Female foreign ministers meeting in Canada for the Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (WFMM), the first summit of its kind, vowed to bring a "women's perspective" to foreign policy. Co-hosted by Canada and the European Union, the event took place in Montreal from September 21-22, 2018. Foreign ministers from Canada, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and 13 other countries attended, sharing knowledge on how women in foreign policy can be champions for gender equality and women's rights.
Following a European Council on Development Cooperation meeting on May 16, EU development cooperation ministers made a statement expressing their concern over "negative" ODA trends among EU Member States, highlighting that "the European objective of spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on development assistance is becoming increasingly out of sight". While the overall trend within the EU is negative, the annual report also noted that the Netherlands spent €4.8 billion (US$5.4 billion) on development assistance last year, representing 0.61% of GNI, which was an increase from the previous year.
The EU and its 28 member states spent a total of €74.4 billion (US$83.8 billion) on development assistance last year, making it the largest donor worldwide at 57% of the total of all OECD countries, according to the OECD's annual report. However, the EU's total fell by €731 million (US$824 million) from 2017.
Following the United Nation (UN) plea for additional humanitarian support to countries in southern Africa affected by Cyclone Idai, Norway has increased its support to NOK 47 million (US$6 million), up from US$3 million. Of this additional support, NOK 17 million (US$2 million) will be allocated to the UN's Humanitarian Fund (CERF). Norway also supports the UN through the Norwegian Refugee Council and Norcap, a global provider of expertise to the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding sectors.
UK-based Christian leaders from across a number of denominations have called for the government to provide more assistance to developing countries impacted by climate chaos, including by providing debt relief. In a letter to The Times newspaper, the leaders argue that the UK has a moral duty to help developing countries suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
The call from UK religious leaders comes at the same time as Oxfam International released its new report, Forced from Home, which reveals that 20 million people from around the world have had to leave their homes as a result of climate-fueled crises.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Minister of Development Nikolai Astrup have written a joint opinion piece on how Norway has worked this year to involve even more countries in their efforts to achieve equality for women through better health, nutrition, and control over own lives through the Global Financing Facility (GFF). On November 5-6, 2018 Norway is hosting a conference for GFF in Oslo, together with Burkina Faso, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The conference aims to mobilize contributions that will be able to prevent the deaths of millions of women, children, and youth in 50 countries.
Solberg and Astrup emphasize that the GFF model is not only about development assistance. The countries themselves must invest, so GFF financing becomes a catalyst for mobilizing national and private investments. GFF has, for instance, helped Cameroon increase its health budget from eight percent of the national budget in 2017 to 20 percent by 2020.
In keeping with France's feminist diplomacy framework and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs' gender equality international strategy, France has launched a new fund, the 'Support Fund for Feminist Organizations'.
This initiative, made public a few months before the Generation Equality Forum to be held in France in 2021, aims to allocate funding to feminist organizations around the world. It will mobilize €120 million (US$135 million) in total for 2020, 2021, and 2022, 65% of which will support France's priority countries. In 2020, priority will be given to feminist organizations working on sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially on comprehensive sex education.
The fund will support the following thematic areas:
- Sexual and reproductive health and rights;
- Gender-based violence and sexual discrimination, including female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage;
- Women’s empowerment and economic participation;
- Women’s social and political leadership;
- Girls’ access to education;
- Women, peace and security, and the role of women in crisis resolution; and
- Gender and climate change.
The fund is supervised and coordinated by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the French Development Agency, AFD.
Thersea May, the UK Prime Minister, has announced that she will give a date for her departure as leader of the Conservative Party after June 3rd, when the Houses of Parliament are due to debate her new bill on exiting the EU. Her announcement has sparked growing speculation that a leadership contest for the Head of the Conservative Party could take place as early as summer 2019, especially if her deal fails yet again to win a majority in the Houses of Parliament. The new deal is highly likely to fail, given that it not been endorsed by the opposition Labour Party. This failure comes despite weeks of intense talks between the government and the opposition to try and find a way forward.
Former UK Conservative foreign minister Boris Johnson has publicly announced that he will run in any forthcoming leadership contest and is the current favorite to win. Johnson has questioned the usefulness of the UK's 0.7% gross national income to development assistance target and challenged the need for a standalone department within government responsible solely for international development cooperation.
On May 4, 2020, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, answered questions from Dutch Parliamentary representatives regarding COVID-19 and poverty in low-income countries. Kaag informed parliament of the new contribution of €10 million (US$11 million) to the Global Financing Facility (GFF),noting that it is part of the €100 million million) package earlier announced.
This funding is intended to support low- and lower-middle-income countries to ensure continuation of essential health and nutrition services during the COVID-19 crisis and for the direct COVID-19 response, including the purchasing of protective equipment and hiring of additional health personnel.
Lastly, Kaag reviewed other pledged allocations of the Netherlands towards the international response, and reconfirmed Dutch support for other multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organisation; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Spain’s ambassador to Honduras, Miguel Alberto Suárez, inaugurated a wastewater treatment plant in Honduras’ Sorosca region. The initiative aims to provide safe drinking water to 45,000 people in Santa Rosa de Copán. With €10 million in financing from the Spanish Cooperation Fund for Water and Sanitation (FCAS) and a €300,000 municipal budget, the project aims also to provide a city-wide wastewater connection system to be completed by March 2018.
In response to funding cuts by the US the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, has stated that the planned annual budget of €13 million for the The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would be made immediately available, instead of being dispensed in several payments as originally planned.
UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees residing in the Palestinian territories, but also in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The organization is currently struggling with large financial deficits. These are especially acute because the US government has withdrawn part of its financial contribution. As a result, UNRWA can no longer guarantee a number of basic needs, such as training for more than 500,000 Palestinian children, basic health care, and food.
CONCORD, the European network representing more than 2,000 NGOs and relief organizations around Europe, has released its 2017 AidWatch Report. The report finds that a substantial increase of 27% in development spending is being offset by “inflated aid” reporting for in-donor costs and debt relief. It also notes that 23 of 28 EU member states increased their assistance budgets; that “development” spending for migrants, refugees, and securitization increased by 43%; and that spending on least-developed countries decreased.
According to the report, it could take European donors another 30 years to meet the 0.7/GNI target at current spending rates.
In 2016, Norway committed NOK 10 billion (US$1.2 billion) to education, food, health, water and sanitation services in Syria. At the conference on Syria held in Brussels in March, Norway committed additional NOK 2.45 billion (US$298 million) in 2019. Support for education will be prioritized and the funding will go through the United Nations, the Red Cross, and Norwegian humanitarian organizations.
During closing remarks of the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in India from November 28-30, 2017, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced the creation of the 'Utkrisht Impact Bond' to fund maternal and newborn health in the Indian state of Rajasthan. The UBS Optimus Foundation, a grant-making foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children worldwide, is providing the initial working capital of US$3.5 million. Up to US$8 million will be provided by USAID and Merck for Mothers, a 10-year US$500 million initiative focused on improving the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth, if certain health targets are met.
The heads of over 49 UK development NGOs, including Oxfam UK, ActionAid UK, ONE UK, and Christian Aid have signed an open letter calling for the next government of the UK to maintain Britain’s global preeminence on international development.
The letter, which praises the UK’s track-record on development and, particularly, the role of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), goes on to call for a shift in the way government policy is designed at home and abroad in order to ensure no one is left behind. Details of what this shift would entail in reality are, however, scarce.
The Oceania Tobacco Control Conference (OTCC) is to be held in Hobart, Tasmania under the theme “From vision to reality: A tobacco-free Oceania”, with a strong focus on indigenous populations. Keynote speakers include Dr. Patricia Nez Henderson, a member of the Dine’ (Navajo) tribe, who serves as the Vice President for the Black Hills Center for American Indian Health. Also speaking is Dr Kurt M. Ribisl, Professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina.
Location: Hobart, Tasmania
The Coronavirus Global Response international pledging conference on May 4, 2020 — which was hosted by the European Commission together with Germany, UK, France, Japan, Italy, and Canada — raised €7.4 billion (US$8.2 billion) in pledges for the global cooperation effort to respond to COVID-19. Notably, the United States declined to participate.
The EU and its member states raised €4.0 billion (US$4.4 billion) of the total amount pledged by world leaders and foundations. The European Commission committed a total of €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) in grants alongside €400 million (US$442 million) in guarantees on loans, with €100 million (US$110 million) going to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and €158 million (US$174 million) going to the WHO. However, this €1.4 billion (US$1.5 billion) pledge largely re-packages the funding the Commission has previously committed since the fundraising effort counted money already spent or allocated since January.
Of the total raised, at least US$1.4 billion was specifically earmarked for CEPI, at least US$267 million for the therapeutics accelerator, and an additional US$1.1 billion was specifically earmarked as other research and development efforts for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. A total of US$1.3 billion of new funding was pledged for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for its 2020 replenishment.
In a strong symbolic show of unity, world leaders expressed the importance of global cooperation and solidarity to address the COVID-19 crisis, citing the need to make sure any future vaccine is equitably accessible to all.
In addition to Europe, world leaders from around the globe participated, including Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, and the President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and African Union Chairperson. China participated at the ministerial level. High-level representatives from industry, the World Bank, WHO, Gavi, UNITAID, and others also participated.
The governance arrangements for managing the money raised is still largely to be determined, but the funds will go to three partnerships for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, to be co-convened by the following global health organizations, respectively: CEPI (jointly with Gavi), the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (jointly with UNITAID) and FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, jointly with the Global Fund).
Press release - European Commission
Opening remarks by President von der Leyen - European Commission
Opening remarks by President Charles Michel - European Council
Q&A: The Coronavirus Global Response - European Commission
Coronavirus Global Response webpage - European Commission
At the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Singapore, Canada announced that it will co-chair the ASEAN Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Disaster Relief, with Lao People’s Democratic Republic and China. During its co-chairmanship, Canada will coordinate the annual meeting, relevant workshops, and the work plan for disaster relief in the region.
Canada has also committed to co-hosting an ASEAN regional forum (ARF) workshop on cybersecurity in 2019 with Singapore, aimed at promoting the development of national cybersecurity policies that include elements such as international law and human rights obligations.
In the coming months, the European Commission will prepare its 2018 workplans and begin drafting a proposal for the next seven-year EU Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF). The Commission will reportedly present a first draft proposal in May 2018.
Meanwhile, the Council of the EU and its working groups will be looking at development post-Cotonou; migration and development; a mid-term review of development assistance programming; preparations for the Africa-EU summit; and EU global strategy, among other things. The European Parliament will take action on the proposed EU 2018 budget and vote on a Commission paper on the future of EU finances in October 2018.
Representatives of UN member states have gathered in New York for the seventy-fourth High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), an eight-day UN summit on sustainable development. The theme of this year's meeting has been announced as 'Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality'; as such, the focus of all events and speakers will be upon methods for and progress towards eradicating inequalities amongst and within member states and vulnerable populations therein.
The HLPF serves as an in-depth, critical review of the global progress made on the 2030 Agenda, and on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The set of goals set to be reviewed this year are the following:
- Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all;
- Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
- Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries;
- Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
- Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels;
- Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
Reviews are conducted voluntarily by member states, who share their national and sub-national progress towards the SDGs with attendees. The review-sharing process provides a platform to analyze achievements and examine growth areas through partnerships with attending organizations and stakeholders. 47 countries have volunteered to give reviews this year.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a UK based policy think-tank, has released a new report calling on the UK to scale up its contributions to the UN Climate Fund three-fold to amount to £20 billion (US$25 billion) by 2030.
The report calls for a new model of international co-operation in an era of environmental breakdown and calls on the UK government to dramatically increases its funding to the UN Climate Fund, in order to pay its fair share, in light of its historical carbon emissions record. The UK government currently provides £1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) to the UN Climate Fund over a four-year period up until 2023.