Displaying 1 - 20 of 6666

Germany exploring possibility of dose-sharing, says German Federal President

In a joint press briefing, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier have called for fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Steinmeier, the global community must ensure equitable access to COVID-19 tools both out of moral reasons and out of self-interest. Only if everyone everywhere is safe, can we prevent the virus and mutations from returning, he stated. Given the current scarcity of vaccine doses, providing the funding only, however, would not solve the problem, Steinmeier outlined. Therefore, Germany is currently exploring the possibility of sharing doses with other countries, although the scope and timeline are not clear yet.

Ghebreyesus echoed Steinmeier in stating that providing the funding would be useless if rich countries would at the same time undermine the COVAX initiative by only securing doses for themselves. The numbers of doses available in 2021 must thus be fairly distributed, Ghebreyesus said.

To the question of waiving patents to scale up vaccine production, both Steinmeier's and Ghebreyesus’ reactions were restrained. While Steinmeier called to not simplify the debate, Ghebreyesus stated that every possibility must be considered – even waivers on intellectual property –  to allow for the world’s recovery from this unprecedented health crisis.

Ghebreyesus further announced the plan of establishing a WHO center for public health intelligence and risk analysis in Berlin, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ghebreyesus agreed on last year.

News article – Tagesspiegel (in German)

Press briefing – WHO

EU provides US$122 million in humanitarian assistance to support COVID-19 vaccine rollout in African countries

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an EU contribution of €100 million (US$122 million) in humanitarian assistance to support the rollout of vaccination campaigns in African countries, an effort spearheaded by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

This funding will target support to vaccination campaigns in fragile countries with humanitarian situations and will contribute to ensuring successful cold chains (temperature-regulated supply chains), rollout registration, training, and logistics.

Press release - European Commission

At G7 meeting, Germany pledges additional US$1.8 billion in funding to ACT-A for global COVID-19 response

At a virtual G7 meeting, hosted by the UK Presidency to discuss the global COVID-19 response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged €1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) in additional funding to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the global alliance to accelerate the development and production of, as well as promote fair access to, COVID-19 tests, therapies, and immunization.

With this newly announced contribution, Germany is the largest donor to ACT-A. In her speech, Merkel emphasized the importance of international cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which can only succeed if everyone everywhere is vaccinated. However, according to her, the provision of funding will only be one part of the equationtackling the pandemic also requires the timely delivery of vaccines. Therefore, it is pivotal for the COVAX vaccine distribution initiative to conclude contracts with manufacturers to distribute vaccines quickly to its partner countries, she said.

In addition to providing financial support, Germany is currently exploring the possibility to pass on some of the vaccines it has ordered for Germany to “poorer countries”, Merkel stated. However, the timeline and scale for potential dose-sharing are not clear yet. This would not put vaccine appointments at risk in Germany, she assured.

In addition to Germany, the US, the European Commission, Japan, and Canada announced new pledges for ACT-A or its COVAX pillar at the virtual G7 leaders' meeting and at the Munich Security Conference later in the day. In total, the G7 leaders contributed over US$4.3 billion in additional funding to ACT-A that day. With the new contributions made, ACT-A is left with a funding gap of US$22.9 billion to fully fund its work in 2021.

Press release – The Federal Chancellor

Press release – The Federal Chancellor (in German)

Canada commits over US$70 million to Caribbean Development Bank's Special Development Fund

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, has announced a funding commitment of CA$81 million (US$64 million) to the Caribbean Development Bank's Special Development Fund over the next four years.

This pledge is 16% larger than Canada's previous contribution to the Fund. With this recent announcement, Canada remains the largest country contributor to the Special Development Fund.

Canada has also allocated an additional CA$9 million (US$7 million) to the World Food Programme to specifically help Caribbean countries respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

Biden pledges US$4.0 billion to COVAX, bringing US further into global COVID-19 vaccine efforts

Ahead of the virtual G7 meeting, US President Joseph Biden announced a pledge of US$4.0 billion for COVAX, the global initiative for COVID-19 vaccine access. The funds will include US$2.0 billion in already appropriated funds plus an additional US$2.0 billion over the next two years.  

COVAX is an international agreement spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) to increase the purchase and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to lower-income countries. Biden's announcement represents a reversal of the Trump administration's refusal to join the effort, driven in part by Trump's disapproval of the WHO. Biden also encouraged other G7 partners to follow through with their pledges.

Despite the funding decision, there are calls for the US and other wealthy countries to start sharing part of their vaccination supply with those poorer countries with no vaccines. Administration officials said that Biden is, for now, focused on most Americans getting vaccinated, and a White House statement said that the US will donate surplus doses "once there is sufficient supply in the United States".

News article - Associated Press

At UK-led G7 meeting, "collective G7 support" to ACT-A totals US$7.5 billion, but experts criticize UK for retaining surplus doses until citizens are fully vaccinated

The UK hosted its first virtual G7 leaders' meeting on February 19, 2021, after which "collective G7 support" totaled US$7.5 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an increase of over US$4.0 billion.

ACT-A's vaccine pillar, COVAX, is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines, including to low-income countries.

At the meeting, the US under the new Biden administration pledged to provide US$4.0 billion in development assistance to COVAX over the next three years, Germany pledged an additional US$1.8 billion, and the EU pledged an additional US$608 million.

These commitments were welcomed by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, but he noted that more needs to be done. At present, only 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations worldwide, with 130 countries not yet receiving a single dose.

French President Emmanuel Macron is calling for greater action to address the imbalance, with a drive to get Europe and the US to provide 5% of their own supplies to low-income nations. The UK has ruled out doing this and has committed only to providing its surplus vaccines after its entire population has been vaccinated. This decision has been criticized by some UK global health experts, who have questioned the ethics of such a decision, whereby young people in the UK will receive the vaccine ahead of health workers and elderly in other countries.  

News article - BBC

News article - Devex

EU contributes additional US$605 million to COVAX to enable COVID-19 vaccine access in low- and middle-income countries

During the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU will double its contribution to COVAX, a global vaccine initiative that aims to ensure universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, by providing an additional €500 million (US$605 million). 

The contribution is composed of a new €300 million (US$363 million) grant and a €200 million (US$242 million) loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD+).

This brings the EU's total grant contribution amount to COVAX to €400 million (US$487 million) and the total amount in guarantees to €600 million (US$730 million).

COVAX is the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an initiative to ensure global, equitable access to COVID-19 medical tools, including diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the new contributions to ACT-A announced by G7 leaders during their virtual meeting bring the total committed to US$10.3 billion, reducing the overall funding gap to US$22.9 billion.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - WHO

Canada announces new US$59 million contribution to ACT-A

Canada has announced an additional CA$75 million (US$59 million) to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), "the global platform created to secure equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments". 

This new funding brings Canada's total commitment to ACT-A to CA$940 million (US$744 million).

Canada, to date, has committed approximately CA$2.0 billion (US$1.6 billion) to the global COVID-19 pandemic response.

Press release - Prime Minister of Canada

With additional G7 pledges of US$4.3 billion, ACT-A commitments to date stand at US$10.3 billion; funding gap of US$22.9 billion remains

On February 19, 2021, at the virtual G7 leaders' meeting, US$4.3 billion in new commitments were made to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its vaccine pillar, COVAX, to contribute to closing the funding gap in global COVID-19 response and ensure equitable vaccine distribution. 

The contributions included the following:

  • Canada committed US$59 million to ACT-A;
  • Japan committed US$79 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a COVAX funding mechanism to support access to vaccines for lower-income countries, as well as to Unitaid;
  • Germany committed US$1.8 billion to ACT-A, covering all of ACT-A's pillars and including "tests, treatments, vaccines, and health systems strengthening";
  • US committed US$4.0 billion to COVAX AMC (US$2.0 billion in already appropriated funds and an additional US$2.0 billion over the next two years); and
  • The EU committed US$363 million to COVAX AMC, along with a US$242 million loan from the European Investment Bank backed by guarantees through the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

ACT-A initially needed US$38.1 billion for 2020-2021; following an early February Facilitation Council meeting, ACT-A announced that the remaining funding gap was US$27.2 billion.

Following the new contributions announced at the G7 meeting, the total committed to ACT-A to date was US$10.3 billion and the funding gap was brought down to US$22.9 billion, according to the WHO press release.

Press release - WHO

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Australia, Papua New Guinea, Germany collaborate on trial of magnetic diagnostic test for malaria

Dr. Stefan Carl, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in North Queensland, has undertaken field trials of a new test that detects malaria-infected blood which included a field site of almost 1,000 people in Papua New Guinea.

The test detects malaria parasites through their magnetic properties. It holds the prospect of providing an outcome in ten minutes without requiring expensive reagents (added substances for chemical reactions) or detailed laboratory training.

The test was developed in a collaboration between German, Papua New Guinea, and Australian research centers.

News article - Mirage News

At Munich Security Conference, France's Macron calls for delivery of vaccines to African continent immediately

On February 19, 2021, at the annual Munich Security Conference, French President Emmanuel Macron presented two main priorities that he sees for the transatlantic partnership.

First, Macron advocated for effective multilateralism on tackling the climate crisis, lessening inequalities, and preserving democracies (especially, he said, when it comes to preserving freedom of speech and avoiding "the return of hate" in our democracies). He mentioned that action should be undertaken to reallocate Special Drawing Rights and consider debt restructuring to help fund health priorities in the African continent.

He explained that while rich countries have managed to give their populations effective COVID-19 vaccine doses, it is important to ensure doses are also available for countries in Africa—an effort which is at the heart of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), led by the World Health Organization.

He pointed out that there are 6.5 million health workers in Africa, meaning that 13 million doses are needed immediately for them. The 13 million doses represent only 0.43% of the vaccines currently available to the G7 countries. Macron called for delivering vaccine doses quickly in the African continent rather than in the planned six months because, otherwise, many of the African countries will buy vaccines at a more expensive price. 

The second part of his remarks focused on building a security agenda (including a refreshed North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) security architecture), fixing solutions to regional issues in the Sahel region, Syria, and Libya, as well as maintaining "freedom of sovereignty" in terms of space, cyberspace, and maritime space.

Speech - French Presidency (in French)

At G7 summit, Japan commits US$79 million to COVAX, discusses international cooperation and Tokyo Olympics

On February 19, 2021, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attended the virtual G7 summit, where he discussed COVID-19 vaccines, international cooperation, and the Tokyo Olympics.

Suga highlighted the importance of the COVAX Facility in achieving the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide. Japan committed US$79 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a COVAX funding mechanism to support access to vaccines for lower-income countries, as well as to Unitaid.

He also discussed relations with China, including "Japan’s concerns on attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the East and South China Sea", as well as his desire to hold a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics during the summer of 2021.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Statement - G7

Netherlands presents plans for humanitarian assistance in 2021 

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, informed the House of Representatives on how the cabinet plans to provide humanitarian assistance in terms of policy and financing during 2021.  

Kaag emphasized that providing emergency assistance should continue through financing, humanitarian UN organizations, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, and the Dutch Relief Alliance. Kaag also emphasized that the government is committed to providing such assistance in compliance with humanitarian law and that the approach should focus on the people who are directly affected by it. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Anger mounts as US$5.4 billion cut to UK development assistance budget is likely to go ahead in April 2021 without promised parliamentary vote

Development assistance campaigners and key parliamentarians have become increasingly angry at the likelihood that the UK government will make a £4.0 billion (US$5.4 billion) cut to its official development assistance (ODA) budget in April 2021, without the promised vote on the decision by parliamentarians.

In the past, the UK has legislated the provision of 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as ODA. However, last year, the UK government signaled its intention to temporarily depart from this legislative commitment and provide only 0.5% of its GNI as ODA, and it noted that parliamentarians would get a vote on changing the legislation to enable this change.

The government has delayed the parliamentary vote on UK ODA legislation, though, which was scheduled for the first quarter of 2021 and is now anticipated to take place in July. However, the government has not delayed its decision on the cuts, which looks like it will take place in April, ahead of the vote.

Conservative member of parliament (MP) Andrew Mitchell, former International Development Secretary, has heavily criticized the decision to delay the vote while going ahead with the cuts, noting that the action is "pernicious and shabby". The UK government has stated that it is acting within the law.

Assistance campaigners have also criticized the lack of engagement and consultation on where the ODA cuts should be taken from. James Cleverly, a minister at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), recently confirmed that the government had no plans to consult with external stakeholders on the cuts process, and that information would be available when the decisions had been made.

News article - Independent

News article - Devex

New US Congress brings new foreign assistance committee leadership

The start of the new US Congress brings new leadership to relevant foreign assistance committees in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives. 

In the Senate, the new leadership changes resulted from the Democrats taking control of the US Senate in the last election, meaning that some leaders switched from being the ranking member (the most senior member of the minority party) to chair (the most senior member of the majority party) of their committees. In the House, which the Democrats maintained control of, the leadership shifts occurred because of retirements and election losses.

The long-standing chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey, who retired at the end of the last Congress, was a champion of US foreign assistance. She has been replaced by Representative Rosa DeLauro as chair of the full committee and Representative Barbara Lee as chair of the subcommittee that controls almost all US foreign assistance funding. Both are considered strong supporters of US development issues and funding.

The other key change is the elevation of Representative Gregory Meeks to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee. His interest in US development policy is less clear, although he has called for a "reset" of US policy in Africa.

Senator Robert Menendez will now chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is expected to have a full agenda. On the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy will now chair the full committee and Senator Chris Coons will chair the relevant subcommittee. Both are considered strong supporters of US foreign assistance and development policy.  

News article - Devex

US to pay US$200 million in overdue membership fees to WHO

The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, announced that the US would repay in full all past membership fees owed to the World Health Organization (WHO). Speaking before the United Nations Security Council, Blinken said that the US would pay the US$200 million in dues to the WHO before the end of the month.

US President Joe Biden had made rejoining the WHO one of his first priorities when he took office, reversing former President Donald Trump's announcement in July 2020 that the US would withdraw. 

"This is a key step forward in fulfilling our financial obligations as a WHO member and it reflects our renewed commitment to ensuring the WHO has the support it needs to lead the global response to the pandemic," Blinken told the UN Security Council.

He also called on partner countries to stop the spread of vaccine misinformation and to share relevant data on the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak with investigators.

News article - CNBC News

EU announces US$180 million HERA Incubator, new bio-defense preparedness plan to combat threat of COVID-19 variants

The European Commission announced a new addition to its vaccine strategy with a plan to bolster the EU’s preparedness against future COVID-19 variants of concern by investing €150 million (US$180 million) in research through a new 'HERA Incubator'.

The HERA Incubator – the first pilot initiative of the proposed new authority, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) – will be a public-private cooperative effort to pool knowledge and resources between industry, scientists, and regulators. The incubator will focus on identifying and learning about variants quicker, researching on adapting vaccines, better organizing clinical trials, helping the European Medicines Agency (EMA) fast-track regulatory approval of updated vaccines, and upscaling mass production of new vaccines. 

The EU’s new bio-defense preparedness plan includes:

  • The newly launched 'Vaccelerate', an EU-wide clinical trials network; 
  • Standardizing and increasing genome sequencing across the bloc to 5% of all cases (from an average of 1%); 
  • Conducting research into the transmissibility of variants;
  • Supporting quick exchanges of relevant epidemiological and sequencing data; 
  • Developing new variant-specific diagnostics; 
  • Speeding up the EMA’s approval process for vaccines that are adapted to be more effective against variants of concern; and
  • Boosting vaccine manufacturing as a part of its 'EU Fab' project, which will be folded into HERA once the authority is established.

Press release - European Commission

Press release - European Commission

Factsheet - European Commission

Statement - European Commission

News article - Euractiv

News article - Science|Business

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)

Development assistance NGOs affected by Australian dispute with Facebook

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Save the Children Australia, the Crawford Fund for International Agricultural Research, World Vision Australia, and Oxfam Australia were all affected by Facebook blocking links to Australian sites.

In a dispute with the Australian government over payment for access to Australian news media, Facebook withdrew access to links to Australian news. This inadvertently also removed links to many development assistance organizations and some health messaging sites. The Australian government and Facebook have subsequently reportedly agreed on the provisions of proposed legislation, and Facebook has reinstated links to the affected pages.

News article - Devex

Spain’s Sánchez meets with development NGO, Oxfam Intermón, to discuss reducing inequities during COVID-19 crisis

On February 18, 2021, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez met with General-Director Franc Cortada of the development NGO, Oxfam Intermón, to review Spain’s engagement in tackling global and domestic inequities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sánchez underlined his cabinet’s strong commitment to tackle poverty and reduce inequities through effective public policies with the necessary financial resources.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)