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Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, has announced a A$60 million (US$43 million) program that will support the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with their response to COVID-19. This funding is part of the Partnerships for Recovery program under which Australia's development priorities have pivoted to focus on supporting countries in its region in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
The ASEAN regional cooperation program will include a partnership working on the detection of COVID-19 in the wastewater of Mekong countries. The funding will also assist in planning for recovery through cooperation in areas such as digital transformation and connectivity, with particular attention to the challenges faced by women and girls. Support will also be provided to assist ASEAN with capacity building and the purchase of medical equipment and supplies for the COVID-19 response.
On September 11, 2020, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, spoke virtually at a United Nations (UN) meeting about the work of the 'Recovering Better for Sustainability' discussion group. This group, co-led by the UK, Rwanda, Fiji, and the EU, explores how countries can create more sustainable, healthier, and more inclusive societies and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) despite the COVID-19 crisis. In his speech, Ahmad outlined the steps the UK has been taking to support lower-income countries to "build back better". These include:
- Supporting climate-resilient growth, protecting biodiversity, and promoting sustainable ways of living;
- Prioritizing the establishment of strong and resilient health systems, underpinned by universal health coverage; and
- Ensuring no one is left behind with a focus on ensuring girls and vulnerable children continue to learn, even when schools are closed, and are supported to safely get back to school.
Ahmad noted that the UK government will continue to push these priorities in its presidencies of the UN COP26 and G7 next year.
Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has announced funding for research projects to promote women’s economic empowerment in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal. Funded projects will provide country-specific evidence on best practices for "reducing and redistributing women’s unpaid care work in environmentally-friendly ways that generate business and employment opportunities for women".
This research will be used to inform future policies and interventions addressing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls".
The UK government has published its new strategy on safeguarding against sexual abuse and exploitation in the international development sector. The strategy is divided into three parts: 1) delivering sector-wide change, 2) delivering organizational change within the UK departments working on international development, and 3) delivering programmatic change across UK development assistance programs.
This cross-departmental effort involves all UK departments responsible for official development assistance (ODA). The strategy aims to help drive UK global leadership on the issue, following a number of cases of sexual abuse and exploitation within UK NGOs.
Two prominent development voices, George Ingram (a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute), and Nora O'Connell (the Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at Save the Children), described the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID's) new draft gender policy as a retrenchment on gender equality and a "step back in time".
Against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has both exacerbated and revealed the level of gender inequality globally, experts say the current draft policy would undermine the agency's ability to address issues such as increased caregiving responsibilities placed upon women globally, a loss of economic and educational opportunities, gender-based violence, and conjugal slavery (including forced and child marriage).
Critics highlighted that the use of terminology such as "unalienable rights" and "basic and legal rights" in place of "human rights" narrows the scope of legal protections that the policy will offer. The draft also adopts a binary gender definition, eliminating references to the LGBTQ+ population and failing to address intersectionality, a philosophy which recognizes that some people face multiple forms of discrimination.
Ingram and O'Connell decry the policy's "retrograde concept of gender equality", which they say appears to be driven by ideology rather than concerns about the impact of the proposed changes.
The new gender policy released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has raised the ire of both Democrats on Capitol Hill and development stakeholders who expressed concern that the draft is a step backward for gender equality.
USAID released the draft on August 19, 2020, and required public comments to be provided by August 27. Other than that short window, the policy -- which will replace the 2012 gender policy in its entirety -- was developed with no other public consultation. USAID received a "significant" number of comments from the development community. Additionally, 15 Senators sent a letter to Acting Administrator John Barsa stating that the draft "reflects priorities that will undermine gender equality." A separate letter signed by 86 House members to Barsa called upon USAID to reverse course and engage with Congress.
The UK government has announced its interim leadership team for the forthcoming Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). FCDO will formally open on September 1, 2020, following the UK government’s decision to merge its Department for International Development (DFID) with its Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The announcement comes after the recent appointment of Sir Philip Barton as the permanent secretary to the FCDO, the highest-level civil servant in the new department.
The team is comprised of five directors-general, appointed on an interim basis of five months only to help manage the transition. The team also includes one political director, appointed on a permanent basis. Each Director-General leads on a specific geographic area and a set of thematic areas.
- Juliet Chua will be the new director-general of finance and corporate performance. This was a post she held in DFID.
- Tim Barrow will be the new political director. He is currently UK ambassador to the EU.
- Tom Drew will be the director-general of Middle-East and North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. He is currently director-general of consular and security at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. He will also be responsible for humanitarian and crisis management, as well as defense, migration, and national security.
- Moazzam Malik will be the director-general for Africa. He is currently director-general of country Programs in DFID. He will also be responsible for conflict and stabilization, human rights and good governance, and the UK’s development finance institution, the CDC Group.
- Vijay Rangarajan will be the director-general for the Americas and overseas territories. He is currently ambassador to Brazil. He will also be responsible for climate change, health, education, and gender.
- Jenny Bates will be the director-general of the Indo-Pacific region. She is currently the director-general for Europe at the FCO.
- Kumar Iyer will be the director-general of delivery. He is currently director-general of the prime minister's COVID-19 task force.
Some commentators have pointed to the dominance of FCO former staff in the management structure as a sign that development will be deprioritized within the new organization in favor of foreign policy.
On August 19, Sweden decided to halt all development assistance benefiting state actors in Belarus. As a result of this decision, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has begun reviewing ongoing operations equivalent to about SEK9 million (US$1 million), most of which was aimed at strengthening democracy and human rights.
"Given the development in the country after the elections, we think the decision is very reasonable," said Carin Jämtin, Director General of Sida.
Sweden has a long-standing relationship with Belarus; Sweden has provided development assistance to the country for 25 years and is one of its largest bilateral donors. Sida’s 2020 allocation for Belarus is SEK 102 million (US$11 million).
Swedish support has mostly been focused on improving gender equality, anti-discrimination, freedom of speech, and democratic organizations. "We have a dialogue with our partners to look at how we can further strengthen support for civil society and other actors,” said Carin Jämtin. “In concrete terms, the way in which this aid should look depends very much on the development. We need to find the best ways to support further democratic development."
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has unveiled a draft gender policy that not only eliminates all mention of transgender populations but also fails to mention contraceptives, instead referring to "fertility awareness" and "health timing and spacing of pregnancies" as family planning methods.
The document, which is out for a one-week public comment period, is a departure from the 2012 gender policy and is also at odds with USAID's Automated Directives System which provides the USAID organizational and functional rules.
The new proposal was drafted largely in secret with little opportunity for either the internal gender experts or outside advocates to give input.
A new report from G-FINDER tracking the landscape of research and development (R&D) for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) has highlighted several promising developments in the field, but notes that the vast majority of the funding comes from just a few investors and that funding overall is insufficient. This means that needs often go unmet, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
“Many people, especially women, are dying and suffering from preventable and treatable issues of sexual and reproductive health, while the products currently available are not enough to change this,” said Dr Nick Chapman, CEO of Policy Cures Research. “There’s a clear gap in investment to research and develop new products to meet people’s needs in low-resource settings. With a few funders stepping in to fill this gap, there are missed opportunities to make a real impact on the lives of people in LMICs.”
Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have put forth a call for "research proposals on Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) – East Africa."
Research is needed on unpaid care work and gender segregation of the labor market in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. IDRC is seeking to understand the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions and policies in reducing "gender economic gaps" in order to scale the impact of successful programming.
Successful proposals will include "locally grounded in-depth evaluative and action research to provide evidence, practical tools, and guidance to inform policies and actions."
The US State Department issued a report claiming that the effect of the Trump administration's Mexico City policy -- also referred to as the global gag rule -- had not affected most grants.
The rule, officially named 'Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,' prohibits foreign NGOs who receive US global health assistance from providing any abortion services, including referrals and counseling. The Trump rule, which expanded restrictions on the previous Reagan-era law, is estimated to affect more than 1,300 global health projects worth approximately US$12 billion in US assistance.
The State Department's review claimed that only 8 out of 1,340 awardees opted out of the policy. Critics of the policy were quick to point out that while the number of grantees that opted out was small, they are very consequential providers, representing hundreds of millions of health care services. The report also acknowledged that the policy has resulted in "a gap or disruptions to delivery", additional costs, and delays in implementation. Sub-Saharan Africa was the region most affected.
Advocates for sexual and reproductive health and rights also expressed concern about the policy's effect on other health care services, such as HIV/AIDs, nutrition, and malaria. A representative from the Guttmacher Institute called the policy a US foreign assistance weapon "to attack sexual and reproductive health and rights. While numerous studies have documented the policy’s harms, there is no evidence — none — that the global gag rule has had any positive impacts.”
The Trump administration unveiled agency plans and new funding to support its Women's Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) program.
Ten agencies, including the Departments of State and Treasury and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), submitted their commitments for pillar three of W-GDP, which focuses on removing legal, regulatory, and cultural barriers to women. The administration also announced US$122 million in funding for this effort. The overall goal of W-GDP is to reach 50 million women by 2025.
The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced a new goal to mobilize US$6.0 billion over the next three years for its 2X Women's Initiative. The initiative, first introduced by DFC's predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, has mobilized US$3.0 billion since 2018. The new focus is motivated in large part by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate effect on women.
The DFC is expected to work on just a few issues, including closing the gender digital divide, as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene. Geographically, the new focus will cover all emerging markets, including countries like Pakistan, where it has been more difficult to work.
The DFC made other announcements of new work including new investments in nutrition and loans to support small and medium enterprises in Honduras.
The UK’s Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), the government’s independent development assistance watchdog, has released a new report reviewing the effectiveness of UK support for the African Development Bank (ADB). The report finds that the UK’s contribution of £181 million (US$239 million) per year over the last three years to ADB, provides good value for money and that there is a strong alignment between UK priorities and those of the Bank.
The review does, however, give a word of caution noting that the UK’s decision to unilaterally impose performance measures on the Bank in 2017 disregarded the multilateral governance structure and had the potential to alienate the UK from other shareholders. The report highlights that the African Development Bank has a comparative advantage in filling critical gaps in delivering large scale infrastructure and in delivering large-scale regional projects, that single donors alone would struggle to implement.
However, the review does note that the Bank lacks resources to properly implement its environmental and social safeguards and that there is room for improvement in its aims to ‘leave no one behind’ and to promote gender equality.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) are channeling €300 million (US$344 million) to sub-Saharan African countries to support recovery and resilience efforts in their COVID-19 responses.
The package includes a reallocation of €200 million (US$229 million) toward sectors most impacted by the pandemic, as well as an additional €100 million (US$115 million) of new funds. The funds will go toward working capital for businesses to keep jobs and maintain imports. At least a quarter of the funds will be dedicated to climate action, some will help enable cross-border trade of medical supplies and equipment, and some will target businesses owned or managed by women.
Press release - EIB
Canada's Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, has signed a new Global Trade and Gender Arrangement with Chile and New Zealand (the other members of the Inclusive Trade Action Group), which aims to promote inclusive and equitable trade and investment.
The signatory countries have committed to work together to promote gender equality within their trade and investment agreements. The group also issued a joint pledge to foster a global economic recovery from COVID-19 that is inclusive of women, Indigenous peoples, and other minority groups.
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), South Korea’s main development agency, announced its strategy to improve human rights in partner countries through its development cooperation programs and projects for 2020-2023.
According to a KOICA press release, the overall goal of the strategy will be to realize a basic principle of South Korea’s international development cooperation framework which is to improve the human rights of women, children, adolescents, and people with disabilities as well as to realize gender equality in partner countries. The strategy identifies 15 priority policy tasks including:
- Identifying and designing international development cooperation projects that reflect the partner country’s human rights situation;
- Developing human rights-based project identification and design guideline;
- Organizing regular meetings with stakeholders to implement human rights-based development cooperation;
- Establishing a human rights violation management system for public-private partnership projects;
- Conducting research on human rights in international development cooperation;
- Conducting research on the data management of KOICA projects targeting vulnerable groups; and
- Establishing human rights evaluation systems.
The French Development Agency (AFD) released the summary of its annual report synthesizing the 2019 activities led by the AFD group (which includes its private sector instrument, Proparco, and its technical expertise agency, Expertise France.
In total, the AFD group mobilized €14.1 billion (US$16.1 billion) in 2019, supporting 115 countries in their development efforts, a 70% increase since 2015 according to the report. Of this amount, €2.5 billion (US$3.0 billion) were allocated as grants. The annual report indicates 1,072 new projects were initiated this year.
The French development agency mobilized €477 million (US$547 million) for global health projects, €621 million (US$712 million) for agriculture and nutrition, US$1.4 billion (€1.2 billion) for water and sanitation, and €877 million (US$1.0 billion) for education and professional training.
In 2019, €740 million (US$849 million) was committed to projects with gender equality as a principal objective. 49% of AFD overall projects integrated gender as one of several goals.
The African continent received 50% of the total volume of AFD's financial support throughout the year, of which €1 billion (US$1.2 billion) was allocated to the Sahel region.