Policy Updates

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Dutch pharmaceutical company will begin human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in July 2020

The Dutch pharmaceutical company Janssen Vaccines announced that clinical trials on human subjects for a potential COVID-19 vaccine will begin in July of 2020. The vaccine will be tested on 1,045 healthy people in Belgium and the United States. According to Janssen, if the trial results are positive, the vaccine will be fairly distributed between countries globally.

Janssen Vaccines is also expanding its production capacity, with the intention to have one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available in 2021.

While not directly financing this vaccine development program, the Dutch government has helped facilitating the development process. 

News article - Nu.nl (in Dutch)

Efforts to make future COVID-19 vaccine available across EU are insufficient, warn French NGOs; vaccine must be classified as global public good

With France's President Macron planning to visit a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing site in Lyon, French NGOs Global Health Advocates (GHA), ONE, and Oxfam France have increased pressure on the government to classify a future COVID-19 vaccine as a global public good.

The NGOs' joint statement comes after France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands launched the 'Inclusive Vaccine Alliance', a coalition which will jointly select research programs, negotiate with vaccine developers and producers, and broker deals with various pharmaceutical companies with the ultimate goal of ensuring that a vaccine is accessible across the EU. 

GHA, ONE, and Oxfam expressed concerns that this initiative may not sufficiently prioritize access to COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries, despite statements made by French officials emphasizing the importance of global solidarity in vaccine distribution.  

Press release - ONE

Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development provides update on COVID-19 research efforts

On May 29, 2020, the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) posted an update regarding the different COVID-19 research programs that it is sponsoring in cooperation with the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). ZonMw as well as NWO receive the majority of their funding from the Dutch Ministry of Health (VWS).

Between the May 1-25, 2020, more than 1,200 research proposals related to COVID-19 were submitted to ZonMw. These proposals cover four focus areas: predictive diagnostics and treatment, care and prevention, societal dynamics, and science for professional practice. To date, a total of  €30 million (US$34 million) has been made available for the accepted research projects.

News article - ZonMw

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs critical of WHO but reconfirms commitment to multilateral organizations

In a recent speech addressing Australia's global engagement in a time of COVID-19, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, spoke at length about Australia's commitment to multilateral institutions. Payne said that Australia plans to continue to work with multilateral institutions, which have played a key role in the global response to COVID-19.

Payne highlighted the World Health Organization (WHO) in particular, which she said Australia would like to see become stronger, more independent, and more transparent. She outlined the government's intention to focus its contributions on global institutions that are fit-for-purpose and have a strong focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia plans concentrate its efforts on preserving three aspects of the multilateral system:

  1. Rules that enable international trade and investment and protect sovereignty;
  2. Norms that support the rule of law, universal human rights, and gender equality; and
  3. Standards that regulate international health, transport, telecommunications, and other issues that underpin the global economy and are key to a post-COVID-19 recovery.

The Minister’s speech was given following a review of multilateral organizations announced by the Australian Prime Minister in November 2019.

Speech - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Canadian Armed Forces support humanitarian responses to COVID-19

In response to a request from the United Nations, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will provide airlift support for the transportation of essential medical and humanitarian supplies to and from distribution hubs across Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The CAF working on behalf of the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization (WHO) to keep essential supply chains open in vulnerable regions. 

This response aligns with Canada's ongoing efforts to provide humanitarian support to those most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release- Global Affairs Canada 

Proposed second supplementary budget from German Ministry of Finance includes additional US$1.7 billion for Development Ministry in 2020, 2021

On June 15, 2020, the German Ministry of Finance (BMF) put forward its draft of a second supplementary budget for 2020 worth €62.5 billion (US$68.2 billion) to finance Germany’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as its economic stimulus package. On June 16, 2020, the supplementary budget was adopted by the Federal Cabinet and will now have to be approved by the German Parliament.

The proposal includes budget increases for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) amounting to €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) for 2020. Another €1.6 billion in budget increases will be added towards BMZ’s 2021 budget. Taken together this sum almost equals the €3.2 billion (US$3.4 billion) requested by Development Minister, Gerd Müller, to finance his Corona Response Package. Müller welcomed the budget increase, stating that Germany is setting “an important example of solidarity, thereby fulfilling its responsibility in the world”.

Through the second supplementary budget, the Foreign Office (AA) will receive €560 million (US$611 million) for its humanitarian assistance work, the Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will receive additional €22.8 billion (US$24.9 billion), and €2 billion (US$2.1 billion), respectively.

Press release – BMF (in German)

News article – tagesschau (in German)

Press release – BMZ (in German)

Investing US$327 million in pharmaceutical company CureVac, German government acquires minority stake of 23%

On June 15, 2020, the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, announced that Germany would invest €300 million (US$327 million) in the biopharmaceutical company CureVac AG. The investment will be made by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). Under the agreement, the German government will hold a minority stake of 23% in CureVac.

According to Altmaier, Germany’s investment decision reflects the government’s interest in both accelerating the company’s vaccine development programs and securing more national independence in the entire production process of medical substances and vaccines.

Press release – Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (in German)

South Korea announces US$1.4 billion in expanded global contributions toward fighting COVID-19

The South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) unveiled its plan to expand South Korea's contribution to fight COVID-19 globally.

In addition to the commitment of US$100 million of humanitarian assistance announced by President Moon Jae-in at the World Health Assembly in May 2020, MOEF announced it will provide emergency support through the Economic Development Cooperation Fund of over US$400 million. It will also expand the multilateral development bank trust funds for health and medicine to US$10 million from the usual US$2 million.

South Korea will also invest US$980 million (KRW1.2 trillion) to create a global fund dedicated to healthcare goods and services. It will provide a package of disease control assistance to the priority countries selected.

Finally, the South Korean government announced that it will actively identify and implement health projects related to its 'New Southern' and 'New Northern' policies.

Press release – South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry provides US$5 million to help ASEAN member countries fight COVID-19

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has tapped into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Republic of Korea (ROK) Cooperation Fund to fight COVID-19 in ASEAN member states. According to MOFA, the government has used US$5 million from the fund to promote COVID-19 response projects in 10 ASEAN member countries.

MOFA will also provide US$500,000 to support an ASEAN Secretariat project dedicated to supporting returning Rohingya refugees in Myanmar. 

MOFA contributes around US$7 million annually to the fund, which was established in 1990.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

Japan to provide US$19 million to Myanmar for health and medical equipment

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced US$19 million (¥2 billion) in support to Myanmar for healthcare and medical equipment, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes X-ray imaging equipment, ICU beds, patient monitors and more, which will help strengthen Myanmar’s healthcare system.

Given the globalization of goods, services, and supply chains, the Japanese government has stressed the importance of tackling COVID-19 collaboratively with partner countries. In particular, the Japanese government emphasized the need for supporting countries with weaker healthcare systems, not only for the partner nation’s public health but also to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 to other countries.

Press release – Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

At Dutch parliamentary debate, Cabinet stalls on response to recommended US$1.1 billion expenditure for international COVID-19 response

On June 15, 2020, the Dutch Parliament and the Development Minister had a debate about the advice given by the Advisory Council for International Affairs (AIV) on how the Netherlands should respond to the COVID-19 crisis globally. The recommendations issued by the AIV suggested that the government should invest €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) to support vulnerable countries with their COVID-19 response and to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of this COVID-19 crisis. By the time of the debate, the Dutch Cabinet had not yet formulated a response to the advice, which evoked surprise and disappointment among the majority of parliamentary representatives.

Representatives from all political parties, except the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), share the view that the Netherlands' official development assistance (ODA) should not be further reduced, despite the expected drop in the gross domestic product (GDP).

It is expected that the cabinet will formulate a response to the AIV advice before August 2020. 

Press Release - Parliament (in Dutch)

Japan supports implementation of first Civil Code in Laos

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been supporting the Laotian Government to strengthen and streamline its legal framework through the development of the first Laos Civil Code. First drafted in 2018, the law is now entering into force, and JICA is continuing its support with the implementation process.

Since 1986, Laos has been promoting open markets and has enacted a variety of ownership laws, family laws, inheritance laws, and more. However, there are inconsistencies and duplications in the laws since these laws were developed separately, rather than under a unified code. As a result, the development of the Laos Civil Code represents a significant step forward for the Laotian legal system. Nonetheless, challenges remain in ensuring existing legal frameworks and agreements comply with the updated laws, and that the code contains all necessary supplementary measures.

Blog post - ZICO Law

News article - Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese)

Italy, Germany, France, and Netherlands sign agreement with British drugmaker for 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials

The Inclusive Vaccines Alliance, a group formed by France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, signed a contract with the British drugmaker AstraZeneca to supply up to 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, is still in clinical trials. If the trial results convince regulators the vaccine is safe and effective, deliveries are expected to start by the end of 2020.

The Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, announced that the vaccine would be distributed for free, starting with the highest-risk groups. Speranza added that a significant part of the production process would take place in Italy.

Press release - Italian Ministry of Health website

New Coalition for the Sahel must be guided by humanitarian principles, says UK Minister for Africa

The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, has called on the new Coalition for the Sahel, of which the UK is a member, to adopt a strong focus on tackling the drivers of instability in the region and to ensure humanitarian principles guide all of the coalition’s work.

The Coalition is a new international initiative supporting security, political, and development efforts in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. Members of the coalition include all the governments of the region, France, and the EU.  

Speaking at the coalition's international meeting on June 12, 2020, Duddridge praised the creation of the initiative and called for it to work across three key areas:

  1. Tackling the drivers of instability;
  2. Providing a joint vision for addressing instability in the region; and
  3. Working to ensure that human rights and humanitarian principles are integrated into all coalition efforts and are included in the terms of reference for the initiative.

The UK is the third-largest humanitarian donor to the region and has provided over £500 million (US$615 million) in bilateral development and humanitarian assistance since 2015.

Press release – UK government

Australia's increased funding to heath multilaterals likely comes at expense of other programs

Given Australia's plans to dramatically increase its contributions to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and other multilateral health organizations including the Global Fund, in coming years, while maintaining its A$4.0 billion (US$2.6 billion) cap on development spending, experts are warning that other development programs will need to be cut. They are therefore calling on the government to increase funding for international development, especially given the intensity of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

At the June 4 Global Vaccine Summit 2020, Australia pledged A$300 million (US$195 million) to Gavi for 2021-2025. This is the largest contribution made by Australia since the Liberal-National Coalition (center-right) government was elected in 2013 and marks a return to funding levels seen under the previous Labor Party (center-left) government. However, while the country's funding for Gavi has returned to pre-2013 levels, Australia's overall development budget remains far lower than under the previous government (A$4.8 billion or US$3.1 billion at the time of the comparable Gavi pledge).

Global health has become an increasingly important component of Australia's development program — and is a key pillar of its new development policy — particularly in the context of COVID-19.

Blog post - Devpolicy Blog

Germany will prioritize efforts against child labor, sexual exploitation in EU Council Presidency

In recognition of the World Day Against Child Labour, German Development Minister Gerd Müller announced that his Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will make the fight against child labor and sexual exploitation a focus of Germany’s EU Council Presidency (June – December of 2020).

Concretely, his ministry aims to lay the foundations for a European supply chain law, which would oblige all companies to pay fair wages and end child labor along their supply chains. Minister Müller together with the Geman Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Hubertus Heil, have been advocating for a supply chain law for Germany since December 2019.

Press release - BMZ (in German)

Norway takes part in two international COVID-19 vaccine development initiatives

Norway is now participating in two international initiatives for the development of vaccines in the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance and the Global Covid-19 Vaccine Procurement Facility (Covax).

The Inclusive Vaccine Alliance, which recently invited Norway to join as a member, is a coalition of European countries working to support the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines and to secure an adequate amount of vaccines for both European countries and low-income countries. The alliance was founded by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, and is supported by the European Commission. 

Norway will also be taking part in the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Procurement Facility (Covax). Covax is a worldwide funding mechanism which will ensure fair access to Covid-19 vaccines for all countries. 

Press release – Norwegian Government 

European Commission to commit US$2.6 billion to advance purchase COVID-19 vaccines

The European Commission (EC) will advance purchase €2.4 billion (US$2.6 billion) worth of COVID-19 vaccines for the EU financed through its Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). Advance purchase agreements will enable the EC to help fund the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine candidates still in clinical trials to enable their quick deployment (if they are ultimately approved). 
The EC will seek approval from EU countries during a meeting of EU health ministers on June 11, 2020, for the new mandate to purchase 300-600 million vaccines on their behalf. 

The EC's plan states that while it wants to secure sufficient supplies for its member states, it will continue "playing its part in ensuring global access to the vaccine, irrespective of wealth" and "taking global responsibility". This indicates that the plan will likely have provisions for lower-income country supplies. 
News article - New York Times

News article - Reuters

News article - FT

Sweden commissions new development cooperation strategy with Middle East, North Africa

On June 11, 2020, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to initiate work on developing a new strategy for Sweden's development cooperation with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Due to the specific problems facing several MENA countries, Sida has been tasked with including strategy proposals related to the promotion of democracy, human rights, gender equality, peaceful societies, inclusive economic development, the environment and sustainable use of natural resources, and the conservation of biodiversity.

The strategy will cover the period between 2021 and 2025 and the draft is due to the Swedish government by October 15, 2020.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

EIB to provide US$109 million loan to German biotech company to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide €100 million (US$109 million) in debt financing to German biotech company BioNTech for its COVID-19 vaccine program. The financing will be deployed through 'Horizon 2020 InnovFin' and the 'European Fund for Strategic Investments' - which are both instruments jointly finaced by the EIB and the European Commission (EC).

The funding will enable BioNTech to increase its manufacturing capacity to quickly scale up supply of its 4 potential vaccine candidates.
The EC announced the investment just as six European Union governments (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Poland and Spain) released a letter expressing concerns regarding Europe’s preparedness for pandemics and calling for the EC to take a bigger role and more financial risk to increase vaccine production capacity. 

Press release - European Commission
News article - Science|Business