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At OECD DAC meeting, South Korea shares commitments to greener recovery from COVID-19 crisis

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea attended the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee's (DAC) high-level meeting and shared its three contributions for global environmentally-minded recovery from the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Promote technology and innovation that is resilient and environmentally-friendly to the changing development cooperation landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Mobilize private finance and innovative development finance to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including action against the climate crisis; and
  • Propose a partnership that values ownership and capacity of partner countries based on the principles of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), the "primary multi-stakeholder vehicle for driving development effectiveness".

South Korea's focus on the environment and climate change is also reflected in its hosting of the P4G Summit next year and its Korean New Deal, a domestic economic strategy centering around digital and green sectors.

South Korea also mentioned that it has so far provided over US$510 million in official development assistance (ODA) against the COVID-19 crisis and that in October 2020 it pledged US$10 million to COVAX AMC (COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment) to support vaccine access to lower-income countries.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

Norway allocates US$133 million to combat non-communicable diseases in low-income countries

Minister of International Development Dag Inge Ulstein announced that Norway, from 2020 to 2024, will contribute an additional US$133 million to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases in low-income countries.

The government is following its 'Better Health, Better Lives' strategy, announced by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2019. Ulstein emphasized that this funding is important in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, as the risk of getting seriously ill from the virus increases when one has underlying conditions.

There is an overall need to strengthen health systems in low-income countries. Non-communicable diseases receive only 1-2% of overall global health-related development assistance funding. This increases the funding gap for the most vulnerable. According to the Norwegian government's press release, Norway is the first donor country with a strategy focusing on non-communicable diseases in low-income countries. 

Press release - Norwegian government 

Trump's global gag rule has damaged fragile health systems worldwide, affected US$9.0 billion of US global health funding

US President Donald Trump imposed the most stringent version of the 'global gag rule' of any US president, causing a profound effect on fragile health systems around the world. Trump's expanded anti-abortion restrictions have affected US$9.0 billion of US global health funding, extending far beyond abortion funding to include funding for other health issues such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and water sanitation. 

By comparison, President George W. Bush's rule applied to about US$600 million in health funding. 

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged that on the first day of his presidency, he will reverse the rule in its entirety, but development assistance experts worry that the damage done by the Trump administration has permanently disrupted the provision of health services among the most fragile systems.

News article - Kaiser Health News

European Parliament and Council presidency reach agreement on next EU long-term budget with US$17.7 billion additional funding for development, health, research

European Parliament (EP) negotiators and the German presidency of the Council of the EU have struck a political agreement on the next EU long-term budget that provides €15.0 billion (US$17.7 billion) in additional funding for flagship programs such as health, research, and education and €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) more in flexibility funding for future needs and crises. 

These changes would apply to the €1.80 trillion (US$2.10 trillion) deal struck by EU leaders in their July European Council meeting that included €1.07 trillion (US$1.26 trillion) for the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF) and €750.0 billion (US$882.8 billion) for the EU recovery fund, Next Generation EU.

The additional €16.0 billion (US$18.8 billion) in the compromise agreement for flexibility and targeted programs will be funded via revenue from competition fines (€12.5 billion, or US$14.7 billion) and reallocations (€2.5 billion, or US$2.9 billion).

Increases to program funding in the compromise deal from the EU leaders’ July deal include: 

  • €4.0 billion (US$4.7 billion) increase for the Horizon Europe research program’s health, climate, and digital research for a final program budget of €84.9 billion (US$99.9 billion);
  • €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion) increase for the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) for a total budget of €71.8 billion (US$84.5 billion); and
  • €3.4 billion (US$4.0 billion) increase for the new EU4Health program, tripling the total to €5.1 billion (US$6.0 billion).

The EP-Council presidency agreement also includes a roadmap to introduce new sources of 'own resources' (additional revenue streams) in addition to the planned plastics levy, including a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a digital levy, a financial transaction tax (FTT), and a common corporate tax base. The EP also successfully negotiated the ability to have more budgetary scrutiny over Next Generation EU and increased ambition on biodiversity.

The deal will need to be approved by the whole European Parliament and unanimously adopted by the Council of the EU. The Council must also approve the Own Resources Decision that will enable the EU to begin borrowing funding for Next Generation EU, and then the Own Resources Decision will need to be ratified in the 27 member states’ national parliaments. Following this, negotiations will need to be finalized on the legislative files establishing the various EU programs.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to veto the MFF and Next Generation EU over his objection to a new mechanism linking EU funding to the rule of law. Other member states have threatened to veto if the rule-of-law mechanism is not approved. 

News article - Politico

News article - Science|Business

Press release - Council of the EU

Press release - European Parliament

US Senate foreign assistance bill holds funding at steady levels but omits COVID-19 funding

The US Senate Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2021 spending bill, which included US$55.2 billion for US foreign assistance. The overall levels were essentially the same as proposed by the Senate in the previous year and rejected the significant cuts proposed by US President Donald Trump.

However, the bill—unlike its companion from the US House of Representatives which provided an extra US$10.0 billion for global health—does not include any emergency global COVID-19 funding. While the final bill may contain some global pandemic response funding, the outcome is unclear. 

Other differences between the House and Senate bills include US$805 million for family planning in the House bill and US$461 million in the Senate bill. There are also different approaches to funding for the new US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), with the Senate providing US$821 million and the House providing US$311 million.

Development advocates have expressed concern around how the DFC's equity investments are scored; they say that rather than fixing the scoring issue, the Senate has simply appropriated more resources for the DFC which may come at the expense of other development priorities. 

News article - Devex

Spain leads global joint statement to strengthen multilateralism

On November 10, 2020, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez hosted a high-level meeting in Madrid to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the UN. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and heads of state and government from Sweden, Canada, South Korea, Costa Rica, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Jordan, and Senegal virtually participated in this event. 

This group of donor and partner countries convened to publish the call to action ‘Joint Statement: Reinforcing Multilateralism Together', with the ambition of reinforcing multilateral institutions, advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and taking concrete measures to address global challenges in key areas such as global health, climate change, gender equality, and digitalization.

This initiative will be shared with other countries to actively mobilize the international community around the following goals:

  • Reduce inequality and leave no one behind;
  • Improve conditions for health, health preparedness, and effectiveness of global health systems;
  • Protect our planet;
  • Promote peace, security, and justice;
  • Defend human rights, democracy, and gender equality;
  • Take "advantage of the digital revolution"; and
  • Ensure sustainable financing.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

UN adopts resolution promoted by Spain to protect women and girls through COVID-19 response; US disassociates from sexual and reproductive health phrases

On November 10, 2020, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) adopted a resolution with the goal of placing women and girls at the heart of the global response against the COVID-19 crisis and recovery.

Presented and promoted by Spain, and including more than 80 country co-sponsors, this UN resolution claims to guarantee that the COVID-19 crisis will not disproportionally affect women’s and girls' rights and quality of life. Among other topics, it includes specific references to women's rights to influence the pandemic response, the need to keep working to effectively end gender-based violence, the importance of advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the value of front-line women providing health and care services, the role of civil society organizations, and the right to quality education for everyone.

The US Mission to the UN, which presented several amendments to the draft resolution that were not approved by the UN General Assembly, published a statement disassociating itself from the paragraphs mentioning terms such as “sexual and reproductive health” and “sexual and reproductive health-care services”, due to what it sees as "the promotion of abortion or a right to abortion that are unacceptable to our Administration".

Press release – Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEUEC)

Meeting coverage – United Nations

Statement – US Mission to the UN

Japan provides US$9 million to prevent pediatric infections in Afghanistan

Japan has agreed to provide ¥940 million (US$9 million) to strengthen the prevention of pediatric infections in Afghanistan, which will provide polio vaccines for approximately one million children under the age of one and for three million women in their reproductive years.

In 2018, the mortality rate for children under five years old was 62 per 1000 births in Afghanistan. 27% of these deaths were caused by infectious diseases. The implementation of routine vaccinations will decrease the number of infectious diseases in children and women throughout Afghanistan.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Canada announces 10-year international development priorities, actions to advance SDGs

In an address made to the Canadian International Council, Karina Gould, Canada's Minister of International Development, outlined Canada's top international development priorities for the next decade. 

Canada will continue to work to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and "reshape the international order" to better support the "world’s most vulnerable people" through: 

  1. Continuing to take a feminist approach;
  2. Leading in global health to develop an approach that "delivers for everyone";
  3. Taking ownership over what Canada can do to fight the climate crisis; and
  4. Focusing efforts on democratic governance, transparency, and accountability to uphold human rights, civil liberties, freedom of expression, and a free press.

Transcript - Global Affairs Canada

German Health Minister calls for WHO funding reform after repeated financing challenges

At the 73rd World Health Assembly on November 9, 2020, German Health Minister Jens Spahn, speaking on behalf of the EU, outlined the need to strengthen the World Health Organization's (WHO's) mandate and ensure more sustainable funding in the future.

According to Spahn, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the “gap between WHO’s 194 member state expectations and requests vis-à-vis the organization and its de-facto capacities to fulfill them.” The WHO member state fees would be too little to provide the WHO with the adequate funding to fulfill its mandated role, he said.

Therefore, the EU member states have already kicked off internal discussions to define a potential WHO reform agenda. Further, Germany wants to put the topic of new avenues of sustainable financing on the agenda of the WHO’s 148th board meeting, planned for January 2021.

Emphasizing that Germany would be ready to delve into all possible options to strengthen the WHO, Spahn stated that this would only be possible if all 194 WHO members are willing to increase their financial contribution. 

News article – Devex

News article – Health Policy Watch

2020 Principled Aid Index reveals decline in donor scores, higher focus on national interests

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) released its 2020 Principled Aid Index, which measures how foreign assistance is spent, and the research has found that donors are increasingly spending their assistance on short-term national interests.

The Index measures "the balance 29 bilateral donors strike between advancing the values of global solidarity and protecting their national interests" according to their development assistance spending over the last five years.

The Index weighs the following three criteria:

  1. Development gaps: The assistance is aimed at addressing critical vulnerabilities and inequalities;
  2. Global cooperation: The assistance is given to channels/activities that address shared challenges; and
  3. Public spiritedness: The assistance allocation maximizes opportunities to have positive impacts with fewer domestic gains as an indirect result.

Nilima Gulrajani, co-author of the report, pointed out that all donors "are doing poorly but highly ranked countries had their score decline more than the worst scorers." While Ireland had the highest score overall and in 'public spiritedness', its score decreased from previous years for all three criteria.

The ODI commented that bilateral donors' fragmented response to the COVID-19 crisis coincides with the Index's downward trajectory. This is due to donor countries first providing their citizens with assistance before helping others, which Gulrajani likened to first securing one's own oxygen mask in an airplane and added, "While perhaps an understandable first response, donors must now urgently look to assist others in need."

Looking towards the next steps, the report suggested that donors must now seriously address the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis beyond their own borders and aim for a 'principled recovery', in order to reduce both global and local challenges.

Report - ODI

Press release - ODI

News article - Devex

Australian agencies to work jointly on plant biosecurity

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) announced it will work with the Australian Plant Bio Security Research Initiative (APBRI) to address the problems related to global pests being introduced to Australia naturally and via cargo movement.

ACIAR is a part of Australia's development assistance program and is the government’s specialist research-for-development agency on agriculture, forestry, livestock, and fisheries, in addition to environmental management and social sciences. 

APBRI develops cross-sectoral research to minimize the consequences of biosecurity threats such as pests, diseases, and weeds that impact Australia's environment, communities, and plant industries.

News article - Mirage

Japan provides US$35 million in loans to microfinance institutions in low-income ASEAN countries with focus on financial inclusion of women

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) invested US$35 million in the “COVID-19 Emerging Frontier Markets MSME Support Fund”, to provide loans to microfinance institutions in low-income countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

The COVID-19 crisis has had major impacts on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME), especially for businesses run by women. During this crisis, microfinance institutions, which are organizations that provide financial services to low-income individuals and businesses, have been critical in supporting MSMEs in partner countries. 

JICA’s funds will be managed by the investment manager, Blue Orchard Finance Ltd., to actively support the financial inclusion of women in partner countries in the ASEAN region. US and UK development finance institutions have also announced their participation in the fund. 

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation addresses Dutch role in mental healthcare assistance to low-income countries

On November 9, 2020, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, responded to parliamentary questions regarding mental healthcare in low-income countries.

Kaag stated the Netherlands is committed to promoting the integration of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) into broader development policy. In particular, she noted that the Netherlands has worked towards increased MHPSS in its efforts with Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund to provide education during emergencies.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

With COP26 presidency on horizon, UK Prime Minister makes appointment to new climate change adaptation and resilience role to support low-income countries

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the appointment of Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Conservative Party member of parliament and former Secretary for State for International Development) as 'International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience' for the UK's presidency of COP26, the 26th session of the annual UN climate conference.

Trevelyan's role will be to drive forward action from the international community and the private sector to support low-income countries who are often on the frontline of climate change and least prepared for managing its impact.

The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. Ahead of this, it will be co-hosting—along with the UN, France, Italy, and Chile—the Climate Ambition Summit on December 12, 2020, to encourage world leaders to make ambitious climate commitments. 

The World Bank predicts that the climate crisis could push more than 100 million people in low-income countries below the poverty line by 2030.

Press release – UK government

White House fires USAID Deputy Administrator in apparent move to preserve leadership

In a surprise move, the US White House abruptly fired Bonnie Glick, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator, and promptly moved John Barsa, the Acting Administrator, into her position. The apparent motive behind this is the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, which limits the amount of time to 210 days that a government employee, for whom Senate approval is required, can remain in post.

Barsa had taken over as Acting Administrator on April 11, 2020, and was facing the end of his 210 days, which would have meant that he would return to his post as Assistant Administrator of the Latin American and Caribbean bureau. Glick, who had been confirmed by the Senate, would otherwise have taken over as head of the agency.

This is not the first time this year that there is confusion over the leading role in USAID; Glick was in line for the role when Barsa was first appointed.

All political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, and it is expected that all Trump appointees will be removed at the start of the new US presidential administration on January 20, 2021.

News article - Devex

European Commission proposes MFF budget compromise of US$17.7 billion increase in research, health, development funding

The European Commission has proposed a new potential compromise on the next EU long-term budget plan—the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF)—to help address the European Parliament’s demand for more money for vital programs, including research, development, education, health, and security. 

The compromise proposal would increase funding for target programs by €15.0 billion overall (US$17.7 billion), including a €500 million (US$591 million) top-up for research by shifting funds from the budget margins, as well as a €1.0 billion (US$1.8 billion) top-up for development programs using reflows from an investment facility.
The Parliament’s demands included a €39.0 billion (US$46.1 billion) increase in funding for certain programs, whereas EU governments have only been willing to offer a €10.0 billion (US$11.8 billion) increase. Although it cannot offer amendments, the Parliament must approve the MFF deal before it can be officially adopted by the EU governments in the Council of the EU. 
Negotiations continued on November 9, 2020, and a final vote is expected in mid-November during a Parliament plenary session. 

News article - Euractiv

News article - Politico Pro

Canada, EU impose sanctions on Belarus due to "ongoing human rights violations", election fraud

In coordination with the EU, Canada has imposed sanctions against Belarusian government officials "in response to gross and systemic human rights violations" that have restricted freedom of the press, expression, and peaceful assembly. 

The sanctions are being put in place after the fraudulent election in Belarus in August 2020 and the resulting "systemic campaign of repression and state-sponsored violence against public protests and the activities of opposition groups" by the Belarusian government, indicated the Canadian government's press release. 

The sanctions imposed on officials prohibit Canadians from "dealing in any property of these individuals or providing financial or related services to them." Further, these individuals are "inadmissible to Canada" under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

EU to provide US$20 million to strengthen health systems in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan

The EU will provide €17 million (US$20 million) to strengthen health systems in Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan by supporting pandemic preparedness measures that:

  • Benefit internally displaced persons, refugees, and their host communities in Somalia;
  • Provide protective equipment for frontline workers in South Sudan; and
  • Strengthen Sudanese health systems.

This 'Team Europe' funding comes from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), which is funded by the EU and its member states and will be delivered in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 
Press release - European Commission

Spanish ODA budget bill for 2021 set at US$3.7 billion, or 0.25% of GNI

The Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, made an address at the Congress of Deputies’ Development Committee to outline the official development assistance (ODA) 2021 budget.

According to Moreno, Spain’s ODA will amount to €3.1 billion (US$3.7 billion), or 0.25% of the country’s gross national income (GNI) in 2021. This represents a US$1.1 billion increase (+43%) compared to the 2020 budget, and a US$706 million increase (+23%) when compared with 2019 ODA disbursements.

The Spanish parliament is currently discussing the general state budget for 2021. Meanwhile, the 2018 state budget continues to apply, as the Spanish government has not been able to pass a new budget in the parliament since then.

News article – Agencia EFE (in Spanish)