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Sweden adopts new 2021-2024 strategy for cooperation with International Fund for Agricultural Development

On February 18, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new five-year strategy for its cooperation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The strategy aims to strengthen IFAD's global efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and poverty, particularly focusing on women, small-scale farmers, and other vulnerable groups in poverty-stricken areas.

"Food security is under pressure in many parts of the world. And climate change and disappearing biodiversity make the situation even more difficult”, said Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation. Fridh highlighted that IFAD promotes sustainable agriculture in low-income countries that enables populations to be fed while also protecting the soil.

In particular, Sweden’s objective is to promote IFAD’s work in the areas of climate resilience, climate impact, and biodiversity protection. In addition, the strategy aims to support gender equality and female economic empowerment.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

South Korea's grant assistance agency commits US$7 million to prevent gender-based violence in Timor-Leste

South Korea's Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) announced that it will implement a project dedicated to preventing gender-based violence in Timor-Leste worth US$8 million in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with KOICA providing US$7.3 million and the UN agencies contributing US$0.7 million.

The project will run until 2024 with the objectives of enhancing access to basic legal and medical services and building women's policy and economic capacity. The project will target both the government and civil society.

News article – Newsis (in Korean)

Under Spain’s leadership, Sahel Alliance General Assembly adopts resolution to foster regional sustainable development

On February 16, 2020, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), Arancha González Laya, chaired the second General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance that took place in N’Djamena, Chad, to review the current situation of the region and advance coordination to effectively address the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result of this meeting, the Sahel Alliance adopted a joint statement aimed at improving the living conditions of populations in the Sahel in a sustainable manner and guaranteeing equal access to essential services. Among other measures, it underlines the need to strengthen actions addressing the COVID-19 crisis, rural development, food security, climate change adaptation, and gender equality in the Sahel region.  

González Laya stated that the Sahel Alliance is committed to working towards post-COVID-19 recovery, strengthening public health services, as well as achieving inclusive and sustainable development in the region.

Created in July 2017, the Sahel Alliance is a regional organization that gathers the G5 Sahel member states—Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad—in addition to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN Development Programme, and EU institutions. Since June 2020, Spain holds the presidency of the Sahel Alliance for a one-year period.

Press release – MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Joint statement – General Assembly of the Sahel Alliance

Canada commits US$79 million to women impacted by COVID-19 crisis, opens call for proposals

Canada's Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Maryam Monsef, has announced a call for proposals for the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund by March 25, 2021, "to fund eligible organizations to support a feminist response and recovery from the current impacts of COVID-19".

The Fund has dedicated CA$100 million (US$79 million) to support new projects that "increase women and girls' participation in Canada’s economic, social, democratic and political life".

Applications that specifically support marginalized or underrepresented women, including "Indigenous women, Black women, women of colour, women who are members of LGBTQ2 communities, and women living with disabilities or in rural or remote communities" will be given priority.

The Fund comprises three key focus areas:

  • Stopping gender-based violence;
  • Improving "economic security and prosperity" for women and girls; and
  • Promoting leadership roles for women and girls.

Press release - Women and Gender Equality Canada

Japan provides US$4 million to support women in refugee camps in Kenya

Japan has provided ¥485 million (US$4 million) to support women in refugee camps in Kenya.

Refugees, especially women, in Kenya are at increased risk of violence from Al-Shaabab, a militant group based in Somalia and designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 2008. The refugees are also threatened by natural disasters, such as droughts and floods.

Japan will work with UN Women to provide vocational training and to protect survivors of sexual violence. This initiative aims to empower women and improve security.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Spanish NGOs meet development leadership officials to shape assistance system reform

On February 8, 2021, representatives from the development NGO umbrella organization ‘La Coordinadora’ met with the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, and the Director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Magdy Solimán. The objective of this meeting was to review the current government’s plans to deeply reform Spain’s development cooperation system.

According to La Coordinadora, Moreno reiterated the government’s intentions to increase Spain’s development assistance to 0.5% of the country’s gross national income by the end of the current term of office and underlined the need to strengthen Spanish cooperation and eliminate existing administrative bottlenecks in order to effectively address such budgetary grow.

La Coordinadora took advantage of the meeting to present its proposal paper to the Spanish government titled ‘A new cooperation system to change the world’, which was launched in January 2021 after gathering input and recommendations from up to 300 people involved in Spain’s development affairs.

Press release - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Proposal paper - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Under budget pressure, Australia abolishes development assistance evaluation groups

Following a freedom of information inquiry, the South China Morning Post reported that Australia had closed two development assistance evaluation entities primarily to achieve departmental budget savings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) abolished the Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) in September 2020 and ended the ODE's strategic evaluations of overseas development activities. DFAT also abolished an Independent Evaluation Committee overseeing evaluations.

Opposition spokesman Pat Conroy has claimed that the government's moves undermined Australia’s development program, just when major regional challenges needed to be faced. The DFAT, however, indicated that evaluations would be conducted by other areas of the Department including the Office of the Chief Economist.

Press release - South China Morning Post

UK NGOs launch joint 'Crack the Crises' campaign advocating for government to use G7 and COP26 to tackle COVID-19, climate crisis, systemic injustices with unified strategy

UK NGOs have joined forces to launch a campaign aimed at getting the UK government to ensure that world leaders tackle the COVID-19 and climate crises, as well as the crisis of systemic poverty and injustices which are further exacerbated by COVID-19 and climate change, at the G7 summit and UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), both of which the UK will host this year. Experts see the multiple crises as intertwined and are advocating for solutions that address them head-on in conjunction with one another.

The campaign is called ‘Crack The Crises’ and brings together organizations representing more than 10 million people in the UK and include Oxfam, ONE, Bond, and ActionAid.

Website - CracktheCrises

Sweden and Canada jointly commit US$28 million to pandemic research in low-income countries focused on artificial intelligence

The Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) have agreed to jointly invest SEK 232 million (US$28 million) in the Global South AI4COVID Program, which is supported by Pulse Lab Jakarta (a joint data innovation facility of the government of Indonesia and the UN).

The new research program will support multidisciplinary research in low- and middle-income countries focused on evidence-based artificial intelligence (AI) and data science methods to facilitate emergency management and recovery from COVID-19, as well as strengthen readiness for future pandemics. Three specific areas will be targeted: policy research, AI innovations, and training for local researchers. The program will support about 130 researchers in countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America over a period of two to four years. Currently, methods are being developed to collect more inclusive COVID-19 data as well as data on the impacts of the pandemic on socio-economic variables, gender-based violence, and human rights.

"Research depends on large amounts of local and specific data. The data available today for more advanced automated systems with artificial intelligence is often adapted for people in our part of the world, and in many cases not very useful in Sida's partner countries," said Anna Maria Oltorp, Head of Research Collaborations at Sida. "This is something that the research program within AI will address."

Website - The Global South AI4COVID Program

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Kaiser Family Foundation releases 2019 report on family planning funding

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit organization that focuses on US and global health, released its 'Donor Government Funding for Family Planning in 2019' report in January 2021.

The report found that:

  • Donor governments' funding levels for family planning in 2019 were similar to those of 2018;
  • In 2019, half of the studied donors increased bilateral funding for family planning;
  • The US was the largest donor to family planning, followed by the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada; 
  • Funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) remained steady compared to 2018 levels; and 
  • Funding levels in the future may be negatively affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, but there might be more support from the Biden administration if future funding requests are approved by Congress.

Report - KFF

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs launches global platform on gender equality

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and two civil society organizations—Plan International Norway and FOKUS (Forum for Women and Development)—have launched the global campaign 'Action for Equality', with the aim to commemorate and take action on behalf of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, which is "considered to be the most comprehensive global policy framework for the rights of women".

The two organizations work on advancing children’s rights and international gender issues. The goal is to raise both awareness and action about gender equality and lift women’s rights higher on the global agenda through a digital knowledge platform campaign.

The platform includes a quiz on global gender equality and suggestions on how to start the conversation and act on the topic. The campaign aims to show that none of the world’s countries are in line for achieving full gender equality before 2030. The campaign highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the risk of earlier achievements being reversed. 

Website - Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Plan International, and FOKUS

UK’s independent assistance watchdog outlines review agenda for 2021-2022

The UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), has set out which UK government development assistance programs and policies it will review in 2021-2022.

ICAI will review the UK government's:

  • Use of official development assistance (ODA) to respond to the COVID-19 crisis one year on;
  • Alignment of UK ODA to the UN Paris Agreement on climate action;
  • Humanitarian response to COVID-19;
  • ODA to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA);
  • Use of ODA to support democracy and human rights;
  • ODA to support education in light of its commitments;
  • ODA in Afghanistan as part of a country portfolio review; and,
  • Peacebuilding efforts with a focus on gender.          

Report - ICAI Work Plan

Biden repeals infamous 'global gag rule' and restores funding to UNFPA, increasing protection for sexual and reproductive health and rights, global health

Fulfilling a campaign promise, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order that formally revoked the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the 'global gag rule', for its restrictions on global health and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Additionally, Biden ordered that US agencies involved in foreign assistance shall waive all existing conditions in any current grants that contain Mexico City Policy restrictions, notify current grantees of that waiver, and stop imposing these restrictions for any future awards.  

Biden ordered US agencies to withdraw from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, an anti-abortion declaration signed by 34 countries. Biden also directed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to resume funding for the United Nations Population Fund. 

News report - The Washington Post  

Press release - The White House

European Parliament development committee adopts EU-AU strategy, calls for central role of human development

Members of the European Parliament’s development committee voted to adopt a new European Union-African Union (EU-AU) partnership strategy that goes beyond cooperation on green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance, and migration to also give human development a central role in the partnership. 

The committee called for prioritizing education, improving health care, and strengthening health systems, as well as supporting climate adaptation, regional integration, a continental free trade area, sexual and reproductive health and rights, debt relief, and the human dignity of refugees and migrants. 

Members of the European Parliament also urged that the EU-AU relationship should be one of equals, moving “beyond the donor-recipient relationship”.

The report is expected to be adopted by the full plenary during its March 2021 session and will feed into the new partnership negotiations between the European Commission and the African Union.

Press release - European Parliament

News article - Euractiv

Dutch CSOs share recommendations on gender equality for 65th session of UN Commission on Status of Women

On January 28, 2021, Atria, a Dutch knowledge institute "on gender equality and women's history", and Wo=Men, a Dutch gender platform with affiliated professionals and organizations that "fights for equal power relations between women, men and gender non-conforming people", presented a document with recommendations for working areas from Dutch civil society for the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which will take place in March 2021.

The report was presented to Esther van Dijk, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture, and Science, and the recommendations for themes that were made by the civil society organizations (CSOs) included: 

  • Ensuring women’s full and meaningful participation and decision-making in public life; 
  • Eliminating gender-based violence; 
  • Challenging gender stereotypes; and
  • Ensuring a gender transformative COVID-19 response. 

News article - Wo=Men (in Dutch) 

Report - Atria and Wo=Men

UK Foreign Minister provides little detail to UK Parliament on where assistance cuts will fall; NGOs and parliamentarians worry UK will backtrack on gender equality promises

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, appeared before the UK parliamentary International Development Committee on January 27, 2021. Raab was questioned, among other things, on which development programs will be cut under the government's proposed decrease in the UK development assistance budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% in 2021.  

Raab provided little detail in his response, only noting that the UK will not be "salami-slicing" budgets, where all programs face would small cuts, but will instead focus on protecting programs within the seven priority areas outlined by the government. These areas are: climate change and biodiversity; COVID-19 and global health security; girls' education; science, research, and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; trade and economic development; and humanitarian preparedness and response.

Raab denied the figures used within a recent article produced by The Guardian newspaper last week, that noted that UK Ambassadors had been tasked with finding between 50 -70% of cuts to apply to the bilateral development programs in their respective countries.

UK NGOs have been highly critical of the lack of transparency and consultation around how decisions will be taken to reduce the UK’s development budget. The Centre for Global Development, a global think-tank based in London, noted that it took four years for the UK development budget to be scaled up from 0.5% of GNI to 0.7% but will be cut in just four months, highlighting concerns around ensuring value for money when reducing the budget. Raab confirmed when questioned that the government does not have a clear threshold to determine when the UK will go back to 0.7%, but that the decision will rest on multiple factors.

Raab also evaded giving a clear response when asked whether the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will embed the former Department for International Development’s Strategic Vision on Gender Equality, instead noting only that girls’ education and preventing sexual violence will remain priorities. This has sparked concern amongst NGOs and parliamentarians that the UK may backtrack on its holistic approach to addressing gender equality.

News article - Bond

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

News article - BBC

News article - British Foreign Policy Group

UK parliament’s new report on secondary impact of COVID-19 on low-income countries finds countries facing hunger, debt, healthcare challenges

The UK parliament’s International Development Committee issued a new report on the secondary impacts of COVID-19 on low-income countries on January 26, 2021. The report warns that the setbacks to development as a result of the pandemic could be even worse than the direct impacts for low-income countries.

The report found that routine healthcare processes such as childhood immunization programs were grinding to a halt as systems buckled. Low-income countries' national economies were being saddled with increasing levels of public debt. The Committee wrote, "We welcome the UK’s role in extending the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative to 30 June 2021, the measure to temporarily suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries."

The report also found that job losses were impacting peoples’ welfares, particularly their access to nutrition, as families struggle to afford to feed their families. Finally, the report also finds that the secondary impacts of COVID-19 are gendered, with a rise in unpaid care work and violence against women who are often stuck at home due to national lockdowns.

The report recommends, among other things, that the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) should:

  • Replenish funds to NGOs working on the front lines to tackle the impact of COVID-19;
  • Set up a multi-year, cross-departmental global health strategy to ensure non-COVID-19 healthcare in low-income countries is strengthened;
  • Push for the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to be extended beyond June 2021 with private lenders encouraged to join;   
  • Update its nutrition commitments, which expired at the end of 2020, and expand funding in this area to address undernutrition and food insecurity; and,
  • Refresh the Department for International Development's (DFID) Strategic Vision for Gender Equality.

Report - International Development Committee

Spain’s new 2021-2024 foreign strategy draft prioritizes strengthening of development cooperation

On January 26, 2021, under the leadership of Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEUEC), the cabinet of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez approved the first draft of the ‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’, which outlines Spain’s foreign priorities and goals for the next four years.  

Sustainable development has been outlined as a core instrument to achieve Spain’s foreign goals. The new plan underlines the current administration commitment to increase Spain’s official development assistance (ODA) to 0.5% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) by 2023, to reform the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and to provide the Spanish development cooperation system with a new and reinforced vision including the following priority interventions.

Vertical axes of Spain's development cooperation:

  • Tackling extreme poverty by fostering nutrition, water and sanitation, and global health;
  • Addressing the negative effects of climate change;
  • Fostering global education; and
  • Promoting socio-economic development.

Horizontal axes of Spain's development cooperation:

  • Deploying feminist development cooperation;
  • Protecting human rights;
  • Strengthening humanitarian assistance; and
  • Developing innovative public-private partnerships.

The new ‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’ draft, which will be ratified in Parliament during the coming weeks, defines four guiding principles for Spain’s foreign policy: more Europe, better multilateralism, strategic bilateralism, and solidarity commitment. In addition to that, it outlines different strategic priorities articulated around four areas of intervention:

  1. Promotion of human rights, human security, democracy, and gender diplomacy;
  2. Economic diplomacy to end inequities and advocate for a new socio-economic model globally;
  3. Climate diplomacy for Spain to champion global efforts against the climate crisis; and
  4. Multilateral diplomacy to strengthen international institutions with a special emphasis on global health governance.

Press release - MAEUEC (in Spanish)

‘Foreign Action Strategy 2021-2024’ - MAEUEC (in Spanish)

Feminist former Dutch Development Minister elected new leader of Labour Party following predecessor's scandalous resignation

On January 23, 2021, the Dutch Labour Party voted on their definitive candidate list during a digital party congress and officially elected Lilianne Ploumen, former Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, as their new party leader. 

Ploumen succeeds Lodewijk Asscher, who stepped down on January 14 due to his role in the decade-long, racially-motivated tax fraud scandal which recently broke, leading to the resignation of the entire Dutch cabinet in a dramatic show of political remorse.

Ploumen is the first female leader of the Labour Party and is known for founding the She Decides campaign, which raises funds for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in low- and middle-income countries. Before this, Ploumen worked for various NGOs such as Mama Cash and Cordaid.

News article - BBC

News article - NOS (in Dutch)

News article - NOS (in Dutch)

UK Foreign Minister visits Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, signs new agreements on healthcare, climate crisis

UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Development Dominic Raab visited Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia on January 20-22, 2021, and signed a series of new agreements on healthcare and the climate crisis, alongside discussions of ongoing economic and security issues in the region.  

In Kenya, Raab held meetings with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Foreign Minister Raychelle Omamo, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe, and Defense Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma. The meetings aimed to bolster UK-Kenya trade and also resulted in the announcement of £48 million (US$62 million) in new UK climate initiatives for Kenya and a new health partnership to maximize knowledge-sharing between health practitioners in the UK and Kenya. Raab visited the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Laboratory in the capital city of Nairobi to see how Kenyan and British scientists have worked together to develop the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Raab also met with soldiers attending the UK-supported Humanitarian Peace Support School to hear about joint counter-terrorism efforts.  

In Sudan, Raab met with Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Foreign Minister Omer Gamereldin, and the Chair of the Sovereign Council, Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Raab confirmed the UK’s commitment to supporting Sudan’s democratic transition and noted that the UK stood ready to provide a £330 million (US$429 million) bridging loan to clear the country's arrears to the African Development Bank if Sudan continues to abide by the economic reforms agreed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Raab also confirmed that the UK will provide £40 million (US$52 million) to the Sudan Family Support Programme.

In Ethiopia, Raab visited a school with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde to showcase the UK’s ongoing efforts to support girls' education in the country. He also spoke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali on finding a solution to the rapidly escalating conflict in the Tigray region and enabling humanitarian support to the resulting crisis. Finally, Raab signed a climate partnership agreement with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen for collaboration between the UK and Ethiopia ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 climate conference.

While in Sudan and Ethiopia, Raab toured World Food Programme (WFP) sites to see how UK development assistance is contributing to nutrition projects.

Press release - UK government