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Canada responds to global refugee education crisis with 'Together for Learning' campaign

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced the launch of a three-year 'Together for Learning' global campaign responding to the "education crisis for refugees and internally displaced children and youth" as a result of COVID-19, working to provide high-quality educational opportunities for refugees and displaced children.

The campaign aims to: 

  1. Deliver effective programs based on high-quality evidence;
  2. Amplify local voices, and;
  3. Enhance diplomatic engagement.

The campaign also includes the formation of the Refugee Education Council, composed of relevant stakeholders with lived experience of being forcibly displaced or hosting forcibly displaced peoples. 

 Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Publication of UK’s Integrated Review on defense, diplomacy, development delayed again until March 2021

The long-awaited publication of the UK government’s integrated review of its defense, foreign, and development policy and practice has been furthered delayed and is now expected in early March 2021.

The review, the largest foreign policy review since the Cold War has been led by the Prime Minister and the National Security Council. Initially planned to be published in Autumn 2020, the Review has been plagued by delays and setbacks, frustrating many members of parliament.

The review is expected to be highly influential in guiding the UK’s development assistance strategy, particularly as it will now incorporate a soft power strategy, which was meant to be published separately but has now been folded into the review.

News article - Prospect Magazine

Report - Parliamentary report


Spanish NGOs meet development leadership officials to shape assistance system reform

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

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

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

Press release - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Proposal paper - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Under budget pressure, Australia abolishes development assistance evaluation groups

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

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

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

Press release - South China Morning Post

Spain launches new 'e-Duc@' fund to foster digital education in partner countries

As part of its global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on February 3, 2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) announced the launch of the new ‘e-Duc@’ fund to foster digital education in middle- and low-income partner countries. With a special focus on vulnerable populations, this new instrument will account for a budget of €4 million (US$5 million) in 2021 to support digitalization projects in partner countries.

The AECID also announced that the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s Secretary of State for International Cooperation has created a new working group on education and digitalization aimed at strengthening the government’s coordination in this area and advancing Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive, quality education for all.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

UK’s independent assistance watchdog outlines review agenda for 2021-2022

The UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), has set out which UK government development assistance programs and policies it will review in 2021-2022.

ICAI will review the UK government's:

  • Use of official development assistance (ODA) to respond to the COVID-19 crisis one year on;
  • Alignment of UK ODA to the UN Paris Agreement on climate action;
  • Humanitarian response to COVID-19;
  • ODA to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA);
  • Use of ODA to support democracy and human rights;
  • ODA to support education in light of its commitments;
  • ODA in Afghanistan as part of a country portfolio review; and,
  • Peacebuilding efforts with a focus on gender.          

Report - ICAI Work Plan

European Parliament development committee adopts EU-AU strategy, calls for central role of human development

Members of the European Parliament’s development committee voted to adopt a new European Union-African Union (EU-AU) partnership strategy that goes beyond cooperation on green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance, and migration to also give human development a central role in the partnership. 

The committee called for prioritizing education, improving health care, and strengthening health systems, as well as supporting climate adaptation, regional integration, a continental free trade area, sexual and reproductive health and rights, debt relief, and the human dignity of refugees and migrants. 

Members of the European Parliament also urged that the EU-AU relationship should be one of equals, moving “beyond the donor-recipient relationship”.

The report is expected to be adopted by the full plenary during its March 2021 session and will feed into the new partnership negotiations between the European Commission and the African Union.

Press release - European Parliament

News article - Euractiv

UK Foreign Minister provides little detail to UK Parliament on where assistance cuts will fall; NGOs and parliamentarians worry UK will backtrack on gender equality promises

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, appeared before the UK parliamentary International Development Committee on January 27, 2021. Raab was questioned, among other things, on which development programs will be cut under the government's proposed decrease in the UK development assistance budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% in 2021.  

Raab provided little detail in his response, only noting that the UK will not be "salami-slicing" budgets, where all programs face would small cuts, but will instead focus on protecting programs within the seven priority areas outlined by the government. These areas are: climate change and biodiversity; COVID-19 and global health security; girls' education; science, research, and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; trade and economic development; and humanitarian preparedness and response.

Raab denied the figures used within a recent article produced by The Guardian newspaper last week, that noted that UK Ambassadors had been tasked with finding between 50 -70% of cuts to apply to the bilateral development programs in their respective countries.

UK NGOs have been highly critical of the lack of transparency and consultation around how decisions will be taken to reduce the UK’s development budget. The Centre for Global Development, a global think-tank based in London, noted that it took four years for the UK development budget to be scaled up from 0.5% of GNI to 0.7% but will be cut in just four months, highlighting concerns around ensuring value for money when reducing the budget. Raab confirmed when questioned that the government does not have a clear threshold to determine when the UK will go back to 0.7%, but that the decision will rest on multiple factors.

Raab also evaded giving a clear response when asked whether the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will embed the former Department for International Development’s Strategic Vision on Gender Equality, instead noting only that girls’ education and preventing sexual violence will remain priorities. This has sparked concern amongst NGOs and parliamentarians that the UK may backtrack on its holistic approach to addressing gender equality.

News article - Bond

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

News article - BBC

News article - British Foreign Policy Group

Spain’s new 2021-2024 foreign strategy draft prioritizes strengthening of development cooperation

On January 26, 2021, under the leadership of Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), the cabinet of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez approved the first draft of the ‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’, which outlines Spain’s foreign priorities and goals for the next four years.  

Sustainable development has been outlined as a core instrument to achieve Spain’s foreign goals. The new plan underlines the current administration commitment to increase Spain’s official development assistance (ODA) to 0.5% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) by 2023, to reform the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and to provide the Spanish development cooperation system with a new and reinforced vision including the following priority interventions.

Vertical axes of Spain's development cooperation:

  • Tackling extreme poverty by fostering nutrition, water and sanitation, and global health;
  • Addressing the negative effects of climate change;
  • Fostering global education; and
  • Promoting socio-economic development.

Horizontal axes of Spain's development cooperation:

  • Deploying feminist development cooperation;
  • Protecting human rights;
  • Strengthening humanitarian assistance; and
  • Developing innovative public-private partnerships.

The new ‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’ draft, which will be ratified in Parliament during the coming weeks, defines four guiding principles for Spain’s foreign policy: more Europe, better multilateralism, strategic bilateralism, and solidarity commitment. In addition to that, it outlines different strategic priorities articulated around four areas of intervention:

  1. Promotion of human rights, human security, democracy, and gender diplomacy;
  2. Economic diplomacy to end inequities and advocate for a new socio-economic model globally;
  3. Climate diplomacy for Spain to champion global efforts against the climate crisis; and
  4. Multilateral diplomacy to strengthen international institutions with a special emphasis on global health governance.

Press release - MAEUEC (in Spanish)

‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’ - MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Emphasizing transformative power of global education, Spain holds meeting on private sector involvement in digital schooling

On January 24, 2021, in acknowledgment of the International Day of Education, the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, published an op-ed in the newspaper ‘El Confidencial’, underlying the importance of fostering quality education systems to effectively advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Moreno reiterated Spain's engagement in global education and digitalization, which have been listed among Spain’s priority interventions to help address the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in low- and middle-income countries. Moreno mentioned the potential of Spanish private companies in supporting digitalization programs in partner countries.

On January 25, 2021, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation met in Madrid to discuss the private sector engagements in digital education interventions in low-income countries. Participants included the director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) Magdy Martínez Solimán, other government officials, and representatives from Spanish private companies and foundations such as Teléfonica, Microsoft Ibérica, and Fundación Pro-Futuro.

Op-ed - El Confidencial (in Spanish)

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (in Spanish)

UK Foreign Minister visits Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, signs new agreements on healthcare, climate crisis

UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Development Dominic Raab visited Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia on January 20-22, 2021, and signed a series of new agreements on healthcare and the climate crisis, alongside discussions of ongoing economic and security issues in the region.  

In Kenya, Raab held meetings with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Foreign Minister Raychelle Omamo, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, and Defense Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma. The meetings aimed to bolster UK-Kenya trade and also resulted in the announcement of £48 million (US$62 million) in new UK climate initiatives for Kenya and a new health partnership to maximize knowledge-sharing between health practitioners in the UK and Kenya. Raab visited the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Laboratory in the capital city of Nairobi to see how Kenyan and British scientists have worked together to develop the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Raab also met with soldiers attending the UK-supported Humanitarian Peace Support School to hear about joint counter-terrorism efforts.  

In Sudan, Raab met with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Foreign Minister Omer Gamereldin, and the Chair of the Sovereign Council, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Raab confirmed the UK’s commitment to supporting Sudan’s democratic transition and noted that the UK stood ready to provide a £330 million (US$429 million) bridging loan to clear the country's arrears to the African Development Bank if Sudan continues to abide by the economic reforms agreed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Raab also confirmed that the UK will provide £40 million (US$52 million) to the Sudan Family Support Programme.

In Ethiopia, Raab visited a school with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde to showcase the UK’s ongoing efforts to support girls' education in the country. He also spoke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali on finding a solution to the rapidly escalating conflict in the Tigray region and enabling humanitarian support to the resulting crisis. Finally, Raab signed a climate partnership agreement with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen for collaboration between the UK and Ethiopia ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 climate conference.

While in Sudan and Ethiopia, Raab toured World Food Programme (WFP) sites to see how UK development assistance is contributing to nutrition projects.

Press release - UK government

EIB and African Development Bank form partnership to boost investment, development across African continent

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) signed a partnership agreement to boost public and private sector investment in countries across the continent for shared development priorities.

The partnership’s action plan involves growing a shared pipeline of projects within the following themes: 

  • climate action and environmental sustainability; 
  • transformative large-scale quality infrastructure investment; 
  • information and communication technology infrastructure and services; 
  • financial inclusion with a focus on gender aimed at the empowerment of girls and women; 
  • education and training; and
  • the health sector.

The AfDB and the EIB have been cooperating since 2005, when they, along with the European Commission, signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding on an Enhanced Strategic Partnership'. They have jointly supported clean energy, water, transport, and private sector projects across Africa.

Press release - European Investment Bank

UK Foreign Minister appoints new CEO of FCDO's strategic global forum institute

The UK Secretary for State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, has announced the appointment of Tom Cargill as the new CEO of Wilton Park, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) strategic global forum institute, which hosts high-level intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder discussions aimed at driving collective global security and prosperity.

Cargill is currently the CEO of the business development organization, British Expertise International, and was formerly the CEO of the UK-based NGO, Foreign Policy Group.

Press release - UK government

UK Prime Minister appoints MP Helen Grant as Special Envoy for Girls' Education

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the appointment of Helen Grant, a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Conservative Party, as the new UK Special Envoy for Girls' Education.

Grant will take over from Baroness Sugg, who formally held the role alongside her role as a Junior Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) but resigned in protest at the UK government’s planned temporary suspension of its commitment to provide 0.7% of its gross national income as official development assistance. Grant will not take on the role of Junior Minister of the FCDO.

Grant served under the former UK Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities between 2012 and 2015. She was also Minister for Sport and Tourism.

Twitter - Boris Johnson

UK invites India, South Korea, Australia to G7 summer meeting in 2021 with hopes of launching "D10" of leading democracies

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has invited South Korea, India, and Australia to attend the G7 face-to-face meeting on June 11-13, 2021, which the UK is hosting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

The invitations are part of a bid by Johnson to turn the G7, a meeting forum for the world’s leading economies, into a forum for the world’s ten leading democracies. Johnson notes that the "D10" meeting will represent over 60% of the people living in democracies around the world.

The move to reformat the G7 has been met with resistance from some diplomatic circles, with France and Italy seeing it as an apparent attempt by the UK to diminish the power of the EU. The move does, however, have broad support from the US, with US President-elect Joe Biden keen to host a summit of democracies in his first year of office.

Johnson has also announced that he wants to host an early virtual G7 leaders' summit in February of 2021, in part to enable Biden to reaffirm US support for multilateralism, which came under great strain under Biden's predecessor. The UK government also confirmed that the agenda for the G7 will focus on:

  • Recovering and rebuilding from the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Championing action on the climate crisis and girls’ education; and
  • Promoting open societies, shared values, and human rights.

News article - The Guardian

Twitter - G7UK

New Swedish cash grant will support female-headed households in Tanzania after successful first phase

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has agreed to extend and expand a previous cash grant program aimed at tackling extreme poverty in Tanzania by providing SEK 550 million (US$62 million). The grant complements contributions from other bilateral donors as well as a SEK 3.8 billion (US$430 million) loan from the World Bank to the Tanzanian government.

Between 2016 and 2020, Sida contributed to the first phase of a conditional cash grant program benefiting female heads of households, but which covered only certain parts of Tanzania. Following an evaluation of this support, which showed positive effects not only on income poverty reduction, but also on access to food, children’s school participation, and households' ability to increase their own income, Sida has decided to extend and expand the grant until 2024.

The second phase of the program aims to continue providing cash support to poor women—this time across the entire country—conditioned upon regular health checks, school attendance, and public works participation.

"This means that seven million extremely poor women, girls, boys, and men in Tanzania for three to four years can receive SEK 90-460 (US$10-52) per month per family...for food, schooling, housing, and help to set up micro-enterprises,” said Ulf Källstig, Head of Sida's Africa Department.

The cash grant is disbursed every two months to the female head of household and the amount per family is determined by the number of children and disabled family members. Additional grants are also provided to households undergoing training to find employment or start micro-enterprises.

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Canada announces US$70 million to support Palestinian refugees

Canadian Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced CA$90 million (US$70 million) over three years to support Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. 

This funding will be given to the 'United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East' (UNRWA) and will be used to provide education and healthcare to Palestinian refugees, especially women and children. Furthermore, the funding will be used to provide "emergency life-saving assistance to an estimated 465,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon".

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Swedes continue to have strong confidence in use of official development assistance, survey shows

In the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Sida) annual poll of Swedes' attitudes toward official development assistance (ODA), confidence in the use of Swedish ODA increased somewhat in 2020.

When asked whether "Swedish ODA contributes to a better world", 61.5% of the respondents said that this is true or quite correct, reflecting an increase from 59.9% in 2019. The 2020 poll was conducted by Kantar Sifo with 1,500 respondents. Sida has been conducting the yearly survey since 1974.

Sida's Communications Director, Sepideh Imani, said Swedes have a reason to be proud, that in last year's OECD survey, Swedish ODA "was ranked the best in the world and really makes a difference". Imani noted that this year the country has provided much COVID-19-adapted support, especially for women and children in the way of health care, education, and cash assistance "so that they can buy food and let children go to school, but also support for the elderly who have been severely affected by the pandemic".

Swedes' general attitude toward ODA remained stable in 2020; the poll showed that 76% of respondents still think that it is important for Sweden to contribute to development in low-income countries. 55.8% of the respondents said they agree that Sweden’s goal to provide one percent of its gross national income in ODA is about right or should increase, while 35.8% believe that ODA should be reduced or abolished. 63.5% of women are positive toward Sweden’s ODA target, while only 48.2% of men support it.

Poll - Sida (in Swedish)

Press release - Sida (in Swedish)

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister shares plans for 2021 meetings on gender equality in Pacific region

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, has indicated that a 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women will be held in April 2021, following the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2021. An annual Pacific women leaders meeting has also been proposed as part of the Pacific Islands Forum agenda for later in 2021.

Payne co-chaired a meeting in Fiji in November 2020 on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls in the Pacific region. This meeting focused on essential health services, education, and legal protections, as well as e-safety.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women

Norway to provide US$10 million to UNESCO for promotion of freedom of expression, protection of cultural heritage

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Climate and Environment will provide NOK94 million (US$10 million) to the 'United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization' (UNESCO) to promote freedom of expression and culture.

This allocation is a part of Norway's global engagement to promote human rights and a new two-year cooperation agreement. The funding will be divided between the protection of freedom of expression, protection of cultural rights and artistic freedom, protection of world heritage, and protection of cultural heritage in conflicts and crises.

Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn, pointed out that world heritage, which refers to places on Earth designated valuable to humanity and worth protecting, can be put under pressure due to "unregulated development", conflicts, and poaching. These issues affect the environment and climate, which consequently impact people, so Norway's support aims to contribute to both human and environmental protection through multilateral cooperation.

The press release also noted that Norway provides support to UNESCO for education and ocean research. Norway is providing a total of NOK361 million (US$39 million) to UNESCO for the next two years under several different agreements.

Press release - The Norwegian government