Policy Updates

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Canada's IDRC announces ten research projects in response to COVID-19

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has announced ten new research projects that aim to tackle the "health and social challenges created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic". Each project involves Canadian and international researchers from the Global South. 

The projects emerged from a collaboration between IDRC and the Government of Canada's COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity. Details of each of the ten projects will be released in the coming weeks.

Press release - IDRC

Sweden initiates new development cooperation strategies for Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, greater Latin American region

The Swedish government has commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to initiate preparations of new development cooperation strategies with Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, as well as the larger region of Latin America. The strategies will cover the period between 2021 and 2025 and proposals should be submitted by October 30, 2020.

All strategies will focus on areas such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality, inclusive economic development, environment, climate, and biodiversity. In addition, Sida will explore options to strengthen Swedish support for sexual and reproductive health and rights in Bolivia and migration in the Latin America region.

The strategy for Colombia will be developed in collaboration with the Folke Bernadotte Academy and emphasis will be also put on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies and continuing to support implementation of the FARC peace agreement.

"Latin America is a heterogeneous region marked by widespread inequality. Although developments in Latin America have been positive in many respects in recent decades – democracy has spread, economies have modernized and poverty has been reduced – the challenges remain great," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "A regional strategy for Latin America enables Sweden to contribute to a positive development in the region.”

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Bolivia strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Colombia strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Cuba strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Latin America regional strategy - Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

US DFC to release impact measurement tool for public comment

The United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) plans to publicly release its new tool for measuring the development impact of its investments and allow for a public comment period.

The new tool, called the Impact Quotient (IQ), has been in development for at least a year. According to the DFC's CEO, the IQ will develop objectives for each project, take into account country context, and look at potential negative risks, including environmental and social aspects. The IQ will have three main pillars: innovation, economic growth, and inclusion. Within each of those pillars, there will be sub-objectives, such as job growth and new financing mechanisms.

In the lead up to the final IQ, DFC's predecessor, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, engaged in a robust consultation with the development stakeholder community, and now the DFC will open the IQ for public comment.

News article - Devex

South Korean ruling party emphasizes humanitarian assistance and cooperation with North Korea to combat COVID-19

Speaking at a dialogue on Inter-Korean negotiations, members of the ruling Democratic Party of South Korea promoted South Korean provision of humanitarian assistance and cooperation on health and medicine with North Korea.

Democratic Party Parliamentary Leader Kim Tae-nyeon has requested that the government actively promotes humanitarian talks with North Korea to support North Korea’s COVID-19 response. The chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee also commented on the need to discuss with the UN on partially easing North Korea sanctions including humanitarian assistance, noting that the South Korean government was until recently discussing providing US$10 million of humanitarian assistance.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the UN only mobilized 5.6% of the target funding for North Korea's needs and priorities and 3.3% of North Korea's intersectoral COVID-19 response plan for this year. 

The Democratic Party currently holds all but one of 18 National Assembly standing committee chairperson seats, including the foreign affairs and unification committee, where both ODA and North Korean affairs are discussed and deliberated.

News article – YTN (in Korean)

France adopts new strategy to support domestic resource mobilization in low-income countries

France has released its new domestic resources mobilization strategy for low-income countries, which provides a framework to support states in their capacity to raise taxes and allocate funding to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The strategy, to be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign affairs and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, defines three main objectives:

1) Support for the definition of efficient fiscal public policies;

2) Support for the modernization of administrations in low-income countries (with an emphasis on the most fragile nations and Sahel states); and

3) The optimization of international cooperation instruments.

To implement the plan, France will allocate €60 million (US$65 million) for the 2020-2023 period. France plans to promote the strategy through the G7 and G20, the OECD, and the EU.

Press release - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in French)

Japan provides US$17 million for medical equipment, maritime security in Papua New Guinea

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has announced new grants to Papua New Guinea, including US$8 million (¥900 million) for healthcare and medical equipment to tackle COVID-19 and US$9 million (¥1 billion) for strengthening maritime security.

While immigration restrictions have limited the number of COVID-19 cases in Papua New Guinea, the Japanese government has stressed that it is important to support Papua New Guinea in addressing risks as it relaxes entry restrictions. To this end, Japan will provide X-ray imaging equipment, CT-scanners, and more to help strengthen Papua New Guinea’s healthcare system.

According to the Japanese government, about 65% of the population of Papua New Guinea (or approximately 5 million people) live near coastal areas, and small vessels are essential for transporting freight and passengers, and making a living (fishing, etc.). However, for navigation and search and safety, MOFA reports that Papua New Guinea only has 9.5 meter-class ships that are limited to a range of 100 km near the capital of Port Moresby. MOFA's funds will provide rescue boats and maritime security equipment (such as wireless communication systems) to the National Maritime Safety Bureau of Papua New Guinea.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

South Korea commits US$8 million for Sudan’s political, economic reform efforts

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has announced that it will contribute US$8 million in humanitarian and development assistance in 2020 to support Sudan’s COVID-19 response and socioeconomic development. South Korean officials also emphasized the government's support Sudan’s efforts for democratization and economic reforms and will continue to support the sustainable development of Sudan.

South Korea announced its commitments on June 25, 2020 at the Sudan Partnership Conference hosted by the Germany, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Republic of Sudan. Participants of the conference also announced a joint communiqué and pledged various financial contributions for Sudan’s development.

Press release – South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Experts call on Australia to establish national center for disease control

Experts are calling on Australia to establish a centralized disease control agency, equivalent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. Australia is currently the only Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country without such an agency.

On June 24, 2020, the Leader of the Opposition in Australia's federal Parliament, Anthony Albanese, proposed the establishment of a disease control body in Australia, which could coordinate medical research, maintain the national medical stockpile, and provide quick advice in emergencies.

Blog - The Conversation

Press release -  Opposition Leader

Publish What You Fund releases 2020 Aid Transparency Index; more than half of donors now ranked 'good' or 'very good' across transparency indicators

On June 24, 2020, Publish What You Fund, a global campaign for assistance and development transparency, released the findings of the 2020 Aid Transparency Index. The index monitors and assesses development assistance donors’ progress towards transparency, aiming to improve the efficacy of development assistance and the quality of related information that donors make available.

The 2020 Aid Transparency Index reveals significant improvements in donors’ overall transparency compared to 2018, with over half of the 47 assessed donors now ranked as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. Among the top-ranking donors are the World Bank, UNDP, UNICEF, the Global Fund, Canada, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. While Germany and Sweden are ranked as ‘good’, the transparency performance of France, Norway, Australia, Spain, Australia, and Italy, among others, is only rated as ‘fair’. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Arab Emirate’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as China’s Ministry of Commerce have some of the lowest scores.

According to Publish What You Fund, the overall improvement is due to the fact that many donors increasingly publish both more and higher quality data in the International Aid Initiative (IATI) Standard, making the data more easily accessible, comparable, and better centralized.

However, the report highlights gaps when it comes to the publication of project outcomes; only a minority of donors share information on project performances and evaluations which limits the ability of stakeholders to gauge the effectiveness and value of development assistance spending.

To further improve development assistance data, Publish What You Fund provided a range of recommendations to donor countries, among them sharing wider information of project results, publishing project budget documents, and increasing the engagement with stakeholders of partner countries to build trust and share information on available data.

Report – Publish What you Fund

With merger of Department for International Development into Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK faces major transparency challenge

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was ranked as one of the most transparent donors in the world in the recently published 2020 Aid Transparency Index. According to the Index, DFID was in ninth place out of 47 donors with a 'very good' rating.

In contrast, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which in September will be responsible for UK development assistance, was found to be far less transparent. It came in at thirty-eighth place, with a transparency rating of 'fair'.

The findings of the report will cause a transparency challenge for the UK government, following the announcement by the UK Prime Minister of the government's plan to close DFID and merge it into the FCO. The findings also reveal that the UK government has failed to meet its own target of ensuring all ODA-disbursing departments in the UK are rated as 'good' or 'very good'.

News article – Devex

European Commission proposes 2021 annual budget with US$2.4 billion for health research, US$16.8 billion for development

The European Commission (EC) proposed a new annual 2021 budget worth €166.7 billion (US$181.8 billion), in addition to €211 billion (US$230 billion) in grants and €133 billion (US$145 billion) in loans from a newly proposed recovery instrument.

This proposal would frontload 42% of the four-year recovery instrument funding in the first year. The 2021 proposal includes €2.2 billion (US$2.4 billion) for health and research through the Horizon Europe research program’s health cluster and €15.4 billion (US$16.8 billion) for development through the Neighborhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument 'NDICI'.

The 2021 budget proposal only serves as an indicative suggestion based on the EC’s latest multiannual financial framework (MFF) proposal and the newly proposed recovery instrument, which EU leaders have not yet agreed on, but which will determine the size and composition of the 2021-2027 long-term budget. 
Press release - European Commission
News article - Eurasia Review

Survey finds Australians are committed to democratic values, skeptical of China

Results from the Lowy Institute's 2020 survey indicate that Australians remain committed to democratic values and a belief that these values — rather than economic interests — should guide Australia's international engagement.

Respondents to the poll expressed increasing concern about China; however, despite these concerns, the poll suggests that Australians do support jointly-funded development cooperation projects by Australia and China in the Pacific and Asia regions.

News article - The Diplomat

Report - Lowy Institute

Spain's Sánchez leads high-level summit on COVID-19 response in Latin America, Caribbean

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hosted the 'United for joint response against COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean' conference in Madrid on June 24, 2020. This high-level conference was attended by governments and multilateral financial institutions and was aimed at reviewing and discussing measures for combating the current COVID-19 situation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. 

LAC is one of the most severely affected regions as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and its socio-economic consequences. For this reason, Sánchez called upon international and regional financial institutions to collectively develop effective responses and necessary tools for combating the crisis.

The summit was attended by head-of-state representatives from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Paraguay, Perú, and Uruguay, as well as high-level officials from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Central American Economic Integration Bank, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the General Secretariat for Ibero-America, and the Caribbean Community.

Press release – La Moncloa

Dutch Minister of Health launches advisory panel on COVID-19 research, announces additional US$22 million in funding

On June 24, Dutch Minister of Health Hugo De Jonge announced that the government has allocated an additional €20 million (US$22 million) to COVID-19 research and development (R&D), bringing the Netherlands' total COVID-19 R&D spending to €68 million (US$74 million) to date.

Of the new subsidies, €10 million (US$11 million) was allotted to Stichting Sanquin Bloedvoorziening, which specializes in blood plasma research. The other €10 million (US$11 million) went to the COVID-19 research program of the Dutch Organization for Health Research and Innovation, ZonMW.

De Jonge also announced the creation of a panel of experts who will advise him about new, promising treatment methods for COVID-19. The panel was launched in cooperation with the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), the Medicines Evaluation Board (CVB), Central Committee on Human Research (CCMO), the Federation of Medical Specialists (FMS), and ZonMw.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

EU leaders to negotiate next long-term budget and proposed recovery instrument at in-person summit

EU heads of state will negotiate a deal on the European Commission’s latest 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) proposal and on the newly proposed recovery instrument during a special in-person European Council summit on July 17-18, 2020.

Leaders had previously discussed the proposal at the recent European Council videoconference held on June 19 but were unable to reach any compromises. Outstanding discussions pertain to the size and ratio of loans and grants in the recovery instrument, measures to allocate recovery funding, and discussions on the conditionality of funding.

The European Commission and European Council President Charles Michel have expressed hope that a deal can be reached at the summit. If not, there will likely be a second extraordinary summit. 
Meeting information - European Council
News article - Euractiv

Dutch parliament rejects motion on AIV-recommended allocation of US$1.1 billion for global COVID-19 effort; final decision still to be taken by cabinet

On June 23, 2020, the Dutch parliament published the result of the motions put forward during the parliamentary debate a week earlier around the Netherlands’ approach to combating COVID-19 globally.

A number of motions were accepted, including the request for an extension to freeze debt payments of fragile countries, the call to ensure the most vulnerable people and countries receive sufficient support, the motion for a fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the creation of a public-private Africa coalition.

However, the motion to follow the budgetary guidelines presented by the Advisory Council for International Relations (AIV), which advised the investment of €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) to support the most vulnerable countries in the COVID-19 crisis, was rejected. The final decision on the additional ODA amount will be taken by the cabinet in the next few weeks. 

Press Release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Canada announces US$68 million for global sexual and reproductive health and rights

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced CAD94 million (US$67 million) in sexual and reproductive health funding for the most marginalized and vulnerable women globally. This investment will go to partners working to progress sexual and reproductive health and rights including:

  • Comprehensive sex education;
  • Advocacy; 
  • Family planning and contraceptives; and
  • Sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response.

Supported programming will advocate for womens' right to choose a safe and legal abortion. 

A portion of this funding was already announced by Canada in June 2019.  

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Three former Prime Ministers join growing chorus condemning UK decision to close Department for International Development

The UK development sector is still reeling after the sudden announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on June 16, 2020, that the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) will be fully merged into the Foreign Commonwealth Office.

As the shock of the announcement subsidies, there is a growing clamor of critical voices hailing the decision as a terrible mistake. Three former-UK Prime Ministers — Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and David Cameron — have all publicly denounced the merger as short-sighted and detrimental to UK’s global influence and reach. The UK International Development Select Committee has signaled that the move is not constructive, citing evidence from a new report (released just prior to the Prime Minister's announcement), which highlighted the vital importance of an independent DFID to the UK’s global leadership on development. BOND, the UK network representing non-governmental organizations in the development sector, published a blog predicting the merger's negative impact on the world’s poor. Newspapers as diverse as the Financial Times and The Guardian have also been critical. The Guardian reported that staff morale within DFID is at an all-time low: Many are upset and angered by the sudden announcement and concerned about the future of their jobs.

Despite the rush of criticism, there have also been some who welcome the move. James Cowan, the Chief Executive Officer of the UK demining organization, the Halo Trust, claims that the merger will allow the government to take a more coordinated approach to UK foreign and development policy. Dr. Mukesh Kapila, the former head of the conflict and humanitarian affairs within DFID, says the move is long overdue.

Blog post - BOND

News article - The Guardian

News article - The Guardian

Centre for Global Development gives recommendations to UK’s new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on maintaining global leadership in development

The Centre for Global Development (CGD), a global development think-tank, has published a new blog setting out seven key steps the UK government should take in order to ensure its recently announced new 'super department' — the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office —  maintains a strong commitment to development. On June 16, 2020, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the Department for International Development (DFID) would be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of a radical reorganization of UK foreign and development governance.

The CGD recommends:

  1. Refraining from cutting the development assistance budget in 2020: The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should make it clear to the UK Treasury that the budget allocated to DFID a year ago should be retained. The UK's official development assistance (ODA) budget could face cuts as a result of the economic downturn, caused in part by COVID-19. The ODA budget is tied to the UK’s overall economic performance through the UK’s commitment to delivering 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) as ODA.
  2. Creating a directorate on global health security in the new department: The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the importance of global health security. The establishment of a new directorate could ensure that global health security remains a key pillar of UK development and foreign policy in the coming years.
  3. Ensuring parliamentary scrutiny via a cross-government committee on development assistance: In order to maintain scrutiny on the UK development budget, the government should establish a new cross-government committee on development assistance which would operate alongside a new Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee. The UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), an operationally independent non-departmental public body, should also be retained. It is unclear as of yet what will happen to ICAI, though the Foreign Minister has indicated that reviewing the ODA budget will be a priority moving forward.
  4. Ensuring Cabinet representation on development with the appointment of a Chief Secretary for Development: This would promote better development policy and could help ensure coherence and quality across development spending.
  5. Retaining DFID's professional advisory cadre, chief technical advisors, and value for money architecture: The expertise within DFID is a major asset and the government should ensure that it is retained in the new department.
  6. Letting Her Majesty's Treasury lead in representing the UK within the Board of World Bank and regional development banks: This will help ensure coherence in the UK’s international finance approach, which is of particular importance to helping low-income countries with their economic recovery from COVID-19.
  7. Maintaining a strong focus on poverty: Rather than cutting funding to the world's poorest countries, the UK can reallocate some of the ODA that was previously channeled through the EU for EU neighborhood countries for security support to countries like those in the Balkans and Ukraine (which Prime Minster Boris Johnson signaled his intention to provide).

Blog post - CGD

In bid to become first female Prime Minister of Netherlands, Dutch Development Minister announces candidacy for party leadership

On June 21, 2020, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, announced her candidacy to become the party leader of the social-liberal party, D66, for the upcoming Dutch general elections scheduled for March 17, 2021. In her announcement, Kaag explicitly stated her wish to become the first female Prime Minister of the Netherlands. 

The members of D66 will elect their new party leader at the end of August and the results will be announced on September 2, this year. 

News Article - NOS (in Dutch)