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Survey says 61% of Australians support increased funding for international response to COVID-19

A survey conducted by the pollster YouGov in August 2020, indicated that a majority of Australian people feel that the government should increase its overseas humanitarian and development funding to combat COVID-19. Commissioned by the Australian Council for International Development, the survey polled 1,056 Australians.

82% of respondents also agreed that it is necessary to control the virus in all parts of the world before life in Australia can return to normal.

News article - The Sydney Morning Herald

Dutch Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation parliamentary committee approves formation of Dutch-African trade apparati

On September 3, 2020, the Dutch Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation approved the creation of a task force to promote trade and economic development between the Netherlands and continental Africa and the formation of a public-private 'Africa coalition'.

The state of affairs regarding global climate diplomacy, the global approach to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the outcome of the Global Vaccine Summit were also discussed at the meeting. The committee also gave clearance for the formation of Invest International, a new Dutch development institution.

Press release – Dutch Government

Italian Council of Ministries approves 2019-2021 cooperation guidelines

The Italian Council of Ministries approved the new triennial guidelines document for 2019-2021. The document outlined Italy's cooperation priorities for the coming years; 75% of Italian cooperation resources will be focused on the priority areas given in the document. The remaining 25% will go toward other sectors and debt treatment operations.

The identified priorities are:

  • Food security and nutrition;
  • Health (including health system strengthening, the fight against pandemics, access to immunization, and noncommunicable diseases);
  • Education;
  • Cultural cooperation and protection of cultural heritage;
  • Migration (including strengthening and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, and facilitating orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people);
  • Protection of the environment (including management of natural resources, and the fight against climate change);
  • Inclusive and sustainable growth;
  • Fighting against all kind of discrimination;
  • Supporting efforts to promote conflict resolution through peace processes; and
  • Supporting the global partnership for sustainable development.

The document also identified the 22 priority countries for Italian cooperation, given by region:

  • Africa: Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Mozambique;
  • Middle East:  Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine;
  • Balkans: Albania and Bosnia;
  • Latin America: Cuba and El Salvador; and
  • Asia: Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Pakistan.

Triannual Guideline Document - Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Australia’s Mint releases dollar coin designed to stimulate charitable donations

Twenty-five million 'Donation Dollars' will be put into circulation in Australia in the coming years, with the aim of encouraging Australians to give to charities. These dollars are legal Australian tender but have a unique design symbolizing the ongoing impact that donating funds can have to those in need. The initiative by the Australian Mint comes after a year of natural disasters, a pandemic, and an economic recession in Australia.

News article - Channel 9

Canada and Netherlands offer support for Gambia at International Court of Justice

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, announced Canada's intention to intervene in the case of The Gambia v. Myanmar. Canada and the Netherlands will work together to assist the Gambia, paying special attention to "crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape".

This case involves allegations of violations of the Genocide Convention. The Gambia has brought the case against Myanmar and aims to show how the Rohingya in Myanmar were subject to systemic discrimination and atrocities.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

UK Government officially launches new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office

The UK government launched its new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on September 2, 2020. The new department brings together staff from the UK’s former Department for International Development (DFID) and the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) under a single executive management team led by the Secretary of State, Dominic Raab. 

While most of DFID’s existing divisions and teams will remain in place, for now, a new integrated working structure is being planned and is expected to be put in place by April 2021.

Dominic Raab used the launch to reaffirm the government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).  The launch was also used to announce new senior appointments to the FCDO. These include the appointment of:

  • Stefan Dercon, as special advisor to the Secretary of State. Dercon is a professor of economic policy at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and a former Chief Economist of DFID;
  • Rachel Glennerster, as the FCDO’s first Chief Economist. Prior to the merger, Glennerster was DFID’s chief economist; and
  • Nick Dyer, as the UK’s first Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs. He was formerly DFID’s Acting Permanent Secretary.

News article - BBC 

News article - Devex

Press release - UK government

USAID draft gender policy faces backlash from Congress and development advocates

The new gender policy released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has raised the ire of both Democrats on Capitol Hill and development stakeholders who expressed concern that the draft is a step backward for gender equality.

USAID released the draft on August 19, 2020, and required public comments to be provided by August 27. Other than that short window, the policy -- which will replace the 2012 gender policy in its entirety -- was developed with no other public consultation. USAID received a "significant" number of comments from the development community. Additionally, 15 Senators sent a letter to Acting Administrator John Barsa stating that the draft "reflects priorities that will undermine gender equality." A separate letter signed by 86 House members to Barsa called upon USAID to reverse course and engage with Congress.  

News article - Devex 

Sweden increases support for Lebanon

Following the recent explosion in the port of Beirut, Sweden has decided to increase its support for victims of the devastation by close to SEK17 million (US$2 million). In addition to its previous grant to the Swedish Red Cross (SEK5 million; US$537,000), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has decided to provide new funding to Save the Children (SEK5 million; US$537,000), the International Rescue Committee (SEK9 million; US$967,000), and Action Against Hunger (SEK3 million; US$322,000).

"Vulnerable families should receive cash grants so that they can pay rent and have somewhere to live, but also to afford repairs to their destroyed homes”, said Carin Jämtin, Sida's Director-General. "We focus on supporting children and young people who are at risk of being exploited in different ways and, for example, being forced into child labor. The needs remain very large."

In collaboration with local partners, Sweden is also working to improve access to food and livelihoods. In addition, small business owners will receive cash grants to support them in restarting their businesses.

In total, Sweden has now provided almost SEK22 million (US$2 million) in direct support to Lebanon since the explosion.

Press release – TT (in Swedish)

UK Treasury considers further cuts to development assistance budget

In order to cover the government’s growing fiscal deficit, which has increased as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is reported t0 be considering further cuts to the UK’s £15 billion per year (US$19 billion) development assistance budget. The development budget has already been cut by £2.9 billion (US$3.6 billion) because of the decline of the UK's economy coupled with the government’s desire to meet but not exceed its commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).

In the Autumn Budget (to be released in November) Sunak will set out the government's plan for development spending, including potential further cuts to the development assistance budget. Some reports indicate that Sunak is keen to use more of the development budget to fund foreign office and defense projects; however, this would require changes to the UK’s primary legislation. Such changes would take some time to come into place. Other reports suggest that the Secretary for State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Dominic Raab, is resisting further cuts to ODA and will set out his commitment to the 0.7% target in his first speeches when the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office opens on September 2.

Over 70 Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords have also written to the Prime Minister, urging him to not raid the UK's ODA budget to pay for the country's COVID-19 response. Signatories include the senior conservative backbencher Tobias Ellwood, who also chairs the Defence Select Committee, and the former Conservative Secretary of State, Andrew Mitchell.

News article - The Telegraph

News article - The Sun

News article - Politics Home

New article - The Independent

US will not participate in global vaccine effort because of WHO participation

The US announced that it will not participate in the international COVAX initiative to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine because the effort is tied to the World Health Organization (WHO). The US, which announced its intent to withdraw from the WHO in July of 2020, said it will continue to work with other international partners, but "will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China."

Such a move will mean that the US is increasingly isolated from the 170 countries involved in COVAX, which is working to ensure worldwide access to an effective vaccine. The US withdrawal from the WHO will take effect in July of 2021, although Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to reverse that decision if he is elected president. 

News article - CNN

Japan to participate in COVAX

Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) announced that it plans on participating in WHO’s COVID-19 vaccination program, COVAX.

COVAX, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is designed to prevent monopolization of vaccines, and helps buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccinations fairly around the world. While Japan has reached agreements with multiple companies, the MHLW stated that the COVAX vaccination program is another means for Japan to acquire vaccines, as well as contribute to the equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout the world.

COVAX aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccination by the end of 2021.

News article – Japan Broadcasting Corporation (in Japanese)
Press release - Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (in Japanese)

South Korea’s unification ministry increases 2021 budget for humanitarian and health assistance to North Korea

The South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced its 2021 budget proposal to the National Assembly, which includes an increase of 3.1% in the budget allocated for the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund which covers humanitarian assistance and cooperation in health and medicine.

Among other items in the budget, the budget for health cooperation increased from US$49 million (KRW58.5 billion) in 2020 to US$80 million (KRW95.5 billion) in 2021 mainly due to increased focus on COVID-19. The budget for cooperation in agriculture, forestry, and environment also increased from US$254 million (KRW304.5 billion) in 2020 to US$275 million (KRW329.5 billion) in 2021 in light of climate change. The humanitarian assistance budget also rose by 5.2% to KRW653 billion (US$545 million), which reflects the minister’s stated intent to continue humanitarian cooperation regardless of the political situation between the two Koreas.

News article – Aju News (in Korean)

Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs postpones policy review due to COVID-19

The Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation (IOB) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands has informed the Dutch Parliament of a delay in the presentation of the policy review around sustainable economic development, trade, and investment. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is estimated that the policy review will be presented to Parliament mid-2021. 

Evaluations of financial instruments included in the policy review include the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) funds, Agriterra, and Solidaridad, as well as trade policy and tax policy.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Paul Huijts named as new Secretary-General of Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands appointed Paul Huijts as its new Secretary-General.  He has been both the Secretary-General of the Ministry of General Affairs since 2014 and the Director-General Public Health at the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare, and Sport. The Secretary-General is the highest official of the Ministry and is the first official point of contact for the Minister.

Press release – Dutch Government (in Dutch)

Japan provides US$280 million in loans to support economic recovery after COVID-19 crisis in Myanmar

Japan has agreed to provide US$280 million (¥30 billion) in loans to support recovery from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 in Myanmar.

According to a Japan International Cooperation Agency press release, the funds will contribute to Myanmar’s economic recovery by supporting the implementation of the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan and policies related to investment, trade, and the financial sector. Specifically, the funds will fill the financial gap for short-term relief measures, and promote long-term recovery by supporting priority economic reforms.

The interest rate for the loans is 0.01% per annum with a 40-year repayment period and a 10-year grace period.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

News article – Myanmar Times

Japan provides US$472 million in loans to support COVID-19 response in India

Japan has agreed to provide US$472 million (¥50 billion) in loans for budgetary support and COVID-19 countermeasures in India.

According to a Japan International Cooperation Agency press release, the funds will provide budgetary support to the Government of India and support emergency response programs for COVID-19. The intended impact of these measures is to ultimately contribute to India’s social and economic stabilization and development. This is the largest financial assistance for India’s response to COVID-19 from any country. 

In particular, these funds will provide ICUs and infection prevention and management facilities in hospitals, and promote telemedicine through the use of digital technology in villages across India.

The interest rate for the loans is 0.01% per annum with a 15-year repayment period and a 4-year grace period.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency
News article – Hindustan Times

Paris' Club of creditor countries suspends US$1.8 billion in debt payments for 28 countries

The Paris' Club, a coalition comprising the biggest creditor countries excluding China, has suspended debt payments for 28 countries in 2020, amounting to US$1.8 billion in total so far. 

Countries benefiting from the debt payment suspensions are Angola, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Grenada, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Zambia.

This is the result of an initiative led by the G20 in April of 2020 to support measures to counter the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. Eleven other countries could benefit from this delay, according to the director of the French Treasury, and President of the Paris Club, Odile Renaud-Basso.

News article - La Croix (in French) 

Press release - Paris' Club

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces 5% increase in 2021 ODA budget

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced its budget request for 2021, including a 5% increase in the ODA budget.

According to MOFA, its 2021 ODA budget will increase by US$38 million (KRW45 billion), from US$766 million (KRW918 billion) in 2020 to US$804 million (KRW963 billion) in 2021. MOFA will further expand its strategic and humanitarian ODA in 2021 to support its partner countries that are vulnerable to infectious diseases such as COVID-19. MOFA’s contributions to international organizations including the UN agencies will also increase by KRW31.3 billion (US$26 million) from KRW507.5 billion (US$423 million) in 2020 to KRW538.7 billion (US$449 million) in 2021. Contributions to international financial institutions are not part of MOFA’s budget and are managed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The final budget will be confirmed after deliberation and approval by the National Assembly.

A notable exception to the increase is the budget for South Korea’s Global Disease Eradication Fund (GDEF), will decrease by 34.8% from US$55 million (KRW65.7 billion) in 2020 to US$36 million (KRW42.8 billion). Although the main objectives of GDEF (to strengthen global health security and governance) remain priorities, its proceeds are based on the airline ticket solidarity levy system which has raised lower funds this year.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

Germany joins ACT-Accelerator’s COVAX Facility

According to an announcement made by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus at a press conference in Geneva on Monday, August 31, Germany has submitted an expression of interest to join the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility represents the vaccines pillar of the ACT-Accelerator. It aims to procure two billion potential COVID-19 vaccine doses for all countries in the world by the end of 2021.   

News article – Reuters

EU to contribute US$456 million in guarantees to COVAX Facility

The EU announced its participation in the COVAX facility for global, equitable purchasing and procurement of vaccines and contributed €400 million (US$456 million) in guarantees to purchase future COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

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

Further details on how the EU will participate in COVAX is still being negotiated. The European Commission also plans to continue negotiating complementary bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers for EU markets.
Press release - European Commission
News article - Science|Business