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UK government warned by chorus of influential voices against cutting development assistance budget; UK confirms cut to 0.5% of GNI

On November 25, 2020, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, confirmed that the UK will not spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) in 2021 and will instead allocate 0.5% of its GNI (expected to be around £10.0 billion, or US$13.0 billion), meaning a cut of about £5.0 billion (US$6.5 billion) compared to the budget in 2019. 

This announcement came as Sunak delivered the Comprehensive Spending Review which sets the budgets for government departments for the next year. Conservative Minister of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Elizabeth Sugg (known as Baroness Sugg), resigned soon after the announcement in protest of the decision.

Prior to the announcement, rumors of the cut had been circulating for some time and were heightened last week, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that UK defense spending would receive an extra £16.5 billion (US$21.4 billion) over the next four years. Observers had questioned whether the increased funding for defense would be drawn from the UK development assistance budget.

An unprecedented rally of voices, including former UK prime ministers, the Development Studies Associationbusiness representatives, senior religious figures, and civil society, had warned Johnson to not abandon his government’s commitment of delivering 0.7% of its GNI as ODA. David Cameroon and Tony Blair, former UK prime ministers for the Conservative and Labour parties, had joined the voices warning Johnson that a cut would be a strategic mistake that would diminish the UK’s global standing ahead of the G7 and COP26 next year.

Key business officials, including the international head of the Confederation of Business Industry, the leading voice of UK businesses, noted that this cut would be bad for British businesses. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justine Welby, the most senior Bishop of the Church of England, along with nearly 200 civil society voices, also raised his voice in support of not cutting the budget, underlining the UK’s moral duty. Some members of the One Nation parliamentary conservative group warned that they would vote against any such move if the government proposed it.  

Sunak said he had "listened with great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target", but that in light of the fiscal strains faced by the government due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the government had to make "tough choices".

News article - Devex

News article - The Telegraph

Donor Tracker to host webinar on education in emergencies

Join the Donor Tracker on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at 15:00-16:00 CET for a webinar addressing education in emergencies, featuring experts from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a global fund and partnership to improve education in lower-income countries, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency.

The growth of protracted conflicts and the increasing prevalence of emergencies globally have impacted the educational opportunities of millions of children. Precarious humanitarian situations around the world have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. With just ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), amid a global pandemic, prioritizing the educational needs of the world’s most vulnerable children is more important than ever.

However, are donors dedicating sufficient attention to education in emergencies? Join the webinar for a discussion on financing needs, donor priorities, and policy trends in the sector.

This webinar complements our recently published report, ‘Decades of neglect: Donor financing for education in emergencies’.

Registration - Zoom

Report - Donor Tracker

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

UK's Johnson calls on nations to increase support to COVAX initiative, net zero emissions goal

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his virtual attendance at the G20 Leaders' Summit to call upon all nations to come together and do more to support the COVAX initiative, which aims to ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine for all countries, including low-income countries.

The UK has committed £619 million (US$803 million) to COVAX so far, with £548 million (US$711 million) exclusively for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) financing mechanism that works to enable equitable distribution to lower-income countries.

Johnson also used the G20 to urge countries that have not yet done so, to commit to net zero emissions in order to ensure a sustainable future for all. This call comes ahead of the UK co-hosted Climate Ambition Summit to be held on December 12, 2020, which hopes to see more countries join the pledge to reach net zero.

Press release - UK government

In commemoration of 10th anniversary of OECD DAC membership, South Korea will hold series of events on COVID-19, climate, SDGs, ODA

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea has organized a series of meetings for the week of November 23-27, 2020, designating it as ‘Development Cooperation Week’ to celebrate the 10th anniversary of South Korea’s membership to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC).

Seminars, special forums, and a conference will take place throughout the week on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), South Korea’s official development assistance (ODA), the climate crisis, and COVID-19 response. The events are in partnership with the Korea International Cooperation Agency, civil society organizations, international organizations, and academia.

South Korea joined the DAC as the 24th member in 2010.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

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)

German Green Party updates party manifesto with broadened political scope, aiming to resonate with more voters

On November 22, 2020, the German Green Party adopted their updated party manifesto, which should remain valid for the next 15 to 20 years. The comprehensive policy program is understood as a shift away from the party’s former image of an 'eco-only' party, to broaden their scope of political topics, with the hope of resonating with more voters and having the opportunity to co-govern Germany after the next parliamentary elections in 2021.

One of the key elements of the program is the Greens’ commitment to the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 at the UN level to tackle the climate crisis. The program states that “the central basis for the Greens' policy is the Paris Agreement and the International Panel on Climate Change report on the 1.5-degree target". 

With the new policy program, the Greens also move away from their former rejection of genetic engineering, emphasizing that “freedom of research must be guaranteed” in this area too. Co-party leader Robert Habeck stated that the focus should not be on the technology itself but its “opportunities, risks and consequences”. 

News article - Der Spiegel (in German)

Press release - Green Party (in German)

European Commission President calls on G20 leaders to mobilize US$4.5 billion in 2020 for global COVID-19 response

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on leaders at the G20 Leaders' Summit to fill the US$4.5 billion gap in immediate funding needs of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global initiative to ensure affordable and equitable access for all to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

Saudi Arabia hosted the virtual summit where leaders discussed the COVID-19 crisis, the climate crisis, debt relief for low-income countries, economic recovery, World Health Organization (WHO) reform, and other issues. Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel represented the EU at the summit.

G20 leaders committed to mobilizing the immediate global financing required for ACT-A and ACT-A’s COVAX Facility, the mechanism for the procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines.

Leaders will also continue to implement the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which suspends bilateral debt service payments for lower-income countries, through June 2021. They also acknowledged the important role of the WHO, confirmed their commitment to financing Universal Health Coverage in low-income countries, and expressed a commitment to improving global pandemic preparedness, prevention, detection, and response.

Press release - European Council

G20 Leaders' Declaration - G20 Riyadh Summit

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

European Council President calls for international treaty for future pandemic prevention and response

During the recent virtual G20 Leaders' Summit (November 21-22, 2020), European Council President Charles Michel reiterated a call for an international treaty on pandemics to help prevent and respond to future pandemics. He suggested that the treaty should include all countries, as well as UN organizations and agencies, particularly the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Michel first suggested a global treaty in a side discussion with senior leaders during the Paris Peace Forum (November 12-13). He said such a treaty would show that leaders had learned lessons from the current pandemic and could help facilitate better international coordination on sharing medical equipment and exchanging information. 

Press release - European Council

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)

Germany's Merkel calls for participation in ACT-A COVAX Facility, WHO reforms

At the virtual G20 summit on November 21-22, 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more global efforts in securing equitable access to COVID-19 tools. Emphasizing the importance of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), Merkel called for more participation in ACT-A's COVAX Facility, the mechanism that aims to procure and equally distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

The Facility, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aims to provide two billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for low- and middle-income countries. While the international community has provided around US$5.0 billion to the Facility so far, more global effort and funding will be needed to ensure a fair distribution and to tackle the global challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, Merkel said.  

At the same time, she expressed concerns that while wealthy countries have already secured access rights to promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, no major deals have yet been closed for low-income countries. 

Merkel further called for a strengthening of the WHO and more sustainable WHO funding to guarantee better cooperation and independence.

News article – Zeit Online (in German)

News article – Deutsche Welle

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

France's Macron talks Africa-France relations, including return of stolen artifacts, end of CFA franc currency

In an interview given to the weekly 'Jeune Afrique' newspaper, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his vision on France's relations with the African continent three years after the beginning of his five-year term.

In his interview, Macron shared what he considers as major steps, including the law recently adopted for the restitution of stolen African cultural property (with specific actions for Senegal, Benin, and Madagascar, according to Macron), the end of the CFA franc (a currency used in an economic zone consisting of 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Comoros, implemented during France's colonization of most of these countries and widely contested), work the government has done with the African diaspora, and diplomatic relations initiated beyond French-speaking African countries.

Macron also confirmed that two significant summits will be launched in France next year: an international "financing summit for Africa" to be held in May 2021, as well as the Africa-France summit that will take place in July 2021 and will convene new generations of entrepreneurs, civil society representatives, and politicians.

Interview - French Presidency (in French)

Interview - The Africa Report

Australia allocates US$16 million for combatting domestic anti-microbial resistance

Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced Australia’s recent federal budget contained A$23 million (US$16 million) to undertake activities prioritized in Australia’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 and Beyond.

This includes enabling quick response capacity when multi-drug resistant organisms are detected. The strategy will focus on resistance in both humans and animals.

Press release - Department of Health

Foreign nationals lose employment eligibility at UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office as it becomes "reserved" department; critics say shift is "disturbing"

According to a spokesperson, the UK’s newly formed Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is to become a “reserved” department and will only be hiring people who are United Kingdom nationals.

The former Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had many jobs under this "reserved status", but the former Department for International Development (DFID), which merged with the FCO to become the FCDO, did not.

The status is usually given only to roles that are considered sensitive in terms of national security and require “special allegiance to the Crown”. Typically only jobs related intelligence, national security, and immigration have been reserved.

There are approximately 150 foreign national staff members who worked for DFID prior to the merger. They will be able to retain their jobs but will be only be allowed to apply for certain types of jobs in the future, limiting their mobility. The new reserved status of the FCDO will not impact local staff in the country.

A former DFID official, under the condition of anonymity, commented called the news a "disturbing development". Restricting staffing for foreign assistance is a "blanket approach despite the range of activities being undertaken", they said, and there are many possible roles for foreign nationals that do not compromise security.

News article - Devex

COVID-19 vaccines must first be available to the most vulnerable in all countries, "not all people in just a few countries," says German Federal President

In a guest commentary of the German newspaper, Tagesspiegel, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged for a globally fair distribution of future COVID-19 vaccines. Given that the EU would likely end up having access rights to more vaccine doses than needed within the EU, Germany and the EU should send a clear political signal to be willing to share these with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), he stated.

Steinmeier pointed to the fact that while EU member states had already secured access to promising vaccine candidates, more than half of the world’s people live in countries lacking the means to acquire such access rights early in the process. Germany and the EU have from early on supported the COVAX Facility which aims to ensure that over 90 LMICs will have access to two billion vaccine doses until the end of 2021. However, some major donor countries have not contributed to the extent possible yet, Steinmeier noted.

He further emphasized that ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines would not solely be an act of solidarity but also an economically meaningful response. To respond as a global community to the pandemic, “we would have to recognize that it is in our own, enlightened interest that some people are vaccinated in all countries first, and not all people in just a few countries”, Steinmeier stated.

News article – Tagesspiegel (in German)

Australian university provides interactive map and sector details of Pacific Islands' COVID-19 responses

Four centers at the Australian National University in Canberra have collaborated to produce an interactive map of the COVID-19 responses by Pacific Island governments.

Weekly updates are collected by the Australia Pacific Security College with additional input by groups including the Development Policy Centre and the Department of Pacific Affairs. Each country has a pop-up box indicating its responses to COVID-19 and an interpretation of the impact on the ground.

The Australian Pacific Security College also provides a tracking matrix of sector responses, based on information from the South Pacific Commission in New Caledonia. This includes detailed information on health, education, and transportation.

Interactive Map - Asia & The Pacific Policy Society

Tracking Matrix - Australia Pacific Security College

European Commission signs fifth contract on future COVID-19 vaccines with CureVac; sixth contract to be approved with Moderna

The European Commission signed its fifth contract on behalf of EU member states to purchase 405 million doses of a future potential COVID-19 vaccine with CureVac, a German biotechnology company.

The deal includes 225 million doses of CureVac’s vaccine candidate, with the option to request 180 million more. Member states will be able to donate doses to lower- and middle-income countries or redirect them to other European countries.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) had previously signed a €75 million (US$88 million) loan agreement with CureVac for the development and large-scale production of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The European Commission has also signed similar vaccine deals with AstraZenecaSanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Johnson & Johnson), and BioNTech-Pfizer. The Commission has completed exploratory talks with Moderna, with the contract to be approved on November 25, 2020.

Press release - European Commission

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