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Publication of UK’s Integrated Review on defense, diplomacy, development delayed again until March 2021

The long-awaited publication of the UK government’s integrated review of its defense, foreign, and development policy and practice has been furthered delayed and is now expected in early March 2021.

The review, the largest foreign policy review since the Cold War has been led by the Prime Minister and the National Security Council. Initially planned to be published in Autumn 2020, the Review has been plagued by delays and setbacks, frustrating many members of parliament.

The review is expected to be highly influential in guiding the UK’s development assistance strategy, particularly as it will now incorporate a soft power strategy, which was meant to be published separately but has now been folded into the review.

News article - Prospect Magazine

Report - Parliamentary report


Canada responds to global refugee education crisis with 'Together for Learning' campaign

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced the launch of a three-year 'Together for Learning' global campaign responding to the "education crisis for refugees and internally displaced children and youth" as a result of COVID-19, working to provide high-quality educational opportunities for refugees and displaced children.

The campaign aims to: 

  1. Deliver effective programs based on high-quality evidence;
  2. Amplify local voices, and;
  3. Enhance diplomatic engagement.

The campaign also includes the formation of the Refugee Education Council, composed of relevant stakeholders with lived experience of being forcibly displaced or hosting forcibly displaced peoples. 

 Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Spanish NGOs meet development leadership officials to shape assistance system reform

On February 8, 2021, representatives from the development NGO umbrella organization ‘La Coordinadora’ met with the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, and the Director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Magdy Solimán. The objective of this meeting was to review the current government’s plans to deeply reform Spain’s development cooperation system.

According to La Coordinadora, Moreno reiterated the government’s intentions to increase Spain’s development assistance to 0.5% of the country’s gross national income by the end of the current term of office and underlined the need to strengthen Spanish cooperation and eliminate existing administrative bottlenecks in order to effectively address such budgetary grow.

La Coordinadora took advantage of the meeting to present its proposal paper to the Spanish government titled ‘A new cooperation system to change the world’, which was launched in January 2021 after gathering input and recommendations from up to 300 people involved in Spain’s development affairs.

Press release - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Proposal paper - La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

At OECD release, Spanish development leadership calls for equal access to COVID-19 vaccines

In recognition of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s launch event of its annual Development Cooperation Report, the Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, stated that strengthening multilateralism and global governance were the only ways to overcome the current COVID-19 crisis.

Moreno also underlined Spain’s strong commitment to the global response to COVID-19, outlined the importance of multilateral instruments such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), and urged the international community to guarantee universal access to new COVID-19 vaccines.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Independent review commissioned by UK Treasury calls for new national measure of prosperity that takes into account value of natural world

The UK government’s finance ministry, the Treasury, has for the first time commissioned a new review into the economic importance of the natural world.

The independent review, led by Sir Partha Dasgupta, a professor of economics at Cambridge University, found that the world’s current path to prosperity is unsustainable if its impact on the natural world is taken into account. There has been a 40% plunge in stocks of natural capital between 1992 and 2014. The report calls for radical changes to global production, consumption, finance, and education to ensure sustainable growth. The report asks governments to:

  • Replace gross national production as a measure of a nations’ prosperity with a new measure that takes into account a nation's impact on the natural world;
  • Create new supranational institutions to protect global public goods such as the rainforests and oceans; and 
  • Pay low-income countries to protect vital ecosystems.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, has welcomed the review and said that it is critical that the world reverses the trend of fast-declining biodiversity.

Lord Nicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and author of a previous ground-breaking UK government review on the climate crisis, highlighted the need for immediate action now"to do so would be significantly less costly than delay" and would help lift millions out of poverty.

Report - The Dasgupta Review

News article - The Guardian

Canada commits US$1.8 million to civil society organizations advancing democracy in Belarus

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, has announced Canada's continued support to civil society organizations "working to help advance democracy in Belarus." 

Canada will provide CA$2.3 million (US$1.8 million) to civil society organizations. This commitment is in addition to a CA$600 thousand (US$470 thousand) commitment made in 2020 to support women and independent media in Belarus.

Canada is committed to working with international partners to combat threats to democracy and human rights violations in Belarus.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

Pacific, South-East Asian countries will prefer Australian vaccines due to strict regulatory standards, says Morrison

Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has indicated that Australia’s vaccines would be provided to Pacific and South-East Asian countries and that countries were likely to prefer those vaccines due to the rigorous approval processes followed by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration.

He informed the leaders at the Pacific Island Forum that Australia planned to spend A$200 million (US$151 million) to support vaccination programs in the Pacific. An additional A$300 million (US$226 million) would be provided to support vaccination programs in South-East Asia.

Transcript - Prime Minister of Australia

Green Party parlimentarian, former Swedish State Secretary promoted to Minister for International Development Cooperation

On February 5, 2021, Per Olsson Fridh of Sweden’s Green Party was appointed Minister for International Development Cooperation, replacing Peter Eriksson.

Until recently, Minister Fridh served as State Secretary for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He previously also served as State Secretary at the Ministry of Culture.

The government also appointed Janine Alm Ericson as State Secretary to Minister Fridh. Ericson has been the group leader of the Green Party's parliamentary group, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and a spokesperson for gender equality policy.

News article – Omvärlden (in Swedish)

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Canada will receive vaccine supply from first COVAX Facility allotment; critics say distribution should prioritize low-income nations

The COVAX Facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine procurement mechanism, has announced that Canada will receive 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June 2021.

While over 180 countries are a part of COVAX, Canada is the only G7 country that will receive vaccines from the first COVAX allotment. The majority of countries "drawing" from this first supply are low- and middle-income countries (with the exception of New Zealand and Singapore). Canadian federal opposition leaders are critiquing the government's decision, claiming that the first batch of supply should go to countries who are more in need. 

Canada's Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, responded to the backlash by stating that from the beginning, COVAX was a key part of Canada's procurement strategy and that "the COVAX mechanism is working precisely as designed." 

News release - CBC

UK should ensure G7 summit shows "Western unity", finds solutions to climate and health crises, includes more African leaders, says think tank

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), a UK security think tank, has published an article arguing for the UK government to focus on four key issues at the G7 summit that the country is hosting this year:

  1. Showing "Western unity": After limited US engagement during the Trump administration, RUSI called for the G7 summit to focus on the display of strong unity between the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Canada, and the EU, the current G7 members. While the UK government’s invitations to India, Australia, and South Korea as guests to the G7 summit in 2021 is welcome, RUSI argued that its keenness to permanently expand the G7 to include these countries and create a 'G10' risks causing divisions. RUSI particularly referred to India's differing foreign policy relationships.
  2. Addressing the twin crises of our time, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic: RUSI also calls for the G7 to ensure that as hard times fall, that world does not turn its back on globalization and resort to economic nationalism, by showing that the solution to these crises requires collective action, for example, by promoting a collaborative approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  3. Recognizing the strategic significance of "sub-Saharan Africa" by belatedly inviting African leaders to key G7 meetings: RUSI noted that the UK government’s failure to invite African leaders to the summit, as has been the case for the last five G7 summits, along with the steep cut in UK development assistance, risks signalling that an Indo-Pacific "tilt" comes at the expense of Africa. According to RUSI, it is not too late to remedy the situation by inviting key African leaders to certain G7 meetings.
  4. Tackling threats to liberal democracy posed by populism and extremism: RUSI wrote that many of the threats are transnational in nature and require common and coordinated responses. 

The UK government also launched its G7 youth engagement initiative, 'Y7', which aims to gather youth leaders from around the world to enable their voices to be heard and to ensure that the G7 helps build a greener and more prosperous world for all in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - RUSI

Former UK International Development Minister calls for a tax on tech companies to fund UK development budget

The UK’s former Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, a conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield, has called for the UK government to levy a tax on large technology companies and to use the funds raised to help pay for the country's development assistance budget.

Mitchell is spearheading the opposition to potential major cuts to the UK's development assistance budget (from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income) in response to the COVID-19 crisis' economic impact on Britain. The proposed cut will require parliamentary approval.

News article - DEVEX

UK’s global health security agenda for G7 summit focuses on universal health security, antimicrobial resistance, digital health

The UK Health Secretary for State, Matt Hancock, has unveiled the government’s plans for addressing global health security plans at the G7 summit. Hancock noted that the UK will use the G7 to focus on four key issues:

  1. Ensuring health security for all – by strengthening the World Health Organization and improving agility, launching a New Variant Assessment Platform to analyze genetic viral mutations, and improving international systems for preventing, detecting, and responding to outbreaks;  
  2. Standardizing clinical trials – by creating an internationally agreed set of standards for the creation and delivery of clinical trials which ensure that the data and findings of vital clinical trials can be shared seamlessly across countries;
  3. Tackling antimicrobial resistance – by pushing for the improved stewardship of existing antibiotics, stimulating the development of new ones, and ensuring shared standards across countries for antibiotic supply chains; and,
  4. Enhancing digital health – by establishing international standards for artificial intelligence (AI) and for the interoperability of health data systems, to ensure technology is used ethically and to enable data and technology to be shared quickly and safely across boundaries.

Some development experts have expressed concerns over the agenda, noting that it is at odds with the government’s deep cuts to the development assistance budget. Robert Yates, Director of Global Health at Chatham House, a UK foreign policy think tank, has highlighted how cuts to the development assistance budget will result in less UK support for national health system strengthening in low-income countries, which vital if the aim is to improve health security for all.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), the UK's development assistance watchdog, recently published an assessment of whether the UK is doing enough to prevent future global health crises through its assistance program. The ICAI, which produced the assessment for the UK parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the UK government to update and publish a new global health strategy, given that its last strategy was produced in 2015.

ICAI also called for the UK government to ensure, in light of the proposed cuts to the development assistance budget, that the scale of its investments to support global health security via the development budget are proportionate to the level of threat posed by global health emergencies.

Finally, ICAI called for a re-examination of the management structures for handling global health security within government to ensure that structures allow for their purposes, in light of the recent merger of the Department of International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the planned abolition of Public Health England and establishment of a new National Institute for Health Protection. 

Press release - UK government

News article - Devex

Report - ICAI

WHO Europe director urges wealthier countries to share COVID-19 vaccines as soon as 20% of own population is vaccinated

The head of the European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Kluge, called on high-income countries to show solidarity with low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) by sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses as soon as 20% of their own populations have been vaccinated. 

He pointed out that some richer countries—including the US, UK, Canada, and those in the EU—have already purchased, through bilateral deals with vaccine companies, "four to nine times more doses" than what they would need.

Kluge urged them to not wait until they have reached the threshold of 70% vaccinated for herd immunity before they begin sharing vaccines with LMICs.

He also opposed the idea of ‘vaccine passports’ to enable those who have been vaccinated to be able to travel because he said it would increase inequities. 
News article - France24

Representatives of South Korea’s grant assistance emphasize stronger global solidarity for SDGs in post-COVID-19 era

On February 5, 2021, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kyung-wha Kang attended the third Global Engagement and Empowerment Forum on Sustainable Development held in South Korea and asserted the need for stronger global solidarity and partnership to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the post-COVID-19 era.

In particular, she emphasized affordable and equitable access to vaccines, climate change response, inclusive and resilient society that embraces the vulnerable groups, and expansion of peacebuilding support for fragile states. She also stressed the need for diversification of development finance and technology through the participation of multiple public and private stakeholders. Kang’s term ended on February 8, 2021, and she will be replaced by Eui-yong Chung, the former National Security Adviser. 

President Hyuk-Sang Sohn of the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) stressed the same at the 2021 Pyeong Chang Peace Forum held on February 7, 2021. He stated that adequate responses to infectious disease and the climate crisis are detrimental to peace and that SDGs, which include goals on addressing poverty, health, gender equality, environment, human rights, and democracy, are crucial during the current times.

Press release – MOFA

Press release – KOICA (in Korean)

EU must guarantee low-income countries’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, say EU Parliamentarians

In an exchange with the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, members of the European Parliament’s (MEPs) development committee called for EU leadership in ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are accessible to all, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Urpilainen emphasized that the EU considers support for the COVAX Facility – a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable, affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines – to be its main tool for helping LMICs achieve vaccine access.

She told MEPs that the European Commission will coordinate an EU vaccine-sharing mechanism for EU countries to donate doses through COVAX and that the EU is looking to scale up vaccine manufacturing capacity in lower-income countries.

Press release - European Parliament

Publish What You Fund to host webinar on tracking use of public money by development finance institutions

Publish What You Fund (PWYF), a non-profit organization campaigning for development assistance transparency, will host a webinar on February 11, 2021, on the findings of its 'DFI Transparency Initiative', a project running since November 2019 to analyze the use of public money by development finance institutions (DFIs).

Webinar registrants will also gain access to PWYF's newest working paper on the findings of the project's third workstream on how DFIs measure and manage environmental, social, and governance (ESG) outcomes, as well as the transparency of accountability mechanisms including community consultations. 

Webinar registration - PWYF

Under budget pressure, Australia abolishes development assistance evaluation groups

Following a freedom of information inquiry, the South China Morning Post reported that Australia had closed two development assistance evaluation entities primarily to achieve departmental budget savings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) abolished the Office of Development Effectiveness (ODE) in September 2020 and ended the ODE's strategic evaluations of overseas development activities. DFAT also abolished an Independent Evaluation Committee overseeing evaluations.

Opposition spokesman Pat Conroy has claimed that the government's moves undermined Australia’s development program, just when major regional challenges needed to be faced. The DFAT, however, indicated that evaluations would be conducted by other areas of the Department including the Office of the Chief Economist.

Press release - South China Morning Post

South Korea contributes US$1 million to International Atomic Energy Agency's Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea announced that it will provide US$1 million to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) newly established Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC) initiative for global health security.

IAEA launched the initiative in 2020 to help member countries respond promptly to any global zoonotic diseases, referring to infectious diseases that can originate in animals and be transmitted to human beings.

Press release – MOFA

Website – IAEA

France, CGIAR strengthen collaboration on sustainable agriculture; France to allocate US$15 million to CGIAR over three years

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, French Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, signed an agreement on February 4, 2021, aiming to reinforce France's collaboration with the international organization, CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research).

This partnership includes a detailed action plan agreed upon with CGIAR, whose headquarters are located in Montpellier, France, aiming to support research for agricultural and rural development in low-income countries in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate action.

The collaboration focuses on three main themes:

  • Agriculture and climate change;
  • Agro-ecological transitions; and
  • Nutrition and sustainable food systems.

The action plan has the following three components:

  1. The development of ambitious partnership projects: These are backed by the 'Declaration of Cooperation and Reinforcement of Scientific Collaborations' and involve CGIAR centers, research institutes in low-income countries, and French research bodies, notably, the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), the National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), and the National Institute for Research on Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE);
  2. Soft diplomacy: CGIAR and France will have annual partnership coordination meetings regarding the international events for which they want to collaborate, which will include at least one high-level international advocacy event each year; and
  3. Financial and implementation support: France will allocate €12 million (US$15 million) to CGIAR over three years.

Within the French government, this partnership involves the Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

Press release - French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs

UK NGOs launch joint 'Crack the Crises' campaign advocating for government to use G7 and COP26 to tackle COVID-19, climate crisis, systemic injustices with unified strategy

UK NGOs have joined forces to launch a campaign aimed at getting the UK government to ensure that world leaders tackle the COVID-19 and climate crises, as well as the crisis of systemic poverty and injustices which are further exacerbated by COVID-19 and climate change, at the G7 summit and UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), both of which the UK will host this year. Experts see the multiple crises as intertwined and are advocating for solutions that address them head-on in conjunction with one another.

The campaign is called ‘Crack The Crises’ and brings together organizations representing more than 10 million people in the UK and include Oxfam, ONE, Bond, and ActionAid.

Website - CracktheCrises