Policy Updates

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Report from Norwegian development agency raises spectre of post-pandemic cuts to global ODA

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. 

News article – Bistandsaktuelt

UK government announces US$3.6 billion cut to 2020 ODA budget

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.

News article - Devex

News article - Devex

Spain releases COVID-19 strategy

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.

Press release – MAEUEC (in Spanish)

European Commission provides US$73 million in humanitarian assistance to countries in Southern Africa

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

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs confirms political commitments to education and earmarked funding

The Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Norway is committed to and has earmarked funding for the following initiatives:  

  1. Education Cannot Wait: US$55 million (NOK520 million) has been earmarked in the period of 2021-2025.  
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. Vocational education: US$18 million (NOK173 million) per year is planned to maintain the escalation plan that covers the period of 2018-2021. 
  6. 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. 
  7. Bilateral efforts: Educational measures in Nepal, Malawi, Nigeria, Haiti, Niger, and Ethiopia received the largest commitments in 2021. 

Press Release – The Norwegian Government 

UK to host International Finance Facility for Education in London

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.

Press release - UK government

Canadian development organizations seek proposals for innovative responses to educational challenges

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. 

Call for proposals - IDRC 

Save the Children calls for additional US$35 billion in funding to mobilize vulnerable youth back to school after COVID-19 crisis

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.

News article – Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

Spain publishes 2030 Agenda progress report

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.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

US House Appropriations Committee approves FY2021 foreign assistance bill with extra $10 billion for COVID-19 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.  

News article - Devex

Press release - House Committee on Appropriations

Press release - House Committee on Appropriations

UK development assistance budget to be cut in 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.

News article - Devex

Twitter - Foreign Affairs Committee

Video - UK Parliament

Recent analysis predicts shape of Australia's development programming in 2025

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.

Working paper - Abt Associates

UK provides additional humanitarian funding to Palestine and Syria

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.

Press Release - UK Government (Palestine)

Press Release - UK Government (Syria)

Norway continues support for Syria and bordering countries

Norway will provide NOK1.8 billion (US$174 million) to continue supporting work towards political solutions to the Syria crisis. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, announced the commitments at the digital conference 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' hosted by the European Union and United Nations.  

Norway has been one of the largest donors to the humanitarian efforts in Syria and its bordering countries. Since 2016, Norway has supported the region during times of crisis with more than NOK10 billion (US$ 991 million). Norway intends to continue as a consistent partner to mitigate suffering, protect vulnerable groups, and reduce state fragility. The humanitarian response focuses on protecting civilians and development workers, on the preservation of women's rights, education for Syrian children and youth, and the expansion of conflict prevention efforts.  

Press release – Norwegian Government  

Center for Global Development releases 2020 Commitment to Development Index

The Center for Global Development has released its 2020 Commitment to Development Index (CDI).

The CDI measures 40 countries' global development policy effort, emphasizing the importance of policies “beyond aid” in seven areas: development finance, investment, migration, trade, environment, security, and technology. Sweden, France, and Norway take the top three rankings with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emerates scoring the lowest.

2020 CDI Executive Summary - Center for Global Development

2020 Commitment to Development Index - Center for Global Development

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)

Japan provides US$12 million for medical equipment and human resource development in Mongolia

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has announced US$9 million (¥1 billion) in support for healthcare and medical equipment to tackle COVID-19, as well as US$2 million (¥249 million) for human resource development to Mongolia. 

Mongolia has had a total of 197 cases of COVID-19 as of June 12, 2020, which is lower than most countries. However, the Japanese government views Mongolia as vulnerable to a pandemic due to the lack of healthcare infrastructure and medical equipment. Therefore, MOFA's funds will provide ambulances, high oxygen concentrators, and more to strengthen Mongolia’s healthcare system.

Japan has paired its support for Mongolia's healthcare system with human resource development among Mongolian government officials, in order to improve the ability of the Mongolian government to institute development projects. According to the Japanese governmnet, although its industry is diversifying, Mongolia lacks the government personnel capable of addressing emerging development issues. The funds provided will support human resource development by allowing young Mongolian government officials to obtain a degree from Japanese graduate schools. 

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Proposed second supplementary budget from German Ministry of Finance includes additional US$1.7 billion for Development Ministry in 2020, 2021

On June 15, 2020, the German Ministry of Finance (BMF) put forward its draft of a second supplementary budget for 2020 worth €24.0 billion (US$26.2 billion) to finance Germany’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as its economic stimulus package. On June 16, 2020, the supplementary budget was adopted by the Federal Cabinet and will now have to be approved by the German Parliament.

The proposal includes budget increases for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) amounting to €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) for 2020. Another €1.6 billion in budget increases will be added towards BMZ’s 2021 budget. Taken together this sum almost equals the €3.2 billion (US$3.4 billion) requested by Development Minister, Gerd Müller, to finance his Corona Response Package. Müller welcomed the budget increase, stating that Germany is setting “an important example of solidarity, thereby fulfilling its responsibility in the world”.

Through the second supplementary budget, the Foreign Office (AA) will receive €560 million (US$611 million) for its humanitarian assistance work, the Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will receive additional €22.8 billion (US$24.9 billion), and €2 billion (US$2.1 billion), respectively.

Press release – BMF (in German)

News article – tagesschau (in German)

Press release – BMZ (in German)

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

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

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

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

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)