tim Barrow will be the new political director. He is currently UK ambassador to the EU.
- Tom Drew will be the director-general of Middle-East and North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He is currently director-general of consular and security at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. He will also be responsible for humanitarian and crisis management, as well as defense, migration, and national security.
- Moazzam Malik will be the director-general for Africa. He is currently director-general of country Programs in DFID. He will also be responsible for conflict and stabilization, human rights and good governance, and the UK’s development finance institution, the CDC Group.
- Vijay Rangarajan will be the director-general for the Americas and overseas territories. He is currently ambassador to Brazil. He will also be responsible for climate change, health, education, and gender.
- Jenny Bates will be the director-general of the Indo-Pacific region. She is currently the director-general for Europe at the FCO.
- Kumar Iyer will be the director-general of delivery. He is currently director-general of the prime minister's COVID-19 task force.
Some commentators have pointed to the dominance of FCO former staff in the management structure as a sign that development will be deprioritized within the new organization in favor of foreign policy.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has announced US$2 million (¥290 million) in grants support the development of young administrative officials from the Republic of Uzbekistan.
According to a MOFA press release, Japan is aiding economic reforms as well as promoting democratization in Uzbekistan. These funds will cover the costs for young administrative officials to obtain a Master or Doctorate degree from a Japanese graduate school, thereby strengthening human resources and the capacity of the Government of Uzbekistan to implement reforms.
Japan has been implementing similar human capital development programs with other partner country governments, such as Mongolia.
The French Development Agency (AFD) released the summary of its annual report synthesizing the 2019 activities led by the AFD group (which includes its private sector instrument, Proparco, and its technical expertise agency, Expertise France.
In total, the AFD group mobilized €14.1 billion (US$16.1 billion) in 2019, supporting 115 countries in their development efforts, a 70% increase since 2015 according to the report. Of this amount, €2.5 billion (US$3.0 billion) were allocated as grants. The annual report indicates 1,072 new projects were initiated this year.
The French development agency mobilized €477 million (US$547 million) for global health projects, €621 million (US$712 million) for agriculture and nutrition, US$1.4 billion (€1.2 billion) for water and sanitation, and €877 million (US$1.0 billion) for education and professional training.
In 2019, €740 million (US$849 million) was committed to projects with gender equality as a principal objective. 49% of AFD overall projects integrated gender as one of several goals.
The African continent received 50% of the total volume of AFD's financial support throughout the year, of which €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) was allocated to the Sahel region.
The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) published a report, entitled 'Development assistance in the aftermath of the corona pandemic', in which Norad experts outline the current situation and highlight their concerns.
Documenting increased inequality, food shortages, and violence against women and children, the report indicates that the COVID-19 crisis has led to greater challenges for the very poor. Furthermore, it suggests that the pandemic has increased opportunities for corruption in many countries. Despite these increased development challenges, Norad director, Bård Vegar Solhjell, fears that many rich countries will cut development assistance as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has confirmed that the UK development assistance budget will be cut by US$3.6 billion (£2.9 billion) in 2020. A package of cuts, devised to protect spending on the 'bottom billion', climate change, and girls' education has been agreed upon by the government. Raab also noted that funding supporting human rights and for research and development will be maintained.
The cuts are a result of the negative economic impact that COVID-19 has had on the UK. The UK is committed to providing 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as ODA. Given that the UK economy is expected to contract by 10% in 2020, many in the development community were prepared for cuts; however, the depth of the cuts — which will effectively reduce the UK’s ODA budget by 20% — has come as a shock to many. There are concerns that the UK could even fall below its 0.7% commitment in 2020. Raab has defended the cuts as a prudent approach and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to meeting its 0.7% aid target.
On July 21, 2020, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC) released the 'Spanish Cooperation Joint Strategy to Fight COVID-19' including an official development assistance (ODA) budget of €1.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) to be spent in the period 2020-2021.
According to this new strategic plan, the MAUEC will support middle- and low-income partner countries in the global response to and recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Priority interventions outlined at this plan include:
- Strengthening public health systems and guaranteeing universal access to essential health goods such as vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics for COVID-19;
- Supporting the most vulnerable populations, with a special focus on nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and gender equality; and
- Fostering socio-economic recovery in partner countries that are disproportionally affected by the crisis.
In addition, the strategy names gender, the environment, and not leaving anyone behind as cross-cutting priorities.
The European Commission will provide €65 million (US$73 million) in humanitarian assistance to countries in Southern Africa to support their COVID-19 response measures. The funding will target food assistance, disaster preparedness projects, and support for children’s education, alongside COVID-19 prevention, preparedness, and healthcare. Funding from this assistance package will go for humanitarian projects in Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Press release - European Commission
The Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Norway is committed to and has earmarked funding for the following initiatives:
- Education Cannot Wait: US$55 million (NOK520 million) has been earmarked in the period of 2021-2025.
- The Global Partnership for Education: The last planned contractual payment is in 2020, and Norway has earmarked US$209,800 (NOK2 million) for the period of 2018-2020. In line with the revised national budget from the Storting for 2020, US$11 million (NOK100 million) of the commitment can be withheld and paid out in 2021 to prioritize other measures in 2020.
- UNICEF Sahel: US$5 million (NOK50 million) was committed as a part of the Charlevoix Declaration by Norway’s Prime Minister during the UN General Assembly in 2018.
- UNESCO sex-education: Announced during the 25th anniversary of the action program for the Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) were US$1.5 billion (NOK10.4 billion) for 2020-2025. The funding is linked to commitments to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Vocational education: US$18 million (NOK173 million) per year is planned to maintain the escalation plan that covers the period of 2018-2021.
- Higher education: The capacity development program in higher education, Norhed II, will receive more than US$105 million (NOK1 billion) for the period 2021-2026. US$20 million (NOK190 million) is allocated annually for this. Agreements into specific projects will be agreed on in the fall of 2020. A university collaboration with the Pacific Islands receives US$3 million (NOK25 million) from 2021-2024. Following the delegation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' and the Ministry of Education's decision in May 2017, the Norpart program is earmarked with a total of US$3 million (NOK25 million) per year. As announced by the Minister for Development in 2019, US$2 million (NOK15 million) has been set aside per year in funds to Norpart.
- Bilateral efforts: Educational measures in Nepal, Malawi, Nigeria, Haiti, Niger, and Ethiopia received the largest commitments in 2021.
Baroness Sugg, the UK’s Special Envoy on Girls Education, confirmed the UK's continued prioritization of girls' education at the United Nations’ (UN) High-Level Political Forum. At the event, she announced that London will host the soon to be launched International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd). The UK, along with the Netherlands and Multilateral Development Banks, have already committed to funding the IFFEd, which aims to provide an innovative new financing mechanism for raising funds for education in middle-income countries. Suggs called on other donors to provide financial support for the IFFEd.
Suggs also highlighted the devastating impact of the COVID-19 crisis on education, noting that 1.3 billion children – of which 650 million are girls – have been out of primary and secondary education as a result of the pandemic. She outlined key elements of the UK's education-related response to COVID-19, explaining that the UK has:
- Adapted and reprioritized education programs in 18 countries to support education systems and keep pupils safe during the pandemic;
- Provided additional funding to the Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank Education Technology hub to expand remote learning at this difficult time; and
- Committed an additional £20 million (US$25 million) funding to the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) and an additional £5 million (US$6 million to Education Cannot Wait, to keep vulnerable children in fragile situations safe.
Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Partnership for Education (GPE) have announced a series of regional calls for proposals to "generate and mobilize innovative knowledge for education challenges" in low- and middle-income countries. Proposals are currently being accepted for Europe, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Each proposal is expected to respond to country-specific needs. The 'Knowledge and Innovation Exchange', through consultations with relevant stakeholders, have identified and published regional specific policy challenges for public education systems which can be used to guide proposals.
Save the Children has expressed fears about the future of schooling after the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly ten million children are at risk of never returning to school after the corona crisis, according to one of the organization's recent reports. Save the Children is calling for US$35 billion from the World Bank for increased funding for education.
The report estimates that the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis will lead to an education funding deficit of US$77 billion to US$92 billion in some of the world’s poorest countries including Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and several countries in West and Central Africa. The fear is that the combination of COVID-19 and sharply reduced investments in education could be a setback for millions of children, already among the most vulnerable in society. This may ultimately increase the number of children subjected to child labor, gender-based violence, child marriage, and teenage pregnancy; the risk is predicted to increase the longer the children are out of school.
On July 14, 2020, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved 2020's annual ‘Progress Report of the 2030 Agenda’.
Drafted by the Ministry of Social Affairs, the report gives an overview of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Spain, outlining several measures adopted by the Spanish government at the domestic level, such as the launch of a new bill law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, but also internationally, which are mostly related to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
The US House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations, providing a total of US$65.9 billion for US foreign assistance. This is an increase of US$8.5 billion over FY2020 enacted levels and is US$21.2 billion over the president's request for FY2021.
Importantly, the bill provides US$10 billion in emergency funding for the global response to COVID-19. In remarks during the subcommittee markup, the chair of the committee said the House bill was a rejection of the administration's "go it alone" approach. The bill "reaffirms our strong support for international allies, for reproductive health, climate change, and multilateral assistance..."
The emergency funding for COVID-19 included US$2.5 billion more in funding for global health and increases for other development priorities, including humanitarian, migration, and refugee assistance, economic support, and funding for international organizations.
The bill also increased funding for maternal and child health, global health security, and family planning, including more funding for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It also included a specific repeal of the "global gag rule." It provided level funding for HIV/AIDS response and environmental programs and increased funding for international basic education and gender equality initiatives. The bill fully funded contributions to international organizations, including restoring funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), despite the fact that President Trump has formally requested that the US withdraw from the WHO.
Although the House is moving quickly to get all of its appropriations bills through, it is unclear when the Senate will act. Most experts believe that the SFOPS bill will not be finalized before the start of the next fiscal year (October 1, 2020), meaning that funding levels will likely stay at FY2020 levels until after the election in November 2020.
The current UK Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, confirmed to parliamentarians on July 6 that the UK development assistance budget will be cut in 2020 and most likely also in 2021. Trevelyan, speaking at a session of the parliamentary International Development Committee, noted that she could not confirm the exact figure of the cut, but that it could be as much as £2.0 billion (US$2.5 billion).
Trevelyan said the Department for International Development (DFID) is conducting an in-depth review of where these cuts should fall and that no final decisions have been made; however, even though no decisions have been taken, some sectors are already confirmed to be of higher priority: According to Trevelyan humanitarian work is at the "top of the list" followed by healthcare (including COVID-19 and preventable diseases). She also highlighted funding for girls’ education and climate change would be protected. It was confirmed that cuts could happen across the multilateral portfolio and could impact funding to the UK’s development finance institution, the CCD Group.
An analysis of Australia's current policy trends suggests that by 2025, Australia's main ODA recipients will be countries in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Australia's sectoral focus will likely center on health, education, and agriculture. Although there will be a continuing tension between pursuing short-term investments and longer-term country partnership programs, the analysis suggests that there will be an expansion of the use of local partners in Australian development programs.
The authors of this paper suggest that to effectively execute its development vision, Australia will need more senior staff in-country and a greater number of specialists and policy-oriented senior staff overall.
The UK government has confirmed that it will be providing £36 million (US$44 million) in additional funding for healthcare and education for Palestinians via the UN Relief and Works Agency.
The UK government has also pledged a further £300 million (US$369 million) to address the crisis in Syria, bringing its total support for this crisis to over £3.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) since 2012. The funding will provide life-saving support to Syrians affected by the on-going conflict and will focus on supporting vulnerable Syrians with education, healthcare, food, and economic recovery.