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South Korea to host second international conference on gender-based violence in conflict

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea announced that on November 24, 2020, it will host the second international conference on ‘Action with Women and Peace' (AWP), an initiative dedicated to the global discussion on women's and girls' rights, preventing gender-based violence, and peacebuilding.

Held virtually due to COVID-19, this year’s conference has the theme of “ending sexual violence in conflict: ensuring a survivor-centered approach”. The sessions include topics on the COVID-19 crisis and conflict-related sexual violence, the necessary efforts and potential challenges in ensuring a survivor-centered approach, and perspectives from young people. 

The AWP initiative was announced in 2018 with the main goals of implementing international development projects and holding international conferences annually on the topic of gender-based violence in conflict. The first conference was held in 2019 with the theme of “global partnership to combat sexual violence in conflict”.

Event website – Action with Women and Peace

South Korea invests US$7 million to support survivors of gender-based violence in Timor-Leste with UN

Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the main grant assistance agency of South Korea, announced that it will invest KRW8.1 billion (US$7 million) by 2024 to support survivors of gender-based violence in Timor-Leste. This is part of a project with four UN agencies: UN Women, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and International Organization for Migration (IOM).

This project will help provide basic medical and legal services, strengthen women’s policy, and enhance the economic capacity of the survivors. It will also support public outreach and educational programs on gender equality and women’s empowerment. According to their announcement, it is not common for KOICA projects to have more than one international organization as a partner, so this project is a unique case for KOICA of multilateral cooperation between four international organizations to fight for women's rights.

Press release – Korea International Cooperation Agency (in Korean)

At G20 Leaders’ Summit, Canada emphasizes inclusive COVID-19 response, tackling climate crisis

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participated in the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, stressing the "importance of G20 leadership and coordinated action" in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, building the economy, and tackling the climate crisis.

Trudeau emphasized the importance of upholding the rule of law and human rights, including women’s rights, to inclusively move toward global "peace, prosperity, and sustainability".

According to the Canadian government, it supports the conclusions from this meeting which are outlined in the G20 Leaders’ Declaration, which also addresses issues such as welcoming the first G20 Anti-Corruption Ministerial Meeting, being "committed to implementing the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) including its extension through June 2021", and endorsing the Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) Platform with the goal to reduce emissions.

Press release - Prime Minister of Canada

Global health will top Italian G20 presidency agenda in 2021

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attended this year's G20 Leaders' Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, and announced Italy's priorities as its G20 presidency will start officially on December 1, 2020.

Conte declared that health and socio-economic responses to the COVID-19 crisis would be at the top of the agenda, in addition to ensuring universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, strengthening health systems, and emphasizing multilateralism.

He pointed out the overlapping priorities between the G20's health agenda and the European Commission's Global Health Summit to be hosted by Italy in May 2021.

Furthermore, Conte said that the Italian presidency intends to promote sustainable, inclusive, and resilient recovery, building the presidency around three pillars: people, planet, and prosperity, with women's empowerment as a critical focus across all issues.

Italy's presidency will culminate with its hosting of the next G20 Leaders' Summit on October 30-31, 2021.

Speech - President of the Council (in Italian)

US President-elect Biden plans to rescind 'global gag rule', but damage done will not be easily reversed

US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rescind the infamous Mexico City Policy, widely known as the 'global gag rule', which eliminated funding to international NGOs which counsel on, provide, or legally advocate for abortion. According to global health experts, however, the reversal of the policy will not automatically reverse the far-reaching damage it has done. 

The policy was originally instituted by the Reagan administration in 1984, but the most restrictive version of the Mexico City Policy to date was put into place by US President Donald Trump. Biden's rescission of the policy within the first days of his presidency would follow the precedent set by Democratic presidents before him.

According to policy experts, there will still be a lot of work for the Biden administration to do after reversing the rule. It will take time to revise standards and contracts as well as to clarify the new spending rules to by now-wary foreign NGOs. Organizations will have to wait before they can hire more people, open more clinics, expand programs, and, in the case of large organizations, they have to wait until they bid on the next cycle of projects. 

For those NGOs that decided to forego US funding rather than abide by the rule, the funding will take time to be restored. Some, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation or MSI Reproductive Choice, may not want to seek US funding again, knowing the disruptions to their services that can come with the rule's potential reinstatement in four or eight years with a new president, further destabilizing their operations.

The Trump administration still has time to further expand the Mexico City Policy (which it renamed 'Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy') in the coming months, which would require extra time and work for the Biden administration to reverse once Biden assumes office in January of 2021.

News article - Devex

Canada and Zambia lead UN Resolution to end child marriage

Canada and Zambia have taken the lead on a UN resolution to end child, early, and forced marriages, which are human rights abuses and often impact education and health outcomes. The UN General Assembly has adopted this resolution, "which received the support of a total of 114 co-sponsors from around the world" and has put forth "concrete action to maintain and accelerate progress to end child, early and forced marriage".

The urgency of this resolution stems from the impacts that the COVID-19 crisis has had on "women’s and girls’ access to schooling and to essential health-care services, including for sexual and reproductive health". The UN Population Fund estimates that there will be an additional 13 million cases of child, early, and forced marriage by 2030 due to the pandemic.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

Influential group of UK Conservative parliamentarians call for development budget focus on liberal values, human rights

An influential group of UK Conservative members of parliament, the One Nation Caucus, which represents a third of all Conservative Party parliamentary members, has released a new report on reforming the UK’s approach to international development.

The report makes several recommendations including calling for the UK to shift the focus of its development budget away from exclusively focusing on poverty reduction to also supporting liberal values and human rights.

The report also calls on the UK to maintain its commitment to spending 0.7% of its gross national income on official development assistance (ODA), but it recommends that the annual target become a multi-year target over a rolling period, to enable greater spending stability and to avoid departments feeling compelled to spend at the end of the year to meet the commitment. 

Other recommendations include:

  • Continuing to focus UK development assistance on fragility, girls’ education, and gender equality;
  • Continuing to work to change the international rules that govern what can be spent on ODA to enable more activities that support peace-keeping;
  • Appointing a deputy Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) minister that would be responsible for international development policy and attend the Cabinet;
  • Maintaining the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (an independent public body that scrutinizes UK ODA spending); and
  • Seeking to create an international development alliance with like-minded nations such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to boost cooperation on shared development assistance priorities.

Report - One Nation Conservatives

News article - The Telegraph

News article - Conservative Home

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

OECD review praises UK's "depth and breadth of expertise" on international development

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its 2020 development cooperation peer review of the UK, praising it, for its "depth and breadth of expertise" on international development.

It also praises the UK for its strong focus on poverty and fragility, its steadfast championing of gender equality and women’s empowerment, its solid support for meeting its international commitment to deliver 0.7% of its gross national income as official development assistance (ODA), as well as its evidence-based approach to stability, inclusion, and prosperity.

The report recommends that, moving forward, the UK should:

  • Expand its range of financial instruments so it can blend ODA and non-ODA together to "ensure that responses to complex challenges are problem-driven and flexible while remaining focused on agreed longer-term objectives";
  • Develop a new comprehensive vision for international development cooperation to guide resource allocations in the future; and
  • Put in place better systems for risk-based management of development cooperation programs to enable staff, where appropriate, to take higher risks to deliver higher impact.

The report was written prior to the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to become the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Report - OECD

European ministers, parliamentarians call on European Commission to include gender equality in EU trade policy review

European ministers, including Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Sigrid Kaag, as well as members of the European Parliament (MEPs), sent a joint letter to the European Commission (EC) calling upon the EC to include gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in its trade policy review of the EU.

In the letter, the ministers and MEPs urge the EU to take immediate steps to fill the information gap about the interconnections between trade and gender. The letter also included eight measures to make the EU trade policy more gender-sensitive, ranging from reinforcing gender in all EU bilateral trade agreements, to encouraging international development programs that are targeted at gender-specific barriers.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands

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)

UN adopts resolution promoted by Spain to protect women and girls through COVID-19 response; US disassociates from sexual and reproductive health phrases

On November 10, 2020, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) adopted a resolution with the goal of placing women and girls at the heart of the global response against the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

Presented and promoted by Spain, and including more than 80 country co-sponsors, this UN resolution claims to guarantee that the COVID-19 crisis will not disproportionally affect women’s and girls' rights and quality of life. Among other topics, it includes specific references to women's rights to influence the pandemic response, the need to keep working to effectively end gender-based violence, the importance of advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the value of front-line women providing health and care services, the role of civil society organizations, and the right to quality education for everyone.

The US Mission to the UN, which presented several amendments to the draft resolution that were not approved by the UN General Assembly, published a statement disassociating itself from the paragraphs mentioning terms such as “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health-care services”, due to what it sees as "the promotion of abortion or a right to abortion that are unacceptable to our Administration".

Press release – Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEUEC)

Meeting coverage – United Nations

Statement – US Mission to the UN

Japan provides US$35 million in loans to microfinance institutions in low-income ASEAN countries with focus on financial inclusion of women

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) invested US$35 million in the “COVID-19 Emerging Frontier Markets MSME Support Fund”, to provide loans to microfinance institutions in low-income countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

The COVID-19 crisis has had major impacts on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME), especially for businesses run by women. During this crisis, microfinance institutions, which are organizations that provide financial services to low-income individuals and businesses, have been critical in supporting MSMEs in partner countries. 

JICA’s funds will be managed by the investment manager, Blue Orchard Finance Ltd., to actively support the financial inclusion of women in partner countries in the ASEAN region. US and UK development finance institutions have also announced their participation in the fund. 

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Netherlands organizes virtual conference to hear young people's voices from Middle East and Africa on current challenges

On November 2, 2020, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) organized a virtual conference, called Youth at Heart, aimed at involving youth in development cooperation and addressing the challenges related to the large number of young people in the Middle East and Africa compared to the number of available job opportunities.

The themes of this conference included the global COVID-19 crisis, education, work, youth-led change, and mental health, as well as the experiences of refugees and women.

Hundreds of participants talked with young people from regions including the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East to hear their ideas on improving their future prospects.

Recordings of the conference can be found on the MFA's YouTube channel.

News article - Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Virtual conference videos - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Canada introduces new 'women, peace and security' agenda initiatives, commits US$11 million for women peacebuilders

While celebrating the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (which recognized the important role that women play in preventing conflicts and called for increased inclusion and protection of women), Canada released new 'women, peace and security' (WPS) agenda initiatives.

The government will provide CA$10 million (US$7 million) for women peacebuilders globally and CA$5 million (US$4 million) for grassroots women peacebuilders. Canada has also introduced a new annual awards program to bring attention to excellence in WPS research and civil society leadership, and is planning a global advocacy campaign to "recognize, support and protect the important work of women peacebuilders".

The WPS agenda is a key part of Canada's feminist international foreign assistance policy.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Sweden allocates additional US$16 million to address impact of COVID-19 crisis on SRHR

In response to global repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the Swedish government has decided to allocate an additional SEK 140 million (US$16 million) to counteract the displacement effects of the pandemic on vital activities linked to SRHR, with a particular focus on the continent of Africa.

Peter Eriksson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, pointed out that child and maternal mortality rates are rising globally and women's rights are decreasing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Eriksson emphasized, "We cannot accept that development is regressing.”

Out of the SEK 140 million (US$16 million), SEK 100 million (US$11 million) will be administered through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The remaining SEK 40 million (US$5 million) will be used to support the implementation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s strategy for SRHR in sub-Saharan Africa.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Sweden pledges additional US$8 million in support of UN peacebuilding and women's participation

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of UN’s Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security, and within the framework of its global COVID-19 response, Sweden has pledged to contribute an additional SEK 75 million (US$8 million) to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

Peter Eriksson, Minister of International Development Cooperation, emphasized that "much remains to be done to achieve concrete results for people on the ground."

Sweden is one of the largest donors to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The Fund, which aims 30% of its financing at gender equality, has successfully met this target in recent years.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

UK announces world’s first guidance for protecting female peacebuilders

The UK government has established what it says is the first global guidance on how to protect female peacebuilders, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women’s role in conflict prevention.

The new guidance provides a road map for how countries can involve women in peace-building, and it includes recommendations to standardize the pay of women peacebuilders, train local authorities on the threats faced by women working in this sphere, and establish secure transportation for these women.

Research by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations shows that peace talks involving women are far less likely to fail and far more likely to last for a longer period. However, despite this, women are still often missing from conflict prevention processes with women making up only 2% of mediators and 8% of negotiators on average between 1990 and 2017.

The UK government also announced new funding to the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC) network and further funding to support research into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls living in fragile and conflict-affected states, such as Afghanistan and Nigeria.

News article - Devex

Press release - UK government

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)

UK, World Bank-backed expert panel publishes report on cost-effective approaches to alleviating global education crisis

The Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP) has released its first report on the best investments for tackling the learning crisis in vulnerable countries.

The GEEAP, convened by the UK and World Bank and hosted by Building Evidence in Education (BE2), consists of leading global education experts with the mandate to give "succinct, usable, and policy-focused" recommendations for policymakers' education investments in low- and middle-income countries.

The report recommends that donors prioritize:

  • Ensuring that teaching is based on the ability and learning level of students rather than age or grade;
  • Increasing investments in pre-primary education to halt the learning disparity seen by age five;
  • Developing structured lesson plans with teacher mentoring and training;
  • Supporting merit-based scholarships to disadvantaged children to help them remain in school; and
  • Working to reduce travel times to schools.

The UK's involvement in these efforts contributes to the UK's goal for every girl to have up to 12 years of quality education and ties into the UK's upcoming leadership of the Global Partnership for Education replenishment summit and the G7 next year (of which girls' education will be a central theme).

Evidence shows that the COVID-19 crisis is adding to what was already a global learning crisis in many low-income countries.

Report - Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel

Press release - UK government