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Influential US senator calls for reengagement in global health through COVAX Facility, WHO

US Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware and a close ally of President-elect Joe Biden, called for the US to reengage in the global effort to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, including global vaccine development and distribution.

Coons, who is among those thought to be in the running for Secretary of State in Biden's administration, called on the US to "lead by example" to reverse the harm that the Trump administration has done to its nation's standing in the world.

The steps that Coon recommended the Biden administration should take include joining the COVAX Facility to support vaccine procurement and equitable distribution, as well as rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO), from which the Trump administration announced its withdrawal.

He also addressed the need to rebuild US capacities around global health security and surveillance, as well as to elevate global health within the US national security operations.

News article - Devex

Spanish NGOs propose amendments to government’s 2021 budget bill

The Spanish development NGO umbrella organization ‘La Coordinadora’ published a position paper with proposals and symbolic amendments to increase development spending in the general state budget bill for 2021.

Among other measures, La Coordinadora proposes to increase the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation's (AECID) budget by €230 million (US$271 million) and to reduce that amount from the Ministry of Defense's budget.

Spain’s 2021 budget bill is currently being discussed at the Congress of Deputies. Before its final approval by the beginning of 2021, parliamentary groups can present concrete amendments to influence specific budgetary envelopes such as development spending.

Press release – La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

UK’s 0.7% development assistance commitment could be put on hold or legally changed

According to the Daily Express, a UK tabloid newspaper, this week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold discussions with his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, about the future of the UK’s commitment to provide 0.7% of its gross national income on international development.

It is reported that Sunak is keen to put the commitment on hold, given the constrained public finances and the poor economic growth in the UK this year as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This will require changing the law, as the UK has made its 0.7% commitment legally binding.

Other options on the table that are likely to be discussed by Johnson and Sunak include redefining what the UK spends as international assistance, or suspending the target due to the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and its profound impact on the UK economy and public finances.

The discussions come ahead of the UK Treasury’s forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review announcement due on November 26, 2020, which will set the budgets for all government departments for 2021-2022.

News article - Daily Express

Australia announces support package for Southeast Asian and Pacific recovery, including US$165 million for Mekong region

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a range of measures to assist the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit held virtually in November 2020.

The new measures include providing:

  • A$232 million (US$165 million) to the Mekong region for economic development and integration;
  • A$70 million (US$50 million) for ASEAN's infrastructure development and technical assistance;
  • A$65 million (US$46 million) for the sustainable development of marine resources; 
  • A$46 million (US$33 million) for additional capacity building to support the implementation of both the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the ASEAN-Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement; and
  • A$21 million (US$14 million) to the recently-launched ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, as part of Australia's recent A$500 million (US$356 million) commitment to support access to COVID-19 vaccines in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Press release - Prime Minister of Australia

Influential group of UK Conservative parliamentarians call for development budget focus on liberal values, human rights

An influential group of UK Conservative members of parliament, the One Nation Caucus, which represents a third of all Conservative Party parliamentary members, has released a new report on reforming the UK’s approach to international development.

The report makes several recommendations including calling for the UK to shift the focus of its development budget away from exclusively focusing on poverty reduction to also supporting liberal values and human rights.

The report also calls on the UK to maintain its commitment to spending 0.7% of its gross national income on official development assistance (ODA), but it recommends that the annual target become a multi-year target over a rolling period, to enable greater spending stability and to avoid departments feeling compelled to spend at the end of the year to meet the commitment. 

Other recommendations include:

  • Continuing to focus UK development assistance on fragility, girls’ education, and gender equality;
  • Continuing to work to change the international rules that govern what can be spent on ODA to enable more activities that support peace-keeping;
  • Appointing a deputy Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) minister that would be responsible for international development policy and attend the Cabinet;
  • Maintaining the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (an independent public body that scrutinizes UK ODA spending); and
  • Seeking to create an international development alliance with like-minded nations such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to boost cooperation on shared development assistance priorities.

Report - One Nation Conservatives

News article - The Telegraph

News article - Conservative Home

Research and development of COVID-19 tools shouldn't count as ODA, says UK parliamentary report; disagreement sparks over international ODA rules

A new report by the UK parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC) on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries has called on the UK government to ensure that its finite official development assistance (ODA) budget is not used to support the general research and development (R&D) of COVID-19 tools which benefit all countries, and to rather reserve the ODA for supporting the distribution of tools to low-income countries and tackling the secondary impacts of the pandemic.  

This call is in line with the current international rules on ODA spending, set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which say that COVID-19 spending from the ODA budget must be on items that disproportionately support low-income countries and do not provide global public goods for all. However, the report stated that "not all members agreed with the Secretariat’s interpretation of the rules in this instance," and the rules could be changed this month, depending on what OECD DAC members agree to.

The IDC report noted that, to date, the UK has spent around £310 million (US$401 million) of the UK development assistance budget on R&D for COVID-19 tools so far, but the IDC can not yet tell whether or not this spending had breached the rules.

Press release - Devex

Report - UK Parliament

German Federal Cabinet nominates Development Minister Müller as German candidate for UNIDO Director-General position

The German Federal Cabinet has nominated Development Minister Gerd Müller as the German candidate for the Director-General position of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The application process has just started, with the election taking place in November 2021.

UNIDO’s mission is to promote and accelerate industrial development to diminish poverty, ensure inclusive globalization, and work towards environmental sustainability. According to the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), UNIDO is an important partner for Germany in creating new jobs in low-income countries – a goal that has become an increased focus of Germany’s development policy over the last years, including with the 'Training and Employment Special Initiative' (which supports European and African companies and investors be more engaged in Ethiopia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal and Tunisia).

In September 2020, Development Minister Müller had announced that he would not run in the upcoming federal election in October 2021 anymore but rather withdraw from federal politics after the end of the parliamentary term. 

Press release - BMZ (in German)

UK’s Blue Belt Programme helps UK to exceed ocean protection target

The UK government announced that it has exceeded its target of protecting more than four million square kilometres of some of the world’s "most precious marine environment" (one percent of the world’s oceans).

This achievement is thanks to the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, a £27 million (US$35 million) development assistance funded program which is part of the 'Conflict, Stability and Security Fund', which aims to safeguard the biodiversity and ecosystems of some of the remotest places on Earth by providing funding to UK overseas territories and international organizations.

The announcement follows the announcement by Tristan da Cunha, a UK overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean, of a new 'Marine Protection Zone' around its waters.

The UK will be hosting the UN COP26 climate conference in 2021 and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called upon his fellow world leaders to join the UK in acting further to protect the planet’s oceans ahead of COP26.

Press release - UK government

Australian government to provide Indonesia with US$1.0 billion loan to address COVID-19-linked recession

Australia's Treasurer Josh Freydenderg, together with Indonesia’s Finance Minister Shri Muliyani Indrawati, announced that Australia would provide Indonesia with a A$1.5 billion (US$1.0 billion) loan as Indonesia experiences its first recession in 22 years.

Indonesia’s budget has decreased by almost 3.5% in the third quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. There has been a strong capital outflow and a dramatic reduction in tourism revenue.

The terms and conditions of the loan have not been announced, but the loan is not from official development assistance (ODA) resources. ODA to Indonesia has fallen by over 50% in the past five years.

News article - ABC News

Public development banks support achievement of SDGs through US$4.0 billion to African MSMEs, launch of IDFC Climate Fund, statement on gender equality

The Finance in Common Summit, an international forum mobilizing 450 public development banks which took place between November 9-12, 2020, resulted in a series of announcements aiming to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in line with the Paris Agreement for action against the climate crisis. 

The Summit, convened by the World Federation of Development Finance Institutions (WFDFI) and the International Development Finance Club (IDFC), took place in the framework of the Paris Peace Forum, an annual event initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron to mobilize global governance.

Major announcements included:

  • The official launch of the IDFC Climate Fund (initiated at the COP25 climate conference in 2019) and a strategic partnership with the Green Climate Fund (GCF);
  • Pledges made by public development banks to allocate US$4.0 billion to "micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa" by the end of 2021; and
  • The adoption of a joint statement on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment signed by 24 international, regional, and national public development banks.

Press release - The French Development Agency

Statements - Finance in Common

EU to contribute additional US$118 million in grants to COVAX Facility for global COVID-19 vaccine access

European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, announced during a session of the Paris Peace Forum (an annual event with the theme this year to improve global health governance and green financing) that the EU will be contributing an additional €100 million (US$118 million) to the COVAX Facility, a global mechanism to equitably source and distribute COVID-19 vaccines.

This is on top of a previous EU contribution to the COVAX Facility of €400 million (US$471 million) in guarantees in August 2020.

COVAX, which is run by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), is part of the ‘vaccine pillar’ of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to develop, manufacture, and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

The EU’s contributions will help to finance access to vaccines for lower- and middle-income countries that are unable to self-finance. The funding will come from the European Development Fund’s reserves and will go directly to Gavi.
Press release - European Commission

OECD review praises UK's "depth and breadth of expertise" on international development

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released its 2020 development cooperation peer review of the UK, praising it, for its "depth and breadth of expertise" on international development.

It also praises the UK for its strong focus on poverty and fragility, its steadfast championing of gender equality and women’s empowerment, its solid support for meeting its international commitment to deliver 0.7% of its gross national income as official development assistance (ODA), as well as its evidence-based approach to stability, inclusion, and prosperity.

The report recommends that, moving forward, the UK should:

  • Expand its range of financial instruments so it can blend ODA and non-ODA together to "ensure that responses to complex challenges are problem-driven and flexible while remaining focused on agreed longer-term objectives";
  • Develop a new comprehensive vision for international development cooperation to guide resource allocations in the future; and
  • Put in place better systems for risk-based management of development cooperation programs to enable staff, where appropriate, to take higher risks to deliver higher impact.

The report was written prior to the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to become the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Report - OECD

Spain announces US$59 million pledged to Gavi in June will go exclusively to COVAX AMC

While virtually attending the November 2020 Paris Peace Forum (an annual meeting to improve global governance), Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that the €50 million (US$59 million) that Spain pledged to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in June 2020 will be entirely funneled into the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) for increased COVID-19 vaccine access for low- and middle-income countries.

During his speech, Sánchez underlined the importance of developing new vaccines to effectively tackle the COVID-19 crisis. He also reminded audiences that vaccines for HIV and malaria have not yet been developed, and he stated that international cooperation and multilateralism should be strengthened in order to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

Japan pledges US$1 million for COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund, support for ongoing US$19.0 billion 'Japan-ASEAN Connectivity Initiative'

Japan announced that it will cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to fight the COVID-19 crisis by strengthening supply chains and utilizing digital technology. Japan additionally pledged US$1 million to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund for regional support.

Japan stated that it will support hard and soft infrastructure development in ASEAN's ongoing ¥2.00 trillion (US$19.0 billion) 'Japan-ASEAN Connectivity Initiative' (which includes building transnational land, sea, and air corridors to increase access and trade), as well as human resource development for 1,000 individuals over the next three years.

Japan also emphasized its goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 and its desire to work with ASEAN countries to further reduce emissions.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Joint statement - ASEAN-Japan Summit

Members of Dutch parliament propose motion to bring foreign policy instruments in line with Paris climate agreement

On November 12, 2020, Dutch members of parliament (MPs) Bram van Ojik (Green Party) and Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (D66) submitted a motion calling on the government to bring all instruments of foreign policy and diplomacy fully in line with the Paris Agreement's objectives to address the climate crisis, as well as calling on the government to inform the parliament about these efforts and the results.

The submission of the motion followed the debates on the 2021 foreign affairs budget. The motion will be brought to a vote on November 17, 2020.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

South Korean president announces updated policy for stronger partnership with Southeast Asia

South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled the New Southern Policy Plus at the 21st Republic of Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held on November 12, 2020. This policy is an updated version of the New Southern Policy which aimed to build a stronger partnership with the ASEAN member states.

Under the goals of expanding people-to-people exchange, increasing trade, and enhancing trust as a key partner country, the seven core areas of cooperation are as follows:

  • Cooperate on comprehensive health and medicine post-COVID-19;
  • Support human resource development and share South Korea’s education model;
  • Promote mutual cultural exchange;
  • Establish the foundation for mutually beneficial and sustainable trade investment;
  • Support infrastructural development of rural and urban areas;
  • Cooperate on future industries for mutual prosperity; and
  • Cooperate in non-traditional security sectors.

Regarding health, South Korea will not only increase the amount of official development assistance (ODA) on health but will also support the fundamental strengthening of health and medical systems over the long term.

News article – Chosun Biz (in Korean)

European ministers, parliamentarians call on European Commission to include gender equality in EU trade policy review

European ministers, including Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Sigrid Kaag, as well as members of the European Parliament (MEPs), sent a joint letter to the European Commission (EC) calling upon the EC to include gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in its trade policy review of the EU.

In the letter, the ministers and MEPs urge the EU to take immediate steps to fill the information gap about the interconnections between trade and gender. The letter also included eight measures to make the EU trade policy more gender-sensitive, ranging from reinforcing gender in all EU bilateral trade agreements, to encouraging international development programs that are targeted at gender-specific barriers.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands

European Commission presents plans for European Health Union developed based on COVID-19 lessons

The European Commission (EC) published a Communication on its plans to build a European Health Union, alongside three legislative proposals to address cross-border health threats, strengthen the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and extend the mandate of the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

While the EU does not have many health powers, given that health is considered a member state level competency, the EC has proposed new EU-level health mandates that would not require EU treaty changes (all health recommendations would be non-binding).

The plans to build a 'European Health Union' were developed based on the early lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, including that the EC’s response was hampered by weak EU health agencies and the lack of EU health policies and capabilities. The EC hopes that its plans will address the “gaps” in EU health powers to enable the EU to better lead and coordinate responses to future emergency health threats.

In order to strengthen the European Health Union, the plans propose that the ECDC provide recommendations on response measures and that the EU recognize emergencies and also provide advice on response measures. Further suggestions include:

  • A new EU Executive Steering Group on medical devices;
  • A permanent EMA emergency taskforce;
  • Strengthened EU clinical trials infrastructure;
  • The development and implementation of an EU health crisis preparedness and response plan;
  • ECDC epidemiological surveillance;
  • New European Health Data Space; and
  • The creation of a contact tracing technological system. 

The EC also plans to create an ‘EU BARDA’ modeled after the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), but the legislative proposal will not be presented until late 2021.

News article - Euractiv

Communication - European Commission

Cross-border health threats legislative proposal - European Commission

ECDC changes legislative proposal - European Commission

EMA changes legislative proposal - European Commission

European Commission reaches fourth deal on future COVID-19 vaccines with BioNTech and Pfizer

The European Commission signed its fourth contract to purchase 300 million doses of a future potential COVID-19 vaccine with the BioNTech-Pfizer alliance. This follows the companies’ recent announcement that their vaccine candidate has so far shown to have a 90% efficacy rate. However, exploratory talks for a deal had already been completed in September 2020.

The deal includes 200 million doses of BioNTech-Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, the option to purchase 100 million more, and the potential to donate doses to lower- and middle-income countries or to redirect to other European countries. This is BioNTech-Pfizer’s largest initial order of vaccine doses so far.

The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials. It will be manufactured in both Pfizer’s Belgian and BioNTech’s German production facilities.
The European Commission has also signed similar vaccine deals with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (Johnson & Johnson).
Press release - European Commission
Press release - Pfizer

South Korea’s National Assembly approves US$13 million increase for foreign ministry’s 2021 humanitarian assistance budget

The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of South Korea’s National Assembly approved the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' 2021 budget increase of KRW14.7 billion (US$13 million) for humanitarian assistance.

This was unanimously agreed by both ruling and opposition parties based on the mutual understanding that South Korea’s official development assistance (ODA) should increase to fit its national capacity in spite of domestic economic challenges.

In addition to the humanitarian assistance, the committee also approved KRW3.6 billion (US$3 million) for the New Northern Policy, KRW11.4 billion (US$10 million) for public-private partnerships, and KRW6.0 billion (US$5 million) for stronger diplomacy on climate change, energy, and the environment.

Press release – National Assembly (in Korean)