The European Investment Bank (EIB) has released an initial €100 million (US$115 million) of a €200 million (US$230 million) financing support package to assist Morocco in responding to emergency COVID-19 response needs in the country. The financing will enable Morocco to procure medical supplies and equipment while also assisting in strengthening the country's health care facilities.
Sweden's Ambassador for Global Health, Anders Nordström, has been elected Secretary of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR). The panel was recently established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been tasked with evaluating the world’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ambassador Nordström hopes that the panel will evaluate how the measures to limit Covid-19, often quite drastic, have affected long-term preventive health work.
"What we should look at is whether the best advice has been provided with the knowledge that existed," said Nordström. "The main goal is to learn how to act in the future and what you can do differently the next time it happens."
Nordström also expressed concerns about cuts to official development assistance as economic growth has declined in donor countries.
“Action against other diseases is now affected when there is a shortage of health care, contraception, medicines, and vaccines,” he said. “I have seen information that 117 million children are at risk of not receiving routine vaccination against measles, which is a deadly disease.”
Nordström continued, “I have noted that a lot of targeted contributions have been made in the fight against COVID-19, which is of course good, but in my opinion, aid is a tool for poverty reduction and increasing resilience in society. In that sense, to start counting how much funding different countries spend on efforts against COVID-19 is to approach it from the wrong end.” He noted that it could be that the effects of decreased vaccination campaigns, caused by a policy shift from preventative care to fighting COVID-19, end up being more catastrophic than the effects of the pandemic itself.
Additional panel members include the former Prime Minister of New Zealand and UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, and the former President of Liberia and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The panel will present its final report to the WHO in May of 2021.
Corinne Ellemeet, a Dutch parliament member of the Green-Left party (GroenLinks), expressed concern about the secrecy of negotiations with COVID-19 vaccine developers.
Ellemeet raised the question of whether pharmaceutical companies will be granted liability protection. She also asked why the identities of the seven negotiators leading the discussions with the industry on behalf of the European Commission have been kept anonymous, how much AstraZeneca (one of the vaccine developers) would profit under the agreement, and whether the Netherlands would help cover claims for damages if a vaccine has negative side effects.
Japan has agreed to provide US$75 million (¥8 billion) in loans to achieve universal healthcare coverage (UHC) in Kenya.
According to a press release from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the loans are intended to:
- secure the necessary funding to achieve UHC;
- help guarantee quality healthcare services;
- and strengthen monitoring and evaluation of UHC indicators.
At the same time, the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Kenya. Therefore, JICA reports that these funds will also support Kenya’s response to COVID-19 by increasing access to healthcare services and reducing financial burdens.
The interest rate is 0.95% per annum with a 30-year repayment period and a 10-year grace period.
On August 31, 2020, the European Commission (EC) announced that the EU and its member states, including the Netherlands, have joined COVAX. The EU has contributed US$459 million to the coalition.
Launched in April of 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX's goal is to ensure equal access to vaccines in all countries of all income levels. Once a vaccine is approved, each country will receive a share based on its population. COVAX is in negotiations with nine vaccine producers and aims to secure 2 billion vaccines by the end of 2021.
After several weeks of negotiations, Norway has joined the international vaccine collaboration, the COVAX Facility. The collaboration will ensure low- and middle-income countries can access any newly developed COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVAX Facility is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a collaboration led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The idea is for all countries to receive vaccine doses at the same time so that they can distribute them to the hardest hit population groups.
Norway's Minister of Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, says that Norway, together with Germany, has worked with the EU Commission and Gavi to foster better cooperation between the EU and COVAX.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the launch of the new 'national recovery plan' aimed at addressing the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis and fostering the country's long-term economic development. The national plan outlines four strategic priorities based on the principles of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, including:
- Digital transition;
- Green energy and ecological transition;
- Social cohesion; and
- Feminism and women's empowerment.
The UK Foreign and Development Secretary, Dominic Raab, has announced the government's plan to retain its independent watchdog on development assistance, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI). The ICAI will continue to ensure accountability and to improve the effectiveness of the UK's development spending under the newly formed Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, which is set to open on September 2.
Raab also plans to strengthen ICAI’s role, expanding it into a body that provides advice and evidence to Ministers, rather than just evaluating past performance. In order to change the function of ICAI, Raab has initiated a review of the commission, which was established ten years ago. The review will be carried out by senior government officials in consultation with ICAI staff and independent external experts. The review will also take into account findings from the government’s integrated defense and security review, which is due to be completed in Autumn.
The Chief Executive Officer of BOND (the UK network of development NGOs), Stephanie Draper, expressed her approval of the government's decision to retain the ICAI, but also called for similar assurances regarding the International Development Committee (a parliamentary oversight body).
The German Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek, has announced Germany’s support for three biotech companies in building up production capacities for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. According to Karliczek, Germany aims to contribute to vaccine manufacturing for Europe and the world. It understands its obligation to produce vaccine doses beyond Germany’s national demand.
The Government of Canada has announced a US$8 million (CA$10 million) five-year funding extension for the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. This research organization, hosted by Canada's McMaster University, is focused on understanding and responding to "pressing global water challenges". Specifically, researchers are focused on preventing and managing water-borne diseases and meeting the anticipated 50% increase in demand for water by 2030.
Following the coup d'état on August 18, Sweden has decided to freeze much of its official development assistance (ODA) to Mali. Funding has been withdrawn for three major development projects that name the government of Mali is the beneficiary. Funding for these projects totaled SEK73 million (US$8 million). Nevertheless, Sweden has decided to continue its support for several civil society organizations and other partners in Mali.
"A change like this in a country leads to uncertainties about how the country is governed and who is in control of money flows. Then it is quite common for us to stop payments to ensure that the investments we make and the money involved end up in the right place," said Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, Peter Eriksson.
The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, updated parliament on the international commitment of the Netherlands to support people with disabilities in low-income countries as part of the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda. People with disabilities are not a separate target group of Dutch international cooperation policy, but the Netherlands contributes to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), both of which prioritize reaching marginalized groups, such as children with disabilities.
Inclusion is central to the development of the new policy framework ‘Strengthening Civil Society’ from 2021 to 2025 and the corresponding country projects reflect that. The Dutch embassy in Bangladesh will fund the development organization Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC) to provide people with disabilities greater access to sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Dutch funding will also support the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSCC) to improve sanitation and hygiene for people with disabilities in 13 countries in Africa and Asia.
Japan will provide US$4 million (¥500 million) to improve food security and $1 million (¥100 million) to strengthen the healthcare system of the Republic of Niger.
According to a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, approximately 80% of people in Niger make a living from agriculture. However, the worsening security situation has increased the number of internally displaced persons, obstructing farming. As a result, the Republic of Niger has designated 27% of agricultural areas as at risk for shortages. In cooperation with the US, Japan will provide food assistance to improve the food security.
On March 19th, the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Niger. Although the government is trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Japanese government sees the lack of medical equipment as hindering the response. Therefore, Japan will help strengthen Niger’s healthcare system by providing equipment such as ambulances and patient monitors.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to provide a €30 million (US$34 million) loan to a vaccine manufacturer to support the development of an improved tuberculosis vaccine for infants, particularly in high-risk HIV+ populations. The loan beneficiary, Vakzine Projekt Management, a German subsidiary of Serum Institute of India (SIIPL), is working to develop a safer, more effective vaccine for newborn infants to replace the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine – the only tuberculosis vaccine currently available – as the primary vaccine for infants. The contingent loan will only require repayment if a vaccine candidate receives market authorization; otherwise, the loan will be written off.
Press release - European Investment Bank
The Government of Canada has matched all donations made by Canadian individuals through the Lebanese Matching Fund — a total of CAD8 million (US$6 million) — to provide essential goods and services to support those impacted by the August 4 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. The Humanitarian Coalition has been selected to allocate the funds.
Canada's Ambassador to South Sudan, Douglas Scott Proudfoot, has announced an additional US$6.8 million in funding for "basic health services and training of healthcare professionals in South Sudan" in light of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, this funding will help ensure that South Sudanese women and girls have access to quality healthcare through supporting gender-sensitive health services that promote women’s autonomy and decision-making.
Part of the funding (CAD5 million or US$3 million) will go toward South Sudan’s National COVID-19 Response Plan, while CAD4 million (US$3 million) will go to the Strengthening Midwifery Services II project implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This funding is additional to Canada’s previous CAD50 million (US$38 million) commitment to the project.
Canada's Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) has called on the Canadian government to do its "fair share to ensure an effective COVID-19 response globally". Specifically, CCIC asked the Canadian government to commit 1% of the total amount spent on its domestic COVID-19 response to support lower-income countries in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.
CCIC argues that this investment will make Canada's future funding for international development more impactful by mitigating the exacerbating effects of COVID-19 on existing inequalities in vulnerable contexts.
Australia's Ministers for Health and Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt and Marise Payne, have announced that Australia will contribute A$80 million (US$55 million) to support the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility's Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The contribution will be provided from within Australia’s existing development assistance budget.
The AMC will improve low-income countries' access to COVID-19 vaccines. It aims to provide vaccine doses for up to 20% of the population in participating countries. Eligible countries include Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, as well as Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Cambodia.
Sylvi Listhaug, an influential politician from the Progress Party, warns that there is likely to be a tough battle on development assistance allocations in the national budget for 2021. Listhaug and her party hope to institute sharp cuts in Norway's development assistance budget for next year. She says cuts are necessary given the sharp decline in gross national income (GNI) as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Norway's ODA has, in recent years, been set at 1% of the country's GNI.
The government's proposal for the state budget will be presented on October 7, 2020. The Progress Party will present their alternative budget before the negotiations with the coalition government parties.
In a recently published opinion piece, Norway's Minister of Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, reflects on the ongoing debate on vaccine nationalism. Ulstein argues that it is the Norwegian government's job to ensure that any newly developed COVID-19 vaccine is available to the Norwegian population, and in addition, it is Norway's responsibility to ensure fair distribution of the vaccine. Ulstein presents three reasons why Norway should fight for a fair distribution of vaccines:
- The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated a number of existing development challenges. Equitable vaccine distribution is key to protecting the world's most vulnerable populations from the compounding impacts of the pandemic.
- The COVID-19 crisis is global in scale, and therefore, solutions must be global in scope. Norway should continue is strong support for key players in the global response to the pandemic, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI has already entered into an agreement with a company (AstraZeneca) for the production of three hundred million doses of any new COVID-19 vaccine, which are to be made available to low-income countries. Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also engaged a global health ambassador to strengthen Norway's work in this field.
- As long as there are active COVID-19 cases anywhere in the world, no country is safe, therefore, even if Norway were to adopt a 'Norway first' approach, the solution would be a fair distribution. Cross-border trade, tourism, and community demand that the pandemic is stopped.