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UK hosts G7 meeting, agrees to uphold democracy, support equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution, provide financial support to countries facing famine

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, chaired a meeting of the G7’s foreign and development ministers last week on May 3-4, 2021, in London. The UK government also invited government representatives from India, Australia, South Korea, and the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reflecting the UK’s foreign policy goal of leaning in more to the Indo-Pacific region's growing strategic importance. Representatives from South Africa were also guests.

The G7 ministers agreed to defend democracy, increase funding to the COVAX Facility to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, provide funding for countries facing famine, and step up their efforts to help partner countries become more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis.

On upholding democracy and human rights, the G7 foreign and development ministers agreed to:

  • Uphold media freedom around the world, including by increasing funding to the Global Media Defence Fund;
  • Bolster their response to threats to democracy, including through a new North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partnership aimed specifically at tackling threats such as vaccine disinformation; and
  • Support the new Canadian-driven action plan on tackling arbitrary detention.

On ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines, the ministers:

  • Endorsed the COVAX Facility as a primary way for countries to share vaccines globally;
  • Agreed to increase funding to the Facility, though no specific pledges of increased funding were announced; and
  • Committed to working toward expanding manufacturing for affordable COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

On addressing famines, the ministers:

  • Agreed to provide £5.0 billion (US$6.7 billion) in humanitarian assistance to those countries facing famine, including Yemen, South Sudan, and Nigeria; and
  • Committed their support for the World Bank and UN on preparedness and early action to prevent famines.

On addressing the climate crisis, the ministers:

  • Agreed to do more to help low-income countries build resilience to the impacts of climate change and improve planning and response to climate-related disasters; and
  • Welcomed the role of the private sector in supporting climate resilience.

These agreements came in addition to the ministers' commitments to enhance girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment.

Press release - UK government

Statement - European External Action Service

South Korea increases contribution to Asian Development Bank in 2021

South Korea's Minister of Economy and Finance Nam-ki Hong discussed partnership plans for 2021 with the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa.

In 2021, South Korea will increase the joint financing limit by US$50 million to US$700 million. In addition, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will provide US$25 million to ADB’s e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund, which is triple the amount of last year. The Fund will be used to enhance the partner countries' health capacities and shift to a digital and green economy.

News article – Newsis (in Korean)

News article – Korea.net

Outrage grows at scale of UK development assistance cuts; funding for UNFPA, UNAIDS cut by over 80%, UNICEF by 60%

Outrage has been growing about the UK government’s development assistance budget cuts, as details continue to emerge about the programs and partners that are affected.

In November of 2020, the UK government decided to temporarily reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget to 0.5% of its gross national income in 2021 (from 0.7% in 2020), with funding cuts of around £4.0 billion (US$5.4 billion) compared to 2019 volumes. The government’s decision to cut the budget was in response to the economic impact of COVID-19.

According to reports in newspapers with recently-emerged details, the UK will cut its funding to:

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, which has been reduced by 85% from £154 million (US$206 million) to £23 million (US$40 million);
  • The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which is to be cut from over 80% from £15 million (US$20 million) to £3 million (US$3 million);
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has been cut by 60% from £40 million (US$53 million) in 2020 to £16 million (US$21 million) in 2021;
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been cut by 95% with funding reduced from £100 million (US$134 million) to £5 million (US$7 million) in 2021; and
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in partner countries, which are reported as being cut by 80%.

It also appears that the Small Charities Challenge Fund, the Community Partnerships Fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct Impact, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programs have been canceled entirely, according to NGOs that receive money through these funds.

Civil society and members of parliament have said that the depth of the cuts puts lives at risk and diminishes UK global leadership on international development, in the very year when the UK is hosting the G7 and the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

News article - BBC

As COVID-19 outbreak ravages India, Germany flies in medical experts, US$60 million in supplies

A German military aircraft arrived in India on May 1, 2021, delivering 120 ventilators and a team of 13 medical experts. This delivery marked the start of Germany's promised support with €50 million (US$60 million) worth of supplies for India in combating the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

The team of 13 experts will set up and operate mobile oxygen production units over the next two weeks and support the Indian Red Cross Society on site. The German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said that Germany will provide further supplies needed by India to fight the rapidly escalating outbreak, and Maas emphasized the deep Indian-German friendship.

Germany is among many countries, including the US and the UK, that has been providing support for India over the last few days, mostly in the form of oxygen, drugs, and personal protective equipment.

According to the EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, the EU has started to pool resources provided by member states via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to respond to India’s request for support. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was set up in 2001 by the European Commission for emergency cases in which response capabilities of a country were overwhelmed and coordinated support by other countries was needed.

News article - Deutsche Welle

News article - Deutsche Welle

EU parliamentarians adopt report calling for increased EU role in humanitarian assistance and development for COVID-19 response

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of the Committee on Development adopted a report calling for the EU to play a larger role in development cooperation and provide humanitarian assistance to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in EU partner countries. 

The report welcomed the new ‘Team Europe’ approach and highlighted the need for increased EU support to key sectors, such as food security, poverty, health, human rights, governance, democracy, education, and digitalization. It emphasized the importance of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, building resilience, and suspending debt service payments for the poorest countries.

Report - European Parliament

UK sends oxygen supplies to help India combat deadly COVID-19 outbreak

The UK government is increasing its assistance to India as the country battles an overwhelming spike of COVID-19 infections.

The UK government has sent 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators from surplus stock to India. It is also sending three oxygen generation units, each of which is the size of a shipping container and is capable of producing 500 liters of oxygen per minute.

Press release - UK government

Spain and Mexico strengthen cooperation to tackle COVID-19 crisis worldwide

On April 30, 2021, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC), Arancha González Laya, met with the Mexican Secretary for External Relations, Marcelo Ebrard, to review current global challenges and advance bilateral cooperation partnerships.

As a result of the meeting, Spain and Mexico decided to strengthen collaborations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to foster equal and universal access to new vaccines, treatments, and other health goods. González and Ebrard also aligned strongly on other development areas, such as addressing gender equality and the climate emergency.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Sweden adopts US$385 million 2021-2024 development cooperation strategy for Afghanistan

On April 29, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new strategy for its development cooperation with Afghanistan for 2021-2024 which amounts to SEK 3.3 billion (US$385 million).

Sweden will focus its support on strengthening democracy, gender equality, and human rights, as well as on promoting education, health, economic development, and peacebuilding.

Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, Per Olsson Fridh, said that the strategy reflected Sweden's long-term commitment to Afghanistan, saying, “There is great political uncertainty, but our support strengthens the forces that want to safeguard the achievements made over the last twenty years."

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Publish What You Fund launches 'Women’s Economic Empowerment' project to track and advocate for gender equality funding

Publish What You Fund (PWYF), a nonprofit organization that campaigns for transparency on development assistance, has recently launched its new project, 'Women’s Economic Empowerment: building evidence for better investments'.

The project will track funding to women’s economic empowerment (WEE), women’s empowerment collectives (WECs), and women’s financial inclusion (WFI), and examine what has influenced changes to funding, including the COVID-19 crisis. The project will include case studies in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. 

PWYF aims to use the findings to advocate for funding toward women's economic empowerment globally and to ensure that investments in WEE, WECs, and WFI are transparent and effective.

This continues to be important as the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected women and challenged the progress made in global efforts toward gender equality.

Press release - Publish What You Fund

Commitments to German financial development cooperation at record high in 2020

The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) Bankengruppe, the German state-owned investment and development banking group, announced commitments worth €12.4 billion (US$14.9 billion) in 2020 for development projects in low- and middle-income countries.

Of the €12.4 billion (US$14.9 billion), €4.0 billion (US$4.8 billion) was channeled to the Emergency COVID-19 Support Program of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Within the framework of this program, the BMZ’s commitment to pandemic response, food supply, social security, and stabilization of crisis regions has been expanded.

The KfW Development Bank, a part of the KfW banking group and main actor in German financial development cooperation, increased its commitment by €2.0 billion (US$2.4 billion) up to €11.0 billion (US$13.2 billion) in 2020 compared to 2019. This increase is largely due to its efforts in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis. New commitments in 2020 towards programs with a regional focus in Africa and the Middle East increased by nearly 50% compared to 2019, amounting to €5.2 billion (US$6.2 billion) in 2020. Initiatives on environmental and climate protection remained a thematic focus of the KfW Development Bank and new commitments toward that amounted to €4.4 billion (US$5.3 billion) in 2020.

The Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG) is a KfW subsidiary, which finances and advises private sector enterprises operating in low- and middle-income countries. In 2020, the DEG provided €1.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) to private sector enterprises with a regional focus on Africa and Asia and a thematic focus on environmental and climate protection, as well as on COVID-19 response offers in the form of short-term liquidity support.

In 2021, besides the focus on pandemic response and environmental and climate protection, digital transformation in low- and middle-income countries will gain more relevance in both the KfW Development Bank’s and DEG’s work. Digitalization can be utilized to improve development processes in low- and middle-income countries in terms of efficiency, pace, and sustainability, said the CEO of the KfW banking group, Günther Bräunig.

Press release - KfW

Netherlands adopts motion on vaccine patent sharing through C-TAP

On April 29, 2021, the Dutch parliament adopted a parliamentary motion asking the Dutch government to ensure that pharmaceutical companies share their information on COVID-19 vaccines through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

The motion was submitted by Dutch member of parliament (MP) Lisa Westerveld of the Green-Left party (GroenLinks) and co-submitted by MPs Jan Paternotte of Democrats 66 (D66), Lilianne Ploumen of the Labour Party (PvdA), Lilian Marijnissen of the Socialist Party (SP), Mirjam Bikker of the Christian Union (CU), and Laurens Dassen of Volt. The motion received 122 out of 150 votes in the parliament.

In addition to the motion, Westerveld submitted parliamentary questions regarding the Dutch government's global vaccination efforts. The parliamentary questions directed to the Dutch Minister of Health, Hugo de Jonge, and the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, aimed to clarify how the Dutch government will support COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, in its future goals.

Westerveld also asked de Jonge and Kaag if the Dutch government sees possibilities to encourage pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge through C-TAP and whether the Netherlands has already made plans to work with the Belgian government on the revocation of vaccine patents, as has been proposed by the Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation and the Belgian government.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Former UN Ambassador Samantha Power confirmed to head USAID, role to be elevated to US National Security Council

By a bipartisan vote, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power was confirmed as Administrator to the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The vote in the Senate was 68-26 and was met with enthusiasm from development groups and her new colleagues, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  

In a first for a USAID Administrator, her role will be elevated to be a part of the US National Security Council.

Power addressed her priorities in her confirmation hearing in March 2021, saying that she would aim to enhance USAID's work addressing food security, education, gender equality, global health, as well as the "interconnected and gargantuan" current global issues of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate emergency, state collapse, and "democratic backsliding",

News article - CNN

US to send US$100 million in COVID-19 assistance to India

As India continued to break new COVID-19 case records, the US agreed to send US$100 million in pandemic-related assistance.

The shipments included 15 million N95 masks, one million rapid diagnostic tests, and 1,100 refillable oxygen cylinders, in addition to therapeutics and vaccine manufacturing supplies.

The federal supplies will also be supplemented by deliveries from states, private companies, and non-profits to help India address its spiking pandemic needs.

The US announced last week that it would start sharing its AstraZeneca vaccines with other countries, including India, as soon as the US Food and Drug Administration had granted emergency approval for the vaccine. 

News article - Axios

Press release - The White House

Sweden strengthens support for UN Peacebuilding Fund

On April 28, 2021, the Swedish government adopted its first strategy for Sweden’s cooperation with the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), focusing primarily on gender equality, climate, and conflict prevention.

Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation, stressed the importance of not only providing support when conflict arises but also working to prevent conflict and staying after conflict has ended to ensure continued peace.

Sweden has contributed more than SEK 235 million (US$28 million) to the PBF for its work in countries such as Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Papua New Guinea, and Somalia, and it is as such one of the largest donors to the Fund.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

EU to sign deal for 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines with more flexibility for dose donations

The EU is set to sign a new deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, which will provide more flexibility for the EU to resell or donate doses. 

While the deal is set to help provide for different scenarios in which the EU would require more vaccine doses, such as if booster shots are needed or for vaccinating children, it will also enable the EU to engage more in ‘vaccine diplomacy’ through donating doses to low- and middle-income countries with lower access to vaccines.

The European Commission has said it will create a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help facilitate donations from EU member states. 

News article - The New York Times

Spanish Development Council calls for modernizing Spain’s development assistance system

On April 28, 2021, a plenary meeting was held by the Development Cooperation Council, a consultive body that is chaired by the Spanish foreign ministry's (MAUC) State Secretary for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, and is composed of government officials, civil society representatives, and development cooperation experts.

The Council reviewed Spain’s development priorities for 2021 and reiterated the current government’s aim to increase official development assistance (ODA) to 0.5% of the gross national income (GNI) by 2023. It also called for a deep reform of Spain’s development infrastructure to adapt it to the "new multilateral order of Sustainable Development" and to develop more effective decision-making procedures.

The Council validated the initiative of a new law for sustainable development, which would be approved by the Spanish parliament by the end of 2021.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

As infections spike, Norway allocates US$2 million to India for COVID-19 response

Norway has allocated NOK 20 million (US$2 million) to India to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, given through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The current infection spike in India has resulted in some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases per day and COVID-19-related deaths. The health system is under immense pressure, and the country has asked the international community for assistance to get control of the situation.

While the WHO plays an essential role in distributing medical equipment to support an effective response to the current crisis, the Red Cross helps local communities across India with managing emergency response centers, ambulance services with oxygen facilities, information campaigns, hygiene packs, and protective equipment. 

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) partnership has also chosen to establish a COVID-19 Oxygen Emergency Taskforce. The partnership is co-chaired by Norway, and the aim of the newly launched taskforce is to ensure access to oxygen supplies in low-income countries.

Several stakeholders, such as Unitaid and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are involved in the taskforce. The Global Fund has, through its COVID-19 Response Mechanism, given over US$11 million to the taskforce to finance oxygen products. Norway has invested NOK 286 million (US$34 million) in the COVID-19 Response Mechanism.  

Press release - The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press release - The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Canada commits US$8 million in humanitarian assistance to India

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced CA$10 million (US$8 million) in humanitarian assistance funding to support India's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, following infection numbers drastically spiking in the country.

This funding will go to the Canadian Red Cross, which will help India's Red Cross procure medicines and supplies, including oxygen cylinders for health centers and ambulances.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

European Parliament adopts 2021-2027 EU research program, Horizon Europe, with strong focus on health, climate crisis, digitalization

The European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to adopt Horizon Europe, the EU’s new €95.5 billion (US$113.6 billion) research program for 2021-2027, which has a strong focus on research and innovation for global challenges like the climate emergency, digitalization, and the COVID-19 crisis. 

Horizon Europe consists of three pillars:

  1. Excellent Science;
  2. Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness; and
  3. Innovative Europe.

The program has applied since January 1, 2021, when it was provisionally put in place by the European Commission. 

Press release - European Parliament

Australia to supply COVID-19 equipment, PPE to India

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has announced that Australia will provide emergency supplies to India to help its COVID-19 response following the recent spike of infections in the country.

500 ventilators will be initially provided, with a capacity to eventually deploy 3,000. Personal protective equipment (PPE), including one million surgical masks and 500,000 other protective masks, will be supplied.

Australia is also procuring 100 oxygen concentrators for use by India.

Press release - Foreign Minister for Australia