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South Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nations announce action plan for 2021-2025

The South Korean government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced the plan of action for 2021-2025 to implement the joint vision statement for peace, prosperity, and partnership that was adopted in 2010. The action plan covers five types of cooperation: 1) political and security, 2) economic, 3) socio-cultural, 4) cross-sectoral, and 5) sustainable development.

For cooperation on health, the two parties will strengthen efforts on universal health coverage, cooperate in public health emergency response, exchange information and expertise, and explore cooperation to address emerging health challenges.

Press release – ASEAN

Japan provides US$18 million grant for education in Laos

Japan has agreed to provide a ¥1.9 billion (US$18 million) grant to improve the training environment for teachers in pre-primary, primary, and secondary education in Laos.

According to a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) press release, these funds will improve educational facilities and equipment in target areas by rebuilding Teacher Training Colleges, procuring educational equipment and text, and providing consulting services.

Press release – JICA

As pandemic rages, USAID shuts down COVID-19 task force

Despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it will terminate its pandemic readiness task force and disburse its functions among various bureaus within the agency. This move comes at the same time as the White House task force has stopped its regular press briefings and as President Trump and many of his aides are downplaying the pandemic ahead of the November elections.

USAID said that some of the functions of the task force will be transferred to a "Covid-19 Readiness Unit" although the details of that initiative remain undefined.

News article - Politico 

Italy will increase funding to World Food Program in 2020

The Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela del Re, met with the Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP), David Beasley. In their meeting, Del Re expressed appreciation for WFP's work and confirmed Italy's strong support.

Del Re also announced that Italy plans to increase the contribution to WFP for 2020, in particular for the programs run in Italy's priority areas such as Libya and the African Sahel region.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Dutch Parliament to launch talks with manufacturer Philips regarding ventilators for Netherlands, low-income countries

On September 2, 2020, the Dutch Parliament voted to engage with Dutch medical electronics giant Philips to address ventilator shortages in the Netherlands and to examine how these devices could be made available in low-income countries.

Philips has a surplus of almost 30,000 ventilators due to the premature termination of a contract with the United States. Jesse Klaver, leader of the Dutch green-left party (Groen Links) and one of the members of parliament who proposed the motion said during the debate that the COVID1- crisis "called for global solidarity and if there are additional ventilators the company could give them away to developing countries in need.”

News article – Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch)

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

US to restart disease research program formerly eliminated by Trump

After serious criticism of the decision to cut the PREDICT program (an infectious disease research program that was operating globally, including in Wuhan, China) the Trump administration has announced a new program to build upon PREDICT's work. The new initiative, called Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID), will be housed in the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and will receive US$82 million over the next five years. 

The PREDICT program was terminated by the Trump administration in October of 2019, just before the outbreak of the global pandemic. In its 10 years of operation under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the program had identified 1,200 different viruses with the potential to spread globally, including 160 novel coronaviruses. CREID will pick up on the work already done, investigating "how and where viruses and other pathogens emerge from wildlife" and cause disease in people, according to the NIH.

News report - Los Angeles Times

Dutch COVID-19 special envoy to resign

The former CEO of chemical company DSM, Feike Sijbesma, will conclude his work as COVID-19 special envoy for the Dutch government at the end of September 2020. During his time as COVID-19 special envoy, he mapped the developments of possible COVID-19 vaccines and worked to obtain sufficient test capacity.

News article – nu.nl (in Dutch)

Spanish NGOs call for institutional reform in development sector, increased budget

On September 8, 2020, the new director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Magdy Martínez-Solimán, hosted a meeting with leadership representatives from the development NGOs umbrella organization 'La Coordinadora'.

Martínez-Solimán acknowledged the valuable work done by development NGOs in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. La Coordinadora members highlighted the importance of the Spanish development budget for 2021 and urged the AECID to advance institutional reform of the development system, including new legislation for development cooperation.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Spain launches new 2021-2027 strategy for science and innovation

The cabinet of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has approved the new 'Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation', which aims to increase Spain’s public and private investments in research and development from the current 1.2% of the gross national income (GNI) to 2.1% of GNI by 2027.

The new strategy outlines six priority areas of intervention: health; culture, creativity, and inclusive society; human security, inequities, and migrations; digitalization, industry, space, and defense; climate change, energy, and mobility; and nutrition and the environment.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

Australia's ex-Foreign Minister criticizes government over cuts to development assistance

Julie Bishop, who was Australia's Foreign Minister between 2013 and 2019, has called it "regrettable" that the coalition government has cut development assistance from A$5.0 billion (US$3.6 billion) to A$4.0 billion (US$2.9 billion) since 2014. She argues that slashing international assistance sends mixed messages regarding Australia's commitment to countries in its region and undermines its influence in the South Pacific.

News article - ABC News

UK think tank calls on new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to focus on economic development

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK-based think-tank, is calling on the newly launched Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to put economic development at the heart of its policy and programming. In a series of essays, ODI’s researchers set out ten opportunities for the new department to draw fully on its development and diplomacy skills to ensure a strong economic development policy and program for partner countries. The ODI researchers call on FCDO to:

  1. Produce and publish a clear UK-Africa strategy with the aim of re-invigorating UK-Africa trade and investment relationships;
  2. Coordinate an effective import policy to ensure access to cheap and reliable goods;
  3. Support resilient value chains in low-income countries to ensure that markets continue to function even in times of crisis;
  4. Ensure appropriate policies and financing instruments are in place to fully utilize the City of London’s capital and skills for development and environmentally friendly investment;  
  5. Encourage more UK foreign direct investment in development-orientated activities by supporting business environment reforms in partner countries and providing targeted transformation support;
  6. Develop a new business partnership program to support UK businesses investing in low-income countries, whilst avoiding 'tied aid';  
  7. Transform UK development finance by taking a sectoral approach, working with key UK firms to transform whole sectors across partner countries;
  8. Support economic development programs that follow local demand and take local context into consideration;
  9. Use development assistance to provide global public goods support to middle-income countries, including support for climate change and sustainable growth and adherence to global trade rules and system; and
  10. Develop a strong partnership with China on development to enhance both countries' development impact.

Blog post - ODI

Australia signs agreements with pharmaceutical companies for 85 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, restates commitment on vaccine access for neighboring countries

Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that Australia has made sourcing arrangements with two vaccine suppliers at a potential cost of AU$1.7 billion (US$1.2 billion). Subject to the vaccines' approval for use, Australia will source vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and by CSL and the University of Queensland. If either team is successful in developing a vaccine, 85 million doses of it will be produced in Melbourne.

The vaccines are being sourced to cover Australia's 25 million population but Morrison indicated that Australia is still committed to ensuring vaccine availability for neighbors in South East Asia and the Pacific. Officials have indicated that additional orders may be donated to other countries or sold at the original price.

News article - Channel 9

Spanish NGOs call for US$1.0 billion increase in development spending

Spanish development NGO and umbrella organization 'La Coordinadora' called upon the Spanish government to strengthen development policy measures, particularly by increasing the Official Development Assistance (ODA) envelopes of the general state budget for 2021 by €900 million (US$1.0 billion). 

La Coordinadora stressed that the increase in ODA funding is essential for addressing new humanitarian and economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Press release – La Coordinadora

Norway appointed to co-lead ACT Accelerator

The European Commission has appointed Norway and South Africa as co-leaders of the ACT Accelerator. The Access to Covid-19 Tools-Accelerator is a global coalition of states, foundations, research institutions, and health organizations. The coalition members have a common goal of fighting COVID-19 and ensuring the fair distribution of vaccines, test equipment, medicine, and other healthcare services. 

Norway's main task will be to continue efforts on mobilization, as well as to advise and support the work under the group's four pillars: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health system strengthening. The newly appointed co-leads will also define an agenda for further work and contribute to efficient coordination between the various stakeholders. Norway will focus on the potential need for political clarifications that may emerge in future in the efforts to combat the pandemic.  

The European Commission and the World Health Organization will continue to host the collaborative framework.  

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian) 

As India passes 400 million COVID-19 infections, Germany provides test equipment worth US$17 million

The German government will provide India with 330,000 COVID-19 test kits and 600,000 pieces of protective equipment for medical personnel to slow the spread of the virus.

The support will be financed with €15 million (US$17 million) in funding through the development ministry's (BMZ's) COVID-19 response package. Additionally, short-term loans amounting to €460 million (US$528 million) will be provided to support food provision to 800 million people and to provide interim help for 320 million people who have lost their jobs in the wake of the pandemic, said Development Minister Gerd Müller.

On September 5, 2020, the reported number of COVID-19 infections in India passed the four million mark, making it the country with the third most COVID-19 cases worldwide.  

Press release – German government (in German)

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

UK Minister for International Environment makes virtual visit to Bangladesh

The UK Minister for International Environment, Lord Goldsmith, made a virtual visit to Bangladesh to emphasize the government’s ongoing commitment to providing international climate finance to the country, given its vulnerability to climate change. Because it is a delta country, floods and cyclones pose a risk to over 70% of Bangladesh's population.

During the virtual visit, Lord Goldsmith met with Bangladesh’s Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources to discuss renewable energy generation for the country. He also met with officials and researchers to encourage the integration of nature-based solutions to support adaptation and resilience to climate change in the country.

The UK is the third-largest bilateral donor to Bangladesh, providing more than £350 million (US$460 million) in development assistance since 2018. Funding from the UK has helped to deliver early warning systems for floods and cyclones, has supported the installation of solar irrigation pumps, and has provided emergency assistance to people recovering from floods.

The UK government is hosting the UN Climate Conference COP26 in November 2021 and the government of Bangladesh currently chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), an international partnership of countries highly vulnerable to a warming planet.

Press release - UK government

European Commission begins talks with seventh vaccine manufacturer while calling for more funding for COVID-19 vaccine deals

The European Commission (EC) has begun negotiations with a seventh pharmaceutical company, Novavax, to advance the purchase of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The EC has already concluded talks with CureVac, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sanofi-GSK, has signed a contract with AstraZeneca, and is still in negotiations with BioNTech/Pfizer.

During a recently held Council videoconference, most EU health ministers supported topping up the Emergency Support Instrument (the fund the EC is using to pay for down payments on vaccine deals) with an additional €750 million (US$887 million) to respond to the Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides’ call for further funds. 
News article - Politico

South Korea to invest US$142 million in 2021 for domestic COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutics R&D

The South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) announced that the government will invest a total of US$142 million (KRW170.7 billion) to support domestic research and development (R&D) of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in 2021.

The total is broken down to include:

  • US$110 million (KRW131.4 billion) in support for clinical trials of 12 vaccines and 10 therapeutics;
  • US$6 million (KRW7.4 billion) to support non-clinical trial R&D;
  • and US$26 million (KRW31.9 billion) to discover candidate materials.

In addition to the R&D support measures, MOEF will also fund infrastructure development for infectious disease research. The 2021 government budget proposal will be deliberated and approved by the National Assembly by early December this year.

Press release – Ministry of Economy and Finance (in Korean)

Magdy Esteban Martínez-Soliman appointed new director of Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation

On July 28, 2020, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) appointed Magdy Esteban Martínez-Soliman as the new general director of AECID.

Magdy Martínez-Solimán underlined that his mandate within the AECID would be focused on the eradiction of poverty, ecological transition, Spanish multilateralism, and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. He also reiterated the Spanish government's commitment to increasing ODA to 0.5% of GNI by 2023 and is expected to work on reforming and modernizing the Spanish development cooperation system by 2022. 

Press release – AECID