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2021-2022 Australian assistance budget shows no underlying ODA increase, provides US$29 million in sustained COVID-19 support to India

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne released details of the official development assistance (ODA) budget for 2021-2022, as part of Australia’s federal budget released on May 11, 2021.

Payne indicated the ODA budget would remain at A$4.0 billion (US$3.1 billion) and focus on economic recovery, health security, and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

The government also confirmed temporary measures to supplement the ODA budget to address the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This involved an estimated A$319 million (US$250 million) in 2021-2022 to support access to vaccines and address the economic and social impacts of the pandemic in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

The one major new ODA announcement was Australia’s provision of A$37 million (US$29 million) over two years to assist India, including through providing ventilators and oxygen concentrators.

Separately, the Australian government noted an allocation from domestic resources to establish an Australian mRNA vaccine production facility. No funding is shown allocated to this due to commercial considerations.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

News article - AuManufacturing

EU to deepen relationship with Horn of Africa on peace, human development, economic recovery

In establishing a new strategy with the Horn of Africa, the EU will deepen its strategic relationship with the region on areas of cooperation such as democracy, peace and security, social and human development, trade and regional integration, and post-COVID-19 social and economic recovery. 

The EU’s new strategy will promote multilateralism, provide "principled" humanitarian assistance, address the growing impact of the climate crisis and environmental degradation, enhance resilience, and strengthen the health sector while exploring potentially boosting local vaccine manufacturing capacity. Providing the region’s young people with skills and education will drive the EU’s approach to social and human development.

Press release - Council of the European Union

Strategy - Council of the European Union

Spain launches ‘Musawat Network’ to foster gender equality in MENA partner countries

On May 10, 2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) announced the launch of the ‘Musawat Network’ aimed at fostering gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The Musawat Network will coordinate AECID’s programs related to gender equality in Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine.

With the approval of the Spanish foreign ministry’s new 'Feminist Foreign Policy Guide' in March 2021, gender equality was outlined among Spain’s top development priorities. The AECID currently provides partner countries in the MENA region with about €20 million (US$24 million) for development programs related to women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Canada contributes additional US$309 million to Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has announced a new CA$375 million (US$309 million) commitment to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).

This commitment adds to the CA$940 million (US$775 million) commitment made to ACT-A by Canada in May 2020. Canada's total contribution to ACT-A now totals over CA$1.3 billion (US$1.1 billion).

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

Canada's Minister of International Trade is open to intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

Canada's Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, recently announced that while Canada recognizes the "importance of protecting" intellectual property IP, her team is "ready to discuss" proposals under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to remove intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. 

Ng also acknowledged that there is a wide range of barriers that limit vaccine access, intellectual property being just one of them. Therefore, Canada is taking a holistic approach to increasing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

UK government’s ODA cuts to nutrition put thousands of children at risk of famine, says Save the Children

A new analysis conducted by Save the Children UK, a development NGO, said that the UK government's deep budget cuts to its international development nutrition programs will put tens of thousands of children at risk of facing famine, including in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan.

Save the Children revealed that humanitarian assistance from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) for nutrition was £396 million (US$532 million) in 2019 and is estimated to be £218 million (US$293 million) in 2021, the equivalent to a 45% cut from 2019.

UK assistance funding to basic nutrition was £122 million (US$164 million) in 2019, £111 million (US$149 million) in 2020, and it is estimated to be just £26 million (US$35 million) in 2021, the equivalent of an 80% cut.

Save the Children highlighted that the budget cuts to the UK’s international nutrition programs, which are part of a wider reduction in the UK development assistance budget, come just as evidence mounts of a growing global food crisis. A report published by the Global Network Against Food Crises (an alliance of humanitarian and development actors including the UN's World Food Programme) reveals that the number of people in need is at its highest in five years with 155 million people around the world facing food shortages.

News article - The Guardian

Japan provides US$50 million, 300 oxygen concentrators, 300 respirators for COVID-19 response in India

In light of the recent intense spike of COVID-19 infections in India, Japan announced that it will provide US$50 million, 300 oxygen concentrators, and 300 respirators for the COVID-19 response in India.

At the meeting between Japan’s Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, and the External Affairs Minister of India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Motegi stressed the need for collaboration in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the importance of a 'Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership' and realizing a 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific'.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Spain presents 'Vaccines for All' initiative at Porto Social Summit

On May 7, 2021, during the Porto Social Summit (which gathered European leaders and organizations in Porto, Portugal), Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presented the Vaccines for All initiative aimed at supporting global immunization against COVID-19.

The Spanish proposal calls for “exponentially and urgently” increasing the production of and access to COVID-19 vaccines by adopting several measures structured into three pillars:

  1. Sharing knowledge – this includes adopting the temporary vaccine waiver under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), activating voluntary licensing agreements, reinforcing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), and adapting global rules on intellectual property rights in preparation of future pandemics.
  2. Scaling up production – this includes creating a global 'Platform on Manufacturing & Supply and Demand Matchmaking' in collaboration with the COVAX Manufacturing Taskforce, as well as facilitating trade to prevent import duties and export bans along the manufacturing value chain related to vaccines.
  3. Accelerating distribution – this includes increasing financial and non-financial contributions to COVAX, establishing a public-private alliance between airlines, governments, and international organizations to promote the distribution of vaccines and supplies, and strengthening the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator’s (ACT-A) Health Systems Connector pillar.

Finally, Spain's proposal calls for the creation of a monitoring mechanism led by the WHO in collaboration with other agencies such as the World Trade Organization.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

European Commission calls for strengthened international cooperation in proposed EU COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy

The European Commission has proposed an EU COVID-19 Therapeutics Strategy that will focus on research and development, improved and expedited clinical trials, scanning for candidate therapeutics, supply chains and delivery, regulatory flexibility, joint procurement and financing, and international cooperation to make medicines available to all. 

The strategy calls for increased EU engagement in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator's (ACT-A) Therapeutics Pillar and with lower- and middle-income countries on strengthening health systems, as well as supporting the ‘OPEN’ initiative to increase international cooperation on therapeutics.

The Commission’s next steps include building a portfolio of ten possible COVID-19 treatments then identifying the five most promising ones by June 2021, as well as hosting matchmaking events for manufacturing under the EU Fab project. These actions will feed into the Commission’s proposed new authority, the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA).

Press release - European Commission

Strategy - European Commission

Waiver of COVID-19 vaccines considered critically by German government

On May 6, 2021, the US called for a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. The German government opposed, stating that the limiting factor for global access to vaccines is not the patents themselves but are the insufficient production capacities. Further, protection of intellectual property is considered a source of innovation and must be secured in the future, said a German government spokeswoman.

In an interview, German development minister, Gerd Müller, pointed to well-organized matchings between license holders and production plants in low- and middle-income countries as more effective measures to ramp up vaccine production on a global level. Doing so would also secure the production of COVID-19 vaccines in the long term. This is important since COVID-19 is not likely to be completely diminished within one year, said Müller.

Even though Germany is engaged in such matching (e.g., in Ghana and Senegal), production of vaccines in low- in middle-income countries would start as late as at the end of this year. Müller pointed out that a waiver of patents alone, however, would not speed up that process. Until then, he said, access to vaccines needs to be secured via the COVAX, the global vaccine initiative.

Müller called on all G7 countries to further commit funds for COVAX to increase its efforts in disseminating vaccines to partner countries.  

News article - Spiegel (in German)

News article - The Local

Italy's Draghi says vaccines are "global common good", calls for global support for vaccine patents waiver

On May 5, 2021, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called for an unfettered supply of vaccines, calling them "a global common good" whose production must be increased "as a matter of priority." 

Draghi's remarks came after Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio praised US support of a waiver on patents for COVID-19 vaccines. Di Maio called for free access to patents as lower-income countries face acute vaccine shortages amid the pandemic and urged support for the waiver from other European countries.

Transcript - Italian government

News article - ANSA

Netherlands publishes report on development cooperation policy coherence in 2020-2021

On May 6, 2021, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, sent the Dutch parliament an overview of policy coherence with regard to development cooperation and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) between April 2020 and March 2021.

In the letter to the parliament, Kaag highlighted how the Netherlands supports climate change mitigation through the new Dutch investment fund, Invest International, and advocates for climate financing on an international level.

This year's report included the progress made in gender equality. Kaag stated that the Netherlands aims to integrate more gender equality perspectives in the design phase of new programs.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

South Korea’s grant assistance agency provides US$21 million for agricultural development in Senegal

South Korea’s leading grant agency, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), announced its contribution of US$21 million to Senegal.

This grant will be used for agricultural and rural development, including developing new crops, supporting startups, and creation of a new model town. Senegal was re-selected as a priority partner country for South Korean official development assistance (ODA) in 2021.

News article – Arirang

Spain provides India and Brazil with US$2 million in respirators, oxygen concentrators, other supplies

On May 6, 2021, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC) as well as the Ministry of Health announced a special provision of health supplies to help address the COVID-19 outbreak in India. Amounting to €2 million (US$2 million), this package included up to 167 respirators, 121 oxygen concentrators, masks, and other health supplies.

On April 23, 2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) announced another provision of COVID-19 drugs to Brazil. This initiative amounted to €450,000 (US$535,419).

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Germany commits US$36 million to new WHO 'Global Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence' to be launched in Berlin

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the German government agreed to set up a new 'Global Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence' based in Berlin to strengthen cooperation between countries and scientific institutions worldwide to enhance global capacity for pandemics and epidemic forecasting. The German government committed €30 million (US$36 million) to the Hub’s startup costs, but the ongoing budget is still under discussion.

The Hub will establish networked access to multi-sectoral data and innovations in data analytics to better leverage the information for early detection of future pandemic outbreaks. The insights generated by the Hub are especially aimed at supporting the work of public health experts and policymakers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized Berlin as the ideal location for the WHO Hub, due to its presence of key players in pandemic and health research, such as the Robert Koch Institute and the Charité.

The Hub is part of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, which is a collaboration of countries and partners on a global level to develop innovative tools and models aimed at increasing linkage of data, providing risk analyses, and monitoring disease control measures.

Press release - World Health Organization

News article - Deutsche Welle

Biden administration joins WHO's request to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccine

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai signaled at a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting that the US would join the effort to waive intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine, potentially clearing the way for poorer countries to develop their own generic vaccine.

Tai, in a written statement, summed up the Biden administration's view that "the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures". The statement said that the Biden administration "believes strongly in intellectual property protections," but in order to end the pandemic, it supports waiving the protections for COVID-19 vaccines.

US support for the waiver is an indicator of the beginning of the global effort to implement the waiver. The EU and others are opposed, so the WHO must work to achieve consensus and then begin negotiations on the text of the waiver.  

A waiver is just one avenue for making vaccines more widely available, but even if this does not work, vaccine proponents hope that it will nonetheless help with improving vaccine supply and distribution.

News article - Voice of America

Australia supports six million dose vaccine rollout in Pacific and Timor-Leste

Australia's Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, and Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, announced that Australia would partner with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to procure vaccine doses for the Pacific in 2021.

This was in addition to Australia’s previous support of A$80 million (US$63 million) to the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) for low-income countries to access vaccines.

Australia has provided more than 56 tonnes of medical, personal protective equipment (PPE), and humanitarian supplies to Timor Leste. Six Australian specialists are also working in Timor-Leste's capital city of Dili to assist the local health authorities' COVID-19 response.

Australia has previously provided 275,000 vaccine doses for other Pacific island countries.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Australia supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

Australia’s Trade Minister, Dan Tehan, announced that Australia would support waiving patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines.

The process would take some months and the proposal needs to work through the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) procedures.

Media reports indicated the WTO’s next ministerial conference, which is on November 30, 2021, could be a potential timeframe by which to complete an agreement.

News article - ABC News

G7 foreign and development ministers' agenda focuses on gender equality through education, ending gender-based violence

The UK hosted a G7 meeting in London on May 4-5, 2021, that put women and girls at the center of the agenda with a focus on the three E’s: education, empowerment, and ending gender-based violence.

Foreign and development ministers from the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, and the UK, plus the EU) met for their first in-person meeting in two years. The foreign ministers from Australia, India, South Africa, South Korea, as well as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), were invited to some of the talks as guests.

The G7 foreign and development ministers agreed to a new goal of sending 40 million more girls from low-and middle-income countries to school over the next five years and helping 200 million more girls read by the age of 10. 

They also agreed to provide a US$15.0 billion two-year package to help women in low-income countries build resilient businesses and respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19. The funding will be provided through the 2X Challenge, a partnership between G7 Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) that was originally launched in 2018. The 2X Challenge focuses on providing finance and support to female-owned and staffed businesses or to businesses that provide products or services that particularly benefit women.

The G7 ministers also called for women’s rights organizations at local, national, and international levels to be actively included in decision-making on the COVID-19 recovery, and the ministers committed to working to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence through increased support to programs aimed at addressing this issue.

Press release - UK government

News article - BCC

News article - The Guardian

UK and India enter into new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, includes focusing on global health and climate crisis

The UK government entered into a new ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership' with India on May 4, 2021, the first such partnership granted by India to a European country.

The partnership was agreed upon following a meeting between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and it is guided by an ambitious '2030 Roadmap for India-UK future relations' plan over the next ten years. The plan, beyond clearly marking intentions to strengthen ties on trade and defense, also sets out how India and the UK can jointly cooperate to tackle global challenges such as global health and the climate crisis.

On the climate crisis, the plan calls for the two countries to come together in stepping up actions on the development of clean energy, transportation, and protecting biodiversity. It also calls for greater collaboration on helping low-income countries adapt to the impact of climate change, given the UK and India’s respective roles as co-chairs of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). The plan calls on the countries to work through the Adaptation Action Coalition to accelerate helping partner countries adapt to climate change. Finally, the plan calls for the creation of a new multi-country Technical Assistance Facility and Fund (TAFF) to help Small Island Developing States (SIDS) develop more resilient infrastructure.

Regarding global health, the plan calls for the current India-UK Health Partnership to be expanded to cover global health security and pandemic resilience with a leadership role on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). The partnership also calls for steps to be taken to ensure that critical medicines, vaccines, and other medical supplies reach those in need.

For both climate and global health, the plan calls for the UK and India to collaborate in research and innovation, as well as for working on clean energy, the environment, circular economy, and urban development.

Press release - UK government

Policy paper - UK government