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G7 foreign and development ministers' agenda focuses on gender equality through education, ending gender-based violence

The UK hosted a G7 meeting in London on May 4-5, 2021, that put women and girls at the center of the agenda with a focus on the three E’s: education, empowerment, and ending gender-based violence.

Foreign and development ministers from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, and the UK, plus the EU) met for their first in-person meeting in two years. The foreign ministers from Australia, India, South Africa, South Korea, as well as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), were invited to some of the talks as guests.

The G7 foreign and development ministers agreed to a new goal of sending 40 million more girls from low-and middle-income countries to school over the next five years and helping 200 million more girls read by the age of 10. 

They also agreed to provide a US$15.0 billion two-year package to help women in low-income countries build resilient businesses and respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The funding will be provided through the 2X Challenge, a partnership between G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) that was originally launched in 2018. The 2X Challenge focuses on providing finance and support to female-owned and staffed businesses or to businesses that provide products or services that particularly benefit women.

The G7 ministers also called for women’s rights organizations at local, national, and international levels to be actively included in decision-making on the COVID-19 recovery, and the ministers committed to working to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence through increased support to programs aimed at addressing this issue.

Press release - UK government

News article - BCC

News article - The Guardian

Outrage grows at scale of UK development assistance cuts; funding for UNFPA, UNAIDS cut by over 80%, UNICEF by 60%

Outrage has been growing about the UK government’s development assistance budget cuts, as details continue to emerge about the programs and partners that are affected.

In November of 2020, the UK government decided to temporarily reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget to 0.5% of its gross national income in 2021 (from 0.7% in 2020), with funding cuts of around £4.0 billion (US$5.4 billion) compared to 2019 volumes. The government’s decision to cut the budget was in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.

According to reports in newspapers with recently-emerged details, the UK will cut its funding to:

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, which has been reduced by 85% from £154 million (US$206 million) to £23 million (US$40 million);
  • The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which is to be cut from over 80% from £15 million (US$20 million) to £3 million (US$3 million);
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has been cut by 60% from £40 million (US$53 million) in 2020 to £16 million (US$21 million) in 2021;
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been cut by 95% with funding reduced from £100 million (US$134 million) to £5 million (US$7 million) in 2021; and
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in partner countries, which are reported as being cut by 80%.

It also appears that the Small Charities Challenge Fund, the Community Partnerships Fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct Impact, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programs have been canceled entirely, according to NGOs that receive money through these funds.

Civil society and members of parliament have said that the depth of the cuts puts lives at risk and diminishes UK global leadership on international development, in the very year when the UK is hosting the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

News article - BBC

Spain and Mexico strengthen cooperation to tackle COVID-19 crisis worldwide

On April 30, 2021, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC), Arancha González Laya, met with the Mexican Secretary for External Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, to review current global challenges and advance bilateral cooperation partnerships.

As a result of the meeting, Spain and Mexico decided to strengthen collaborations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to foster equal and universal access to new vaccines, treatments, and other health goods. González and Ebrard also aligned strongly on other development areas, such as addressing gender equality and the climate emergency.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Sweden adopts US$385 million 2021-2024 development cooperation strategy for Afghanistan

On April 29, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new strategy for its development cooperation with Afghanistan for 2021-2024 which amounts to SEK 3.3 billion (US$385 million).

Sweden will focus its support on strengthening democracy, gender equality, and human rights, as well as on promoting education, health, economic development, and peacebuilding.

Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, Per Olsson Fridh, said that the strategy reflected Sweden's long-term commitment to Afghanistan, saying, “There is great political uncertainty, but our support strengthens the forces that want to safeguard the achievements made over the last twenty years."

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Publish What You Fund launches 'Women’s Economic Empowerment' project to track and advocate for gender equality funding

Publish What You Fund (PWYF), a nonprofit organization that campaigns for transparency on development assistance, has recently launched its new project, 'Women’s Economic Empowerment: building evidence for better investments'.

The project will track funding to women’s economic empowerment (WEE), women’s empowerment collectives (WECs), and women’s financial inclusion (WFI), and examine what has influenced changes to funding, including the COVID-19 crisis. The project will include case studies in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. 

PWYF aims to use the findings to advocate for funding toward women's economic empowerment globally and to ensure that investments in WEE, WECs, and WFI are transparent and effective.

This continues to be important as the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women and challenged the progress made in global efforts toward gender equality.

Press release - Publish What You Fund

Sweden strengthens support for UN Peacebuilding Fund

On April 28, 2021, the Swedish government adopted its first strategy for Sweden’s cooperation with the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), focusing primarily on gender equality, climate, and conflict prevention.

Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation, stressed the importance of not only providing support when conflict arises but also working to prevent conflict and staying after conflict has ended to ensure continued peace.

Sweden has contributed more than SEK 235 million (US$28 million) to the PBF for its work in countries such as Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Papua New Guinea, and Somalia, and it is as such one of the largest donors to the Fund.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Former UN Ambassador Samatha Power confirmed to head USAID, role to be elevated to US National Security Council

By a bipartisan vote, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power was confirmed as Administrator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The vote in the Senate was 68-26 and was met with enthusiasm from development groups and her new colleagues, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  

In a first for a USAID Administrator, her role will be elevated to be a part of the US National Security Council.

Power addressed her priorities in her confirmation hearing in March 2021, saying that she would aim to enhance USAID's work addressing food security, education, gender equality, global health, as well as the "interconnected and gargantuan" current global issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, state collapse, and "democratic backsliding",

News article - CNN

European Parliament calls for EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy to promote global transition to fair and sustainable agri-food system

A report by the European Parliament’s Committee on Development has called for the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy to help enable a global transition to resilient, fair, and sustainable agri-food systems that provide safe and affordable food for the global population. 

The report stated that the EU should help tackle all forms of malnutrition in humanitarian and development contexts, including in low-income countries. It emphasized the need for the Farm to Fork strategy to explicitly address gender inequality, strengthen resilience to climate change for smallholder farmers, and protect workers’ rights. 

The Committee on Development also encouraged the EU to support capacity-building for regional integration efforts such as the African Continental Free Trade Area. 

Report - European Parliament

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will have US$10.9 billion ODA budget for 2021-2022, nearly quarter less than in 2020

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Commonwealth and Development, Dominic Raab, announced on April 22, 2021, that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will be responsible for delivering £8.1 billion (US$10.9 billion) of official development assistance (ODA) in 2021-2022, which is a reduction of 23% based on the UK’s 2020 provisional ODA figures.

Other government departments will be responsible for an additional £1.8 billion (US$2.4 billion), as announced in January, making the total UK ODA budget £9.9 billion (US$13.3 billion) in 2021-2022.

Raab also provided headline budget figures for key thematic priorities for the FCDO. The FCDO has allocated:

  • £534 million (US$729 million) for climate and biodiversity and £941 million (US$1.2 billion) in 2021-2022 will be counted towards meeting the UK’s International Climate Finance commitment of providing £11.6 billion (US$15.6 billion) over the next five years;
  • £1.3 billion (US$1.7 billion) for global health and COVID-19 – it is assumed that this is bilateral spending, but it is not entirely clear with the text noting a focus on COVAX (the global vaccine initiative), the World Health Organization, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and it also specifies bilateral spending via individual countries;
  • £400 million (US$537 million) for girls’ education to be invested directly in over 25 countries, helping to achieve the global target of getting 40 million girls into education systems – Raab noted that the UK will generously replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) (the UK is co-hosting the GPE replenishment with Kenya this summer), but refused to reveal the exact UK commitment;
  • £906 million (US$1.2 billion) for humanitarian preparedness and response, which will include a £30 million (US$40 million) crisis reserve fund;
  • £251 million (US$337 million) in research and development across the UK's priority areas and a further £38 million (US$52 million) targeted directly at science, technology, and innovations;
  • £419 million (US$562 million) in support of open societies and conflict resolution;  
  • £491 million (US$659 million) on economic development and trade;
  • £3.1 billion (US$4.2 billion) will be provided as multilateral core contributions to key global funds and development banks, including keeping the UK’s pledge to be the top donor to the World Bank’s low-income lending arm (the International Development Association), and this bucket also includes funding to key bodies such as the British Council and the FCDO; and
  • Half of its bilateral ODA will go to Africa (with Raab noting that there will be a major tilt towards East Africa), and one-third of the bilateral budget will go to the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia, while funding to China will be cut by 90% and fall to £900,000 (US$1 million).

Many parliamentarians and civil society organizations criticized the government for a lack of clarity on where the cuts had actually been made and how spending would be affected beyond the broad thematic areas. The way the data had been presented made comparisons with 2020 and 2019 ODA spending extremely difficult. Commentators were also disappointed that there was no country budget level data announced, beyond China. Raab noted that country budget allocations were in the process of being decided and further information would be released once the decisions had been taken.

A joint statement made by numerous UK NGOs condemns the announcement as a "tragic blow" for the world’s poorest.

Press release - UK Government

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

Joint statement - Bond

Australia and New Zealand’s foreign ministers reiterate commitment to gender equality, SRHR

Nanaia Mahuta, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, met in Wellington, New Zealand, to discuss a range of issues including development assistance.

Mahuta and Payne released a joint statement that reiterated the importance of promoting gender equality and more women in leadership in the Pacific. They emphasized the need for more initiatives on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

This was the first meeting undertaken under the new quarantine-free safe travel bubble set up on April 19, 2021, between Australia and New Zealand. It was also the first time that both New Zealand and Australia were represented by female foreign ministers.

Press release - Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs

Center for Global Development analyzes gendered impacts of COVID-19 crisis on social protection, economic empowerment, health

The Center for Global Development (CGD) recently published an analysis of the gendered impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on healthsocial protection, and economic empowerment, analyzing whether international donors are taking enough action to tackle gender inequalities that have been dramatically exacerbated by the pandemic.

Key findings included:

  • Just 39 of 135 health projects reviewed contained a component addressing the indirect health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, and only about half of those included gender-specific indicators;
  • Only 27% of social protection projects included intersectional indicators or targets; and
  • Only 25 of 48 economic recovery projects reviewed called for gender parity, i.e., for women to be 50% or more of project beneficiaries.

A video of CGD's most recent panel discussion on gender equality, 'Africa Taking Charge of its Future: Prioritizing Gender Equality in the Path to Recovery', has been uploaded, and upcoming events will address topics such as the climate crisis and accountability in humanitarian and development work.

Press release - CGD

Development Media International to host event on using mass media campaigns to contribute to SRHR and increase modern contraceptive uptake

Development Media International (DMI), a non-profit organization that runs evidence-based behavior change campaigns for improving health in low-income countries, will be hosting an event on April 20, 2021, on using mass media campaigns to contribute to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and increase modern contraceptive uptake.

DMI will present the results of the randomized controlled trial (RCT) that it conducted in Burkina Faso in partnership with the Abdul Jameel Latif Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA). The RCT tested the impact of a radio campaign on modern contraceptive uptake, and the results showed that there was a 20% relative increase in intervention zones following the campaign. According to DMI, this was a significant finding, and the radio campaign cost much less than other national family planning investments, making the campaign a highly cost-effective impact accelerator. 

This RTC follows the success of an earlier trial, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, that used mass media to promote increased child survival and maternal health, by providing parents with information about and encouraging them to seek treatment for children with symptoms of malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhea, as well as by promoting prenatal care and health facility deliveries. DMI’s other projects cover topics including SRHR, nutrition, tuberculosis, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).

To learn more, sign up for the event here. The event will have simultaneous English-French translation available. 

To read the Donor Tracker’s recent report on donor funding trends for SRHR from the last decade and watch a recording of that report's webinar, click here.

Event website - DMI

Press release - World Health Organization

Center for Global Development calls for UK government to return to 0.7% of GNI as ODA when economy returns to pre-pandemic size

The Center for Global Development (CGD), an international development think tank with a hub in London, has published a new blog exploring when the government should return to spending 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).

The government temporarily suspended its commitment in 2020 in the face of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public finances, and it has stated that it will only return to the 0.7% commitment "when the fiscal situation allows". The government has failed to outline how it will decide this, despite repeated questioning. In the absence of a straight answer, the Center for Global Development has proposed three different potential scenarios for measuring "when the fiscal situation allows" that the government could use:

  • Scenario 1 – Under this scenario, the government deficit would be used as the measurement. The CGD notes that historically, the UK has met the 0.7% commitment with a government deficit of 1.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), on average. By this measure, the UK could return to 0.7% in 2023 when the deficit is projected to be around 0.8% of GDP.
  • Scenario 2 – Under this scenario, the measurement for when the UK could return to providing 0.7% of its GNI as ODA would be when the budget deficit is eliminated. The UK Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has stated that this scenario is his intention. However, according to a projection by the UK Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), an official independent body on UK public finances, this is unlikely to be reached until 2025-2026. Even then it is not a given, as historically, very few governments have achieved this goal. 
  • Scenario 3 – Under this final scenario, the government returns to 0.7% when the UK economy recovers to its pre-pandemic size, which is expected in 2022. While this option might pose value for money problems as the budget was dramatically cut and then has to rise quickly again, it also allows for programs to be paused rather than canceled, with payments delayed for a year only. It would also enable the UK to announce (as it hosts the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021) that it will quickly resume its spending, maintaining global development leadership.

The CGD notes that its preference would be for the government to opt for Scenario 3, given the shortness of the cut, as well as the ability to press pause and to retain UK global development leadership. However, the CGD stresses that whichever scenario is chosen by the government, it is important for the government to set out a clear schedule for returning to the 0.7% target to enable those in the development community to plan effectively.

Op-ed - Center for Global Development

C20 publishes statement ahead of Global Health Summit, calls on international leaders to support universal health coverage

The C20 (Civil 20), the G20 Engagement Group that brings together global civil society, published a statement ahead of the civil society consultation on sustainable health security preparedness and response that was held on April 20, 2021.

The consultation took place ahead of the Global Health Summit, which will be co-hosted by the Italian Presidency of G20 and the European Commission on May 21, 2021.

The C20 called on international leaders to support universal health coverage and consider health a global public good. Women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups and communities, must be at the center of global health strategies and responses, said the statement.

The civil society members emphasized the importance of a multilateral approach in response to the COVID-19 crisis and other pandemics. They also asked for growing support to the global partnership, Access to COVID 19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), and its vaccine pillar, COVAX.

Press release - Civil 20

Canada among 29 countries to condemn human rights violations against LGBTI people in Chechen Republic

Canada, among 29 co-signatories, has called on the Russian Federation "to launch an effective, impartial, and transparent inquiry into the systematic persecution of LGBTI persons in Chechnya and to end impunity for its perpetrators."

A report published in 2018 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) found strong evidence that Chechnya was engaging in "successive purges against LGBTI persons". LGBTI people in Chechnya face "systematic harassment, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings". Since the release of the report, Russia has failed to implement changes or respond to these human rights violations, and new human rights violations against LGBTI people and opponents of Chechen leadership continue to be discovered, said the joint statement.

The following countries also signed this statement: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Sweden develops new development cooperation strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations

On April 15, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop a foundation for a new development cooperation strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations.

Sweden’s support of democracy support constitutes an important part of Sweden’s development cooperation and aims to promote democratic development, respect for human rights, and equal opportunities for women and men.

"The Swedish party-affiliated organizations are helping to promote democracy by strengthening democratic multi-party systems and parliamentarism around the world at a time of democratic decline," said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Sweden’s existing strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations expires in 2022.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

UK announces members of newly formed Gender Equality Advisory Council for G7

The UK government, which holds the Presidency of the G7 (Group of Seven) this year, has published the full list of members for its newly created Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC). 

The GEAC was created in order to ensure that the G7 puts women at the center of their "build back better" agenda following the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Council is comprised of 19 members selected from each of the G7 countries and beyond. Members reflect a commitment to democracy and women’s empowerment, and many are drawn from the realm of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. 

The Council will publish an independent report with recommendations for how the G7 can ensure that women are at the heart of recovery efforts.

Press release - UK government

Dutch cabinet continues support for HIV/AIDS programs

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, sent the Dutch parliament a letter regarding the implementation of a parliamentary motion to continue as many programs as possible unabated which focus on tackling HIV/AIDS.

The cabinet will continue support for protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) through its multilateral partners such as UNAIDS, Aidsfonds, Frontline AIDS, Robert Carr Fund, the Love Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The Netherlands will also remain focused on improving the position of girls, young women, and marginalized groups at a national level.

Kaag stated that the future budget for SRHR depends on the development budget and the funding distribution chosen by the next cabinet, and confirmed that she supports the current distribution which allocates €70 million (US$85 million) for SRHR in 2021.

Press release – Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Sweden adopts new strategy for cooperation with Asian Development Bank

On April 8, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new strategy on Sweden’s cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for 2021-2024.

During this period, Sweden will particularly support the ADB’s work directed at promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth and recovery, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and climate protection in the Asia-Pacific region. The strategy also seeks to promote ADB’s support for peace and state-building in conflict-affected countries.

Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation, pointed out that the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in increased poverty in the region, while "at the same time, many of the most vulnerable and hardest hit by climate change also live in the region". The ADB "plays a very important role in supporting a sustainable and inclusive green recovery and transition in the region following the COVID-19 pandemic," Fridh said.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden develops new strategy for development cooperation with 'sub-Saharan Africa'

On April 8, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) to develop a basis for its new regional development cooperation strategy with Sub-Saharan Africa for 2022-2026.

The strategy will focus on strengthening democracy, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality, inclusive economic development, and peacebuilding. Given the large number of refugees on the continent, Sida has also been requested to look into how the strategy can contribute to lasting solutions and protection for migrants, as well as support the climate and environment.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)