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UK’s Blue Belt Programme helps UK to exceed ocean protection target

The UK government announced that it has exceeded its target of protecting more than four million square kilometres of some of the world’s "most precious marine environment" (one percent of the world’s oceans).

This achievement is thanks to the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, a £27 million (US$35 million) development assistance funded program which is part of the 'Conflict, Stability and Security Fund', which aims to safeguard the biodiversity and ecosystems of some of the remotest places on Earth by providing funding to UK overseas territories and international organizations.

The announcement follows the announcement by Tristan da Cunha, a UK overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean, of a new 'Marine Protection Zone' around its waters.

The UK will be hosting the UN COP26 climate conference in 2021 and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called upon his fellow world leaders to join the UK in acting further to protect the planet’s oceans ahead of COP26.

Press release - UK government

Public development banks support achievement of SDGs through US$4.0 billion to African MSMEs, launch of IDFC Climate Fund, statement on gender equality

The Finance in Common Summit, an international forum mobilizing 450 public development banks which took place between November 9-12, 2020, resulted in a series of announcements aiming to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in line with the Paris Agreement for action against the climate crisis. 

The Summit, convened by the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions (WFDFI) and the International Development Finance Club (IDFC), took place in the framework of the Paris Peace Forum, an annual event initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron to mobilize global governance.

Major announcements included:

  • The official launch of the IDFC Climate Fund (initiated at the COP25 climate conference in 2019) and a strategic partnership with the Green Climate Fund (GCF);
  • Pledges made by public development banks to allocate US$4.0 billion to "micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa" by the end of 2021; and
  • The adoption of a joint statement on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment signed by 24 international, regional, and national public development banks.

Press release - The French Development Agency

Statements - Finance in Common

Members of Dutch parliament propose motion to bring foreign policy instruments in line with Paris climate agreement

On November 12, 2020, Dutch members of parliament (MPs) Bram van Ojik (Green Party) and Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (D66) submitted a motion calling on the government to bring all instruments of foreign policy and diplomacy fully in line with the Paris Agreement's objectives to address the climate crisis, as well as calling on the government to inform the parliament about these efforts and the results.

The submission of the motion followed the debates on the 2021 foreign affairs budget. The motion will be brought to a vote on November 17, 2020.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Japan pledges US$1 million for COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, support for ongoing US$19.0 billion 'Japan-ASEAN Connectivity Initiative'

Japan announced that it will cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to fight the COVID-19 crisis by strengthening supply chains and utilizing digital technology. Japan additionally pledged US$1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund for regional support.

Japan stated that it will support hard and soft infrastructure development in ASEAN's ongoing ¥2.00 trillion (US$19.0 billion) 'Japan-ASEAN Connectivity Initiative' (which includes building transnational land, sea, and air corridors to increase access and trade), as well as human resource development for 1,000 individuals over the next three years.

Japan also emphasized its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 and its desire to work with ASEAN countries to further reduce emissions.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Joint statement - ASEAN-Japan Summit

At OECD DAC meeting, South Korea shares commitments to greener recovery from COVID-19 crisis

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea attended the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee's (DAC) high-level meeting and shared its three contributions for global environmentally-minded recovery from the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Promote technology and innovation that is resilient and environmentally-friendly to the changing development cooperation landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Mobilize private finance and innovative development finance to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including action against the climate crisis; and
  • Propose a partnership that values ownership and capacity of partner countries based on the principles of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), the "primary multi-stakeholder vehicle for driving development effectiveness".

South Korea's focus on the environment and climate change is also reflected in its hosting of the P4G Summit next year and its Korean New Deal, a domestic economic strategy centering around digital and green sectors.

South Korea also mentioned that it has so far provided over US$510 million in official development assistance (ODA) against the COVID-19 crisis and that in October 2020 it pledged US$10 million to COVAX AMC (COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment) to support vaccine access to lower-income countries.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

South Korea’s National Assembly approves US$13 million increase for foreign ministry’s 2021 humanitarian assistance budget

The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of South Korea’s National Assembly approved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' 2021 budget increase of KRW14.7 billion (US$13 million) for humanitarian assistance.

This was unanimously agreed by both ruling and opposition parties based on the mutual understanding that South Korea’s official development assistance (ODA) should increase to fit its national capacity in spite of domestic economic challenges.

In addition to the humanitarian assistance, the committee also approved KRW3.6 billion (US$3 million) for the New Northern Policy, KRW11.4 billion (US$10 million) for public-private partnerships, and KRW6.0 billion (US$5 million) for stronger diplomacy on climate change, energy, and the environment.

Press release – National Assembly (in Korean)

European Parliament and Council presidency reach agreement on next EU long-term budget with US$17.7 billion additional funding for development, health, research

European Parliament (EP) negotiators and the German presidency of the Council of the EU have struck a political agreement on the next EU long-term budget that provides €15.0 billion (US$17.7 billion) in additional funding for flagship programs such as health, research, and education and €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) more in flexibility funding for future needs and crises. 

These changes would apply to the €1.80 trillion (US$2.10 trillion) deal struck by EU leaders in their July European Council meeting that included €1.07 trillion (US$1.26 trillion) for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) and €750.0 billion (US$882.8 billion) for the EU recovery fund, Next Generation EU.

The additional €16.0 billion (US$18.8 billion) in the compromise agreement for flexibility and targeted programs will be funded via revenue from competition fines (€12.5 billion, or US$14.7 billion) and reallocations (€2.5 billion, or US$2.9 billion).

Increases to program funding in the compromise deal from the EU leaders’ July deal include: 

  • €4.0 billion (US$4.7 billion) increase for the Horizon Europe research program’s health, climate, and digital research for a final program budget of €84.9 billion (US$99.9 billion);
  • €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) increase for the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) for a total budget of €71.8 billion (US$84.5 billion); and
  • €3.4 billion (US$4.0 billion) increase for the new EU4Health program, tripling the total to €5.1 billion (US$6.0 billion).

The EP-Council presidency agreement also includes a roadmap to introduce new sources of 'own resources' (additional revenue streams) in addition to the planned plastics levy, including a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a digital levy, a financial transaction tax (FTT), and a common corporate tax base. The EP also successfully negotiated the ability to have more budgetary scrutiny over Next Generation EU and increased ambition on biodiversity.

The deal will need to be approved by the whole European Parliament and unanimously adopted by the Council of the EU. The Council must also approve the Own Resources Decision that will enable the EU to begin borrowing funding for Next Generation EU, and then the Own Resources Decision will need to be ratified in the 27 member states’ national parliaments. Following this, negotiations will need to be finalized on the legislative files establishing the various EU programs.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to veto the MFF and Next Generation EU over his objection to a new mechanism linking EU funding to the rule of law. Other member states have threatened to veto if the rule-of-law mechanism is not approved. 

News article - Politico

News article - Science|Business

Press release - Council of the EU

Press release - European Parliament

Spain leads global joint statement to strengthen multilateralism

On November 10, 2020, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hosted a high-level meeting in Madrid to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the UN. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and heads of state and government from Sweden, Canada, South Korea, Costa Rica, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Jordan, and Senegal virtually participated in this event. 

This group of donor and partner countries convened to publish the call to action ‘Joint Statement: Reinforcing Multilateralism Together', with the ambition of reinforcing multilateral institutions, advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and taking concrete measures to address global challenges in key areas such as global health, climate change, gender equality, and digitalization.

This initiative will be shared with other countries to actively mobilize the international community around the following goals:

  • Reduce inequality and leave no one behind;
  • Improve conditions for health, health preparedness, and effectiveness of global health systems;
  • Protect our planet;
  • Promote peace, security, and justice;
  • Defend human rights, democracy, and gender equality;
  • Take "advantage of the digital revolution"; and
  • Ensure sustainable financing.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

With COP26 presidency on horizon, UK Prime Minister makes appointment to new climate change adaptation and resilience role to support low-income countries

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the appointment of Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative Party member of parliament and former Secretary for State for International Development) as 'International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience' for the UK's presidency of COP26, the 26th session of the annual UN climate conference.

Trevelyan's role will be to drive forward action from the international community and the private sector to support low-income countries who are often on the frontline of climate change and least prepared for managing its impact.

The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Ahead of this, it will be co-hosting—along with the UN, France, Italy, and Chile—the Climate Ambition Summit on December 12, 2020, to encourage world leaders to make ambitious climate commitments. 

The World Bank predicts that the climate crisis could push more than 100 million people in low-income countries below the poverty line by 2030.

Press release – UK government

South Korean president emphasizes importance of multilateral cooperation on health and climate change, will contribute US$10 million to COVAX AMC

South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered a keynote speech at the 2020 Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, emphasizing the need for stronger multilateral cooperation on health and the climate crisis.

In particular, he stressed the following:

  • South Korea will increase official development assistance (ODA) on health in 2021 to support its partner countries’ COVID-19 responses;
  • South Korea will contribute US$10 million to the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) and strengthen its partnership with the International Vaccine Institute while calling for others to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all people; and
  • South Korea will cooperate with partner countries on smart green industrial complexes (to increase renewable energy production and the number of jobs) and 'smart city' projects, as well as organize the P4G Summit in Seoul in 2021 for global sustainable development.

The Jeju Forum took place on November 5-7, 2020, and it is an annual event to discuss international cooperation for peace, prosperity, and security in East Asia.

Transcript - The Blue House (in Korean)

Ahead of government review, UK parliamentary committee releases new vision for UK's next decade of international policy

The UK’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, a cross-party parliamentary body, has released a new report following its inquiry into the future of UK international policy. 

The report, titled 'A Brave New Britain? The Future of the UK’s International Policy', is intended to influence the findings of the government’s integrated review of UK foreign affairs, defense, and development which aims to establish a vision of Britain’s global role over the next decade.

The report is highly critical of the UK’s existing international approach which, it notes, has left the UK  "adrift", lacking clarity, confidence, and coherence. Centered around the need for a strengthened leadership role for the government’s new Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the report makes the following eight key recommendations on how the UK can increase its engagement at a global level:

  1. Prioritize the Indo-Pacific and European regions within its new international policy, given their importance to the UK’s prosperity and security: The report recognizes that the government has already indicated that it will tilt its foreign policy to the Indo-Pacific region, given the growing economic and geopolitical importance of the region, and the report asks for the government to provide greater detail into the strategic goals and resources that will be provided to achieve this shift. However, the report also argues that this shift must not come at the expense of neglecting the UK's European interests and calls for greater efforts to establish links with European capitals following Brexit.
  2. Strengthen the strategic coordination between the Department of Trade and the FCDO to ensure greater policy coherence and impact of the UK’s trade policy: The report references other countries where a trade department has been fully absorbed into a foreign affairs department to enable greater coherence.
  3. Ensure the FCDO prioritizes mediation, conflict resolution, and atrocity prevention:  The report recommends the FCDO be provided with an enhanced institutional ability to coordinate with the Ministry of Defence in this sphere to ensure coherence.
  4. Publish a soft power strategy that includes a resource budget and gives the FCDO the leadership role in coordinating the multiple government departments to deliver on this strategy: This call comes from an analysis in the report that highlights that the UK’s comparative advantage on soft power is at risk of being eroded by rival powers and the financial threats from the COVID-19 crisis on the UK economy. The report takes a very wide view of soft power, looking beyond the BBC World Service and British Council to include UK’s educational institutions and even the UK’s markets and financial infrastructure.
  5. Lead on reform of multilateral organizations: The report highlights the importance of ensuring international organizations maintain relevance in today’s changing world and benefit all and not the few.
  6. Work through networks of like-minded nations to achieve goals: Using its convening power, the UK should seek to build issue-based coalitions of the willing that can be to used achieve change. The report points to networks around supporting democratic values against authoritarianism, or networks around cooperation on vaccine research, as examples of how this approach could be used to achieve key UK goals.
  7. Continue to commit to fighting the existential threats of climate change and global health security and ensure these are priority areas for future UK international policy: The Foreign Affairs Committee notes that it will be holding inquiries into these two threats in the near future to look into more detail about how the UK can deliver leadership in these areas.
  8. Deploy its convening power and thought-leadership on regulations around frontier sectors such as emerging technologies, cyber, and space domains: This includes establishing diplomatic missions to the leading technology companies to achieve their cooperation in setting future rules and standards.

Report - House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

Dutch government addresses parliamentary questions on foreign policy expenditures, climate financing, ODA cuts

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister, Stef Blok, answered 85 questions about the 2021 ‘Homogeneous Group for International Cooperation’ (HGIS) note, a document in which the foreign policy expenditures of all ministers are specified.

Questions answered by Blok ranged from details on climate financing, definitions of gender-sensitive COVID-19 responses, and which cuts to official development assistance (ODA) are currently being prepared.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Germany strengthens 'One Health' project, will invest US$35 million in Kenyan pandemic center

At the 2020 World Health Summit, an annual leading global health conference, German Development Minister Gerd Müller announced that the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will invest €30 million (US$35 million) to set up a 'One Health' pandemic center in Kenya.

One Health is a multidisciplinary approach that recognizes humans' connections with other species and their shared environment, a concept discussed in the context of zoonoses (infectious diseases which spread from animals to humans) which can lead to pandemics.

The funding is part of Germany's efforts to expand the One Health and pandemic preparedness projects in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Given that at least 40 more potential pandemic-causing viruses have been identified, the BMZ will put an additional focus on food security and early detection of zoonoses in food production, in cooperation with the World Bank.

Parliamentary State Secretary, Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, will be heading the newly set up One Health Directorate at the BMZ. According to Flachsbarth, the “One Health triad of human health, animal health, and a healthy environment” needs to be strengthened to effectively tackle future pandemics.

Press release – BMZ

UK announces US$62 million in new support to Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced an additional £48 million (US$62 million) of UK development assistance to support the refugees of the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, as well as to help Bangladesh deal with the COVID-19 crisis and natural disasters. The commitment was announced just ahead of the UK, US, European Union, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) co-hosting a pledging conference for the Rohingya crisis.

The UK will have provided close to £300 million (US$389 million) to the Rohingya crisis since 2017, when thousands of Rohingya people escaped Myanmar's brutal, systematic violence against them. About 860,000 of the Rohingya who escaped Myanmar live in Cox's Bazar, a district in Bangladesh with overcrowded refugee camps, with no access to formal education or work opportunities.

£38 million (US$49 million) of the new funding will support humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar and the other £10 million (US$13 million) will assist the country in responding to the pandemic and natural disasters, such as flooding, which make the refugees' conditions more difficult and are worsening in part due to the climate crisis.

Press release - UK government

EU pledges US$52 million in humanitarian support, food assistance to Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger for 2020

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič pledged on behalf of the EU nearly €44 million (US$52 million) for the rest of 2020 to three countries in the Central Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – to help address ongoing humanitarian and food crises.

Across the region, which is facing one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises, more than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of the EU’s pledge, €20 million (US$24 million) will support the World Food Programme in addressing the food crisis in the region, while the rest of the funds will support humanitarian actions.

Press release - European Commission

Reporting on climate finance is fundamentally flawed, says Oxfam; "true value" of climate finance loans is less than half of amount reported

In a newly released report on climate finance, Oxfam evaluated progress towards a 2009 commitment by high-income countries to jointly provide US$100.0 billion per year by 2020 to help low-income countries reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. The report found that of the US$59.5 billion in annual public climate finance reported in 2017-2018, only US$12.5 billion was provided as grants, while an "astonishing" 80%, US$47.0 billion, was given in loans.

About half of the loans (US$24.0 billion) were non-concessional, meaning they were "offered on ungenerous terms requiring higher repayments from poor countries". Oxfam calculated that the true value of the loans after deducting interest and repayments (known as the 'grant equivalent') was less than half the reported amount.

Calculating climate finance can be an imprecise science. According to The Guardian, there is no agreed-upon definition of climate finance, thus, the US$100.0 billion commitment could include private-sector flows. Furthermore, total spending on climate finance is still likely outweighed by ongoing investments in fossil fuels; the world's largest investment banks have financed fossil fuels with more than £2.20 trillion (US$2.66 trillion) since the 2015 international climate Paris Agreement.

To improve assistance standards, Oxfam recommended that the definition of climate finance should include funds that help build smallholder farmers' resilience and that support feminist solutions. Financing "efficient" coal power and providing non-concessional loans to countries "grappling with unsustainable debt" should not be counted as climate finance, they argue.

2021's COP26, annual climate talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will be an important venue for nations negotiating new collective goals to succeed the US$100.0 billion commitment in 2025. No follow-up commitment currently exists. Low-income countries are expected to submit emissions-reduction plans before COP26; they are still waiting to learn what financial assistance will be available from high-income countries, a major challenge in their policy planning. High-income countries, which primarily shape the climate finance landscape, are also in most cases the biggest contributors to climate degradation. There is, for the most part, consensus internationally that these nations bear the responsibility for providing the lion's share of the finance needed to resolve the impending climate crisis, which includes addressing the levels of increased inequality which it has already exacerbated.

Discussions at COP26 in Glasgow should lead to a major shift in the breakdown of climate finance by funding type, said Oxfam; grant-based climate finance should significantly outweigh loans-based finance in the future, especially non-concessional loans which Oxfam says should not be counted towards UNFCCC climate finance obligations. The improvement of global accounting standards for all donors is also a top priority.

Report - Oxfam

Press release - Oxfam

News article - The Guardian

Media reports suggest Australia will announce significant new assistance program in Southeast Asia

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Diplomat magazine suggested that the Australian government was finalizing a package of development assistance for Southeast Asia. This would focus on five countries along the Mekong River including Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Based on sources inside the government, part of the assistance would address the water access challenges due to new Chinese dams on the upper Mekong River, and over four years this might involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

Australia had dramatically cut development assistance to Southeast Asia over the past five years but is now likely to reverse some of those cuts through this new program. The final scale and nature of the assistance are yet to be determined.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald

News article - The Diplomat

Japan-funded LEAP finances Vietnam’s largest solar power plant

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a US$9 million loan to finance Vietnam’s largest solar power plant through the 'Leading Asia's Private Infrastructure Fund' (LEAP) funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In cooperation with The B.Grimm Power Public Company Limited (Thai independent power producer) and Vietnam's Truong Thanh Viet Nam Group Joint Stock Company, the ADB will support the construction of a 257-megawatt solar power project in Phu Yen Province. This solar powerplant is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 123,000 tons per year, which will reduce dependence on coal and diesel fuels and promote the use of clean domestic energy resources. 

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Norwegian government allocates US$614 million for humanitarian assistance in 2021

The Norwegian government has proposed an overall humanitarian budget of NOK 5.5 billion (US$614 million) for 2021. 

As of 2020, Norway is the sixth-largest donor of humanitarian assistance in the world, and since 2013, it has increased the total humanitarian assistance budget by 67%. Norway will target the funding where it is most needed. This includes the protection of children and youth, the protection of civilians against landmines and other explosives, and the promotion of green humanitarian response. 

The substantial response to the crisis in Syria will be continued in the years ahead. Additionally, the sharp rise in humanitarian needs in the Sahel region has led to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) intensifying its efforts.

The funding will mainly be allocated through the Red Cross, the UN, and Norwegian humanitarian organizations. The government has entered into four-year, strategic partnerships with organizations including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Norwegian Red Cross, Norwegian Church Aid, and Caritas. 

Press release - Norwegian government

FDCO's top priority is building ties with Indo-Pacific region, says UK Foreign Minister

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has stated that his top priority for his office—the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)—is to focus on the Indo-Pacific region in order to build stronger diplomatic, trade, and security ties, given the importance of the region geo-politically and economically.

Speaking at the UK's Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he noted that while 60% of the FCDO’s work is reactive to geopolitical events of the day, he hoped that 40% was strategic and that his top priority was to ensure that the UK leans further into the Indo-Pacific region. Raab, who has made three visits to the region recently, noted the importance of building partnerships with not just large countries in the region such as India, but also key medium-sized players such as South Korea and Vietnam.

Raab also identified the priorities for the UK’s upcoming G7 presidency in 2021, noting that beyond driving forward a global health security agenda, the UK would be promoting:

  • Open societies, which includes liberal free trade, democracy, and human rights;
  • Global goods, which includes COVID-19 vaccines and global health security more generally, as well as action to address the climate crisis and girls’ education; and
  • Building partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Press release - Foreign Affairs Select Committee

Video - Parliament Live TV