Displaying 41 - 60 of 6666

US ramps up sanctions on Myanmar following military coup

After formally designating the military takeover in Myanmar as a coup d'état, the US Biden administration took multiple steps to put pressure on the military to reverse course.

In addition to imposing financial sanctions on ten military leaders and three military-owned companies, the US diverted US$42 million in US foreign assistance from programs that benefit the government to those that "support and strengthen civil society". The US further reimposed export restrictions and froze US$1.0 billion of the Myanmar military's assets held in the US.

The Biden administration signaled that it would work with other "like-minded partners and allies" to put additional pressure on Myanmar and warned that further action would be taken if the peaceful protests encountered additional violence.

News article - ABC News

France's Macron calls for increased funding to ACT-A, emphasizing health systems strengthening in low-income nations

In a statement given on February 12, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated the need for the international community to provide equal access to vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and to reinforce health systems to tackle the COVID-19 crisis through the World Health Organization-led initiative, the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).

Macron reminded listeners that France took part in the launch of ACT-A and that France's contribution to the global response to COVID-19 amounted to 500 million (US$600 million) to date. (This amount includes financial resources that are not only directed to ACT-A.) 

After detailing each of the four pillars of ACT-A (vaccines, treatments, diagnostics, and health systems strengthening), Macron emphasized the need to focus on supporting health systems in low-income countries, a direction undertaken by the French Development Agency, which has already provided 1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion) on this front.

Press release - French Presidency (in French)

Despite Dutch government's efforts to boost assistance, Netherlands's ODA-GNI will likely decline after 2022 from COVID-19 fallout

On February 12, 2021, Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, responded to a parliamentary motion on returning to the target of 0.7% of the gross national income (GNI) for official development assistance (ODA).

Kaag confirmed that the current cabinet made extra resources available to reverse the declining trend in the ODA budget and contributed an extra €500 million (US$608 million) to the international fight against COVID-19. However, the government did adjust the GNI and the ODA budget to be lower from 2022 onwards due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.  

Kaag further stated that given the cabinet’s caretaker status, due to the resignation of the cabinet following a childcare benefit scandal, it can only point out the importance of maintaining a sufficient budget for development cooperation to respond to the effects of the COVID-19 and climate crises and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

Canada commits US$79 million to women impacted by COVID-19 crisis, opens call for proposals

Canada's Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, Maryam Monsef, has announced a call for proposals for the Feminist Response and Recovery Fund by March 25, 2021, "to fund eligible organizations to support a feminist response and recovery from the current impacts of COVID-19".

The Fund has dedicated CA$100 million (US$79 million) to support new projects that "increase women and girls' participation in Canada’s economic, social, democratic and political life".

Applications that specifically support marginalized or underrepresented women, including "Indigenous women, Black women, women of colour, women who are members of LGBTQ2 communities, and women living with disabilities or in rural or remote communities" will be given priority.

The Fund comprises three key focus areas:

  • Stopping gender-based violence;
  • Improving "economic security and prosperity" for women and girls; and
  • Promoting leadership roles for women and girls.

Press release - Women and Gender Equality Canada

UK provides support to Pakistan in fight against COVID-19; parliamentary committee opens inquiry into effectiveness of UK development assistance to Pakistan

The British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr. Christian Turner, has praised the UK’s support to Pakistan in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turner noted the indirect support the UK government has provided through its funding to the COVAX Facility, an international partnership aimed at resourcing the development and fair distribution of new vaccines, treatments, and tests. COVAX is providing Pakistan with 17 million doses of the UK-developed Oxford University-Astra-Zeneca vaccine in the coming months which will help to protect 9 million from the virus and has committed to providing a total of 45 million doses. The UK has provided £548 million (US$736 million) in development assistance to COVAX, along with a further £250 million (US$335 million) in match funding which raised US$1.0 billion in additional resources from other donors to the facility.

The UK has also provided £20 million (US$26 million) in additional development assistance to Pakistan to fight the pandemic, including funding the World Health Organization to build laboratory testing capacity through training and provision of equipment across Pakistan.

Pakistan has been the UK government’s largest bilateral country program for the last five years and has received an estimated £302 million (US$405 million) between 2019 and 2020 in development assistance. The UK parliamentary committee on International Development has opened an inquiry into the effectiveness of UK development policy to Pakistan which will look at strategic focus, value for money, and the degree to which assistance is focused on the most marginalized and vulnerable. The inquiry will also examine how UK development assistance has adapted to support the COVID-19 response in Pakistan. Written submissions to the inquiry need to be submitted by April 1, 2021.

Press release - UK government

News article - UK parliamentary committee on International Development

Sweden contributes additional US$12 million to promote access to COVID-19 vaccines in low-, middle-income countries

The Swedish government has decided to double its support for the global initiative COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) by providing an additional SEK 100 million (US$12 million) grant to make vaccines against COVID-19 available in low- and middle-income countries.

The COVAX initiative is aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and is led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization, among others. In early February, COVAX announced that vaccine doses will be delivered to 145 countries in the first half of 2021.

Sweden is a member of COVAX through the EU and the new grant is intended to benefit 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Publish What You Fund to release third working paper and webinar on development finance institutions' practices and transparency

Publish What You Fund (PWYF), a non-profit organization campaigning for development assistance transparency, has led the 'DFI Transparency Initiative' since November 2019 to analyze the use of public money by development finance institutions (DFIs) and will release its third working paper and webinar in February of 2021.

The initiative's goal is to develop recommendations for DFIs which the organization will use to advocate for increased transparency and policy change. Their research has been organized into five work streams that incorporate a consultative process with working groups to examine priority issues over several months. So far, the organization has released working papers and held webinars for 'Work Stream 1: Basic Project Information' and 'Work Stream 2: Impact Management – Objectives, Theories of Change & Impacts'. The final installment will be released around October 2021.

The working paper for 'Work Stream 3: ESG & Accountability to Communities' will be released a few days prior to its accompanying webinar, which will take place on February 11, 2021. It will focus on how DFIs measure and manage environmental, social, and governance (ESG) outcomes, as well as the transparency of accountability mechanisms including community consultations. 

Work Stream 1 outlined the initiative's "findings on basic project information transparency" and revealed "a trend towards improved transparency of basic project information by DFIs" with slightly more transparency from multilateral DFIs than from bilateral ones. Four elements were identified to develop a conceptual framework on the non-disclosure of information: administrative overburden; lack of universally compatible data fields for information sharing; definition uncertainty and non-standardization; and commercially sensitive information.

Work Stream 2 focused on 20 multilateral and bilateral DFIs, assessing their "use and disclosure of impact measurement practices". The paper found that many of the DFIs "rely heavily on ex-ante impact predictions" and rarely disclose these predictions. There was less disclosure of ex-post development results, and often these DFIs "lacked multi-year reporting, impact attribution, and disclosure of indicator definitions or methodologies".

Working paper (Work Stream 1) - PWYF

Working paper (Work Stream 2) - PWYF

Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management outlines results of Climate Adaptation Summit, creation of '1000 Cities Adapt Now' coalition

On February 11, 2021, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen-Wijbenga, informed the House of Representatives of the results of the Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands in late January. The global summit was dedicated to elevating climate adaptation on the international agenda and presenting concrete actions. 

New initiatives discussed include the mobilization of more resources to facilitate climate adaptation and the creation of a coalition, 1000 Cities Adapt Now (1000 CAN), aimed at cooperating with 1000 cities worldwide to adapt to climate change over the next ten years.

The Netherlands itself committed to training 30 climate-resilient infrastructure officers to improve local infrastructures.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

UK’s top international humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, announces departure

The UK’s highest international humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, who held the position of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the UN and is in charge of the Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has announced he is standing down from his post in the coming months in order to spend more time with his family in the UK.

OCHA had an income of approximately US$280 million in 2019 and was responsible for programming US$1.5 billion in pooled donor funds in 2020.

Lowcock is the fourth Briton to have held the post in the last 14 years as a result of a controversial informal quota system within the UN, which allows certain countries to hang on to key posts. A successor has yet to announced.

News article - The New Humanitarian

20+ German NGOs call on BioNTech, CureVac to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines

In a joint letter, a German alliance of more than 20 NGOs has called on the German pharmaceutical companies BioNTech and CureVac to make the COVID-19 vaccine they developed available globally in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices.

The NGO alliance urged the companies to temporarily waive the patents to make the knowledge and technologies available to other companies during the pandemic – preferably via the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-Tap). The companies should provide transparency regarding clinical test data and manufacturing costs, the alliance posited, and share portions of the COVID-19 vaccine doses they produce with low- and middle-income countries to ensure equitable access and fair distribution globally.

Given that both companies had received federal funding of several hundred million euros for COVID-19 vaccine development, the companies are now responsible for providing people worldwide access to the vaccines, the NGOs argued in the letter, and thus the companies should explain what specific measures they are planning to take regarding the aspects of transparency, affordability, licensing, technology transfer, and fair access to meet this obligation.

Through the €750 million (US$913 million) COVID-19 vaccine development program of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, CureVac and BioNTech had received €230 million (US$280 million) and €375 million (US$456 million), respectively, in 2020. The vaccine developed by BioNTech and its US partner company Pfizer is already being used in numerous countries, including Germany, while the CureVac vaccine is not approved yet.

Press release – Ärzte ohne Grenzen (letter to CureVac, in German)

Press release – Ärzte ohne Grenzen (letter to BioNTech, in German)

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

European Commission President calls for increased EU solidarity with low-income countries through COVID-19 vaccine access

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke to the European Parliament on the EU’s COVID-19 response, including calling for solidarity with EU partners across the world by supporting access to vaccines for lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Von der Leyen highlighted the importance of the COVAX Facility, which is working to ensure global equitable access to vaccines, especially through high-income countries helping to finance access to vaccines in LMICs. She called for increased support from 'Team Europe' for COVAX, which has already provided €850 million (US$1.0 billion), making it COVAX’s biggest contributor.

She also emphasized that ensuring global access was in the EU's best interests to reduce the likelihood of mutations causing new virus variants that could be more resistant to vaccines. 

Video - European Commission

COVAX Facility to provide early vaccine delivery to Pacific

Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, said he expected initial vaccine deliveries to the Pacific to be through the COVAX Facility, which should commence shortly, and later vaccine stocks will be provided by Australia.

He indicated that Australia's assistance to the Pacific was not just through the procurement of vaccines but also through the strengthening of health systems, communications, workforce training, and logistics.

Seselja said that there was a strong moral case, as well as economic, for Australia to provide these vaccines. Australia, New Zealand, France, and the US are all likely to assist the provision of vaccinations in parts of the Pacific.

Transcript - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Japan provides US$4 million to support women in refugee camps in Kenya

Japan has provided ¥485 million (US$4 million) to support women in refugee camps in Kenya.

Refugees, especially women, in Kenya are at increased risk of violence from Al-Shaabab, a militant group based in Somalia and designated a foreign terrorist organization by the US in 2008. The refugees are also threatened by natural disasters, such as droughts and floods.

Japan will work with UN Women to provide vocational training and to protect survivors of sexual violence. This initiative aims to empower women and improve security.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

NGOs call for increased transparency of Dutch development bank 

A new report by the International Accountability Project and the Foundation for the Development of Sustainable Policies investigated the degree of transparency of the Dutch development bank FMO (Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden N.V.), involving investments between January 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020.

The report was signed by 28 NGOs, including Oxfam Novib and Both Ends, which fight for social and environmental justice.   

The report urged the FMO to be more transparent about the negative effects of proposed investments on people and the environment and to better involve the impacted communities in the decision-making process.

Press release - Oxfam Novib (in Dutch) 

German budget committee to consider additional US$1.8 billion in funding to ACT-A for vaccine access in low-income countries

According to the Reuters news agency, the German government wants to provide an additional €1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion) in funding to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global initiative to ensure affordable and equitable access for all to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

While the government has not officially announced the funding provision yet, the information is based on a submission by the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF) to the German Budget Committee, which is available to Reuters.

According to the submission, of this €1.5 billion (US$1.8 billion), the BMF plans to channel €620 million (US$754 million) to the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines and another €100 million (US$122 million) to the provision of vaccines for humanitarian purposes, among others. Further funding shall be channeled to vaccine research, therapeutics, diagnostics, and the strengthening of health systems.

The Budget Committee has to approve the BMF’s funding request.

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

News article – Tagesspiegel (in German; with paywall)

ACT-A Facilitation Council announces funding gap of US$27.2 billion, asks countries not to compete with COVAX vaccine contracts

The Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) had its fourth meeting on February 9, 2021, to discuss its 2021 agenda and needs, including closing the funding gap of US$27.2 billion for 2021.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, co-hosted and began his introductory remarks by welcoming the newly-joined US under President Joe Biden to ACT-A. 

Ghebreyesus stressed that more than 90% of countries currently administering COVID-19 vaccines are wealthy, and 75% of all doses given have been given in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries, he said, have not administered a single dose.

ACT-A and the COVAX Facility were created as part of global efforts coordinated by the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, among others, in order to increase access to vaccines and promote vaccine equity internationally, and these goals are being threatened, said Ghebreyesus.

He called for:

  1. Full financing of ACT-A and COVAX: The financing gap is at more than US$27.2 billion for 2021. He called on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing and to unlock capital in multilateral development banks to help close the gap.
  2. Respect for COVAX contracts from all countries and a non-competition commitment: He referred here to countries who continue to sign bilateral vaccine deals while many nations have no vaccine doses at all. Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO's goal that the vaccination of health workers should be in progress in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021, which means that countries with more doses need to share and donate doses before going on to vaccinate their lower-risk populations. He warned that if COVID-19 is not suppressed globally, that variants of the virus could result in the world "back at square one".
  3. An urgent increase in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines: This could include "innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks".

Experts have warned that all countries need to take an "internationalist", not nationalist, approach to vaccination rollout and tacking COVID-19, otherwise experts fear that some low-income countries may not receive vaccines until 2024.

Visuals from the 'ACT-A Prioritized Strategy & Budget for 2021' presentation illustrate the contributors of a total of US$6.0 billion to ACT-A, as of February 3, and the breakdown of the US$27.2 billion needed for 2021. According to an update as of February 12, ACT-A has an additional US$4.0 billion in projected funding, so the US$27.2 billion funding gap "will be reduced to US$23.2 billion as projected funds are operationalized."

Transcript - WHO

Event website - WHO

Japan contributes additional US$70 million for distribution of vaccines to low-, middle-income countries

During the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council meeting, Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan will provide an additional US$70 million from the amount committed in October 2020, making the total US$200 million, to the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), a financing instrument to support low- and middle-income countries access COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Motegi emphasized the importance of strengthening international collaboration and achieving universal healthcare coverage. Motegi also stated that Japan will strengthen health systems through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and promote the distribution of therapeutic drugs through Unitaid.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Norway allocates US$57 million to global health research

The Norwegian government will channel NOK500 million (US$57 million) to global health research through the Norwegian Research Council over the next ten years.

This newly announced funding will be aimed at reducing challenges related to universal health care and strengthening systems for primary health services in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The long-term funding also aims to reduce the gap between research and practice and to make it easier to ensure that the relevant research is taking part in the outline of new policies. 

Since the early 2000s, Norway has increased its research efforts to provide good health services, combat infectious diseases, and prevent deaths among mothers and children in partner countries. The Norwegian Research Council's initiatives have been essential in this work. 

Press release - The Norwegian Research Council (in Norwegian)

Australia reviews foreign assistance to Myanmar following military coup

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Marise Payne, announced that the Australian government was reviewing its official development assistance (ODA) to Myanmar, including vaccine doses.

This announcement followed the recent news of the military coup in Myanmar and the arrest of an Australian economic adviser, Sean Turnell, to the deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Other political figures were detained during the coup, and it seems that Turnell was the only foreigner detained so far.

Payne said Australia was also reviewing its education and training programs with the Myanmar military.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald

Biggest EU parliamentary political group calls for scaling up COVID-19 vaccine production for African continent, low-income countries

The European People’s Party (EPP) political group in the European Parliament released a ten-point proposal for a joint European COVID-19 vaccine strategy, which includes a call for the EU to coordinate with the World Health Organization and the African Union to build and scale up vaccine production for the African continent and low-income countries. 

The center-right EPP, the largest political group in the Parliament, is urging the EU to do “whatever it takes” through a €10.0 billion (US$12.2 billion) investment to scale up vaccine production.

Its plan emphasizes the need to prevent new mutations causing vaccine-resistant virus variants in the EU’s neighborhood.

Strategy document - EPP Group