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Latest US COVID-19 supplemental funding bills contains no international assistance

The US House of Representatives passed an additional US$3 trillion supplemental appropriations bill to respond to COVID-19. In a shock to development stakeholders, however, the "Heroes Act" contains zero funds for the global response.

The bill, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate, provided for an interagency review of global health security and urged the appointment of a US coordinator for global health security, but failed to include any funding. According to a Democratic House staffer, US foreign assistance will be taken up in the regular appropriations process, although that process has been greatly delayed by the pandemic. 

Opinion column - The Washington Post

November 15, 2018: Save the Children hosts conference on the future of development assistance

Save the Children hosts a conference on the future of development assistance in a challenging global context. The conference aims to discuss when and how development assistance works best, and whether governments are committed to a knowledge and evidence-based approaches to development assistance. The conference features presentations from development professionals, showcasing best practices and key components of successful development assistance. Speakers include Norwegian Minister for International Development Nikolai Astrup.

Location: Oslo, Norway 

Event page - Facebook

October 17, 2018: Dutch foreign ministry and UNFPA co-host event on demographic trends

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, in cooperation with Rutgers University and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), host an interactive meeting entitled 'Demographic trends in a multipolar world'. The meeting coincides with the launch of the UNFPA State of the World Population Report 2018 with the same name. The event aims at presenting and discussing the most recent trends in population dynamics, including the causes and consequences of population growth and links with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Presenters include Reijna Buijs, Director General for International Cooperation at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Arthur Erken, Director of UNFPA’s Division of Communications and Strategic Partnerships. 

Location: Den Haag, the Netherlands

Newsletter - Share-Net 

October 25, 2018: Norwegian think tank hosts conference on inequality and development

Agenda, a Norwegian think tank, hosts a half-day conference on Norway’s efforts on inequality and development. The conference aims at discussing what drives inequality internationally and how to counteract growing inequalities in our partner countries. Speakers include the Norwegian Minister of International Development, professors from Norwegian universities, and representatives from political parties. 

Location: Oslo, Norway 

Facebook event (in Norwegian) 

UK Department for International Development releases impressive results report on eve of closure

Just ahead of its closure this week, the UK Department of International Development (DFID) has released a new report highlighting the results of its work over the last five years (2015-2020). Its accomplishments include:

  • Delivering humanitarian assistance to nearly 34 million people;
  • Reaching 62.6 million people with programs for clean water and better sanitation;
  • Vaccinating 74.3 million children;
  • Providing 25.3 million women and girls with modern family planning; and
  • Supporting 15.6 million children to gain schooling.

DFID will be merged into the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is set to open on September 2, 2020.

Report  - DFID Results Estimates 2015-2020

News article - Devex

Germany ceases bilateral health and education funding; multilaterals to take over

On February 12, 2020, German Development Minister Gerd Müller officially informed the Committee on Development in the Bundestag (AWZ) about the Ministry of Development Cooperation's (BMZ’s) plans to cease bilateral cooperation within global health and education.

This decision is part of an internal strategic review within the Ministry to narrow down its priority themes and to align Germany’s funding with other western partners and multilateral organizations. As a result, the BMZ plans to reduce the number of countries Germany will engage with bilaterally from 50 to 42 and to channel its global health and education funding only multilaterally, opening these sectors to capital investments and contributions from the private sector.

While a stronger prioritization within the German development cooperation was welcomed by experts, opposition members within the Development Committee (from the Left and the Greens) expressed worry that this decision would shift Germany’s bilateral focus to more strategically aligned countries, disadvantaging the lowest-income countries. The Left's Helin Evrim Sommer called this move a “radical disruption” to Germany’s current approach to development cooperation which until now has placed a strong emphasis on the needs of the people in partner countries. Uwe Kekeritz of the Greens specifically criticized the BMZ's plans to expand its strategic focus on migration control and border security to Africa. 

News article - Evangelisch.de

Focus on large funds and the World Bank

The Minister of Development, Nikolai Astrup, indicates that the share of development assistance allocated to global funds and multilateral channels is likely to further increase as it is more effective and costs less. Astrup allocated further funding to the World Bank during the World Bank's Spring Meeting, which means that Norway will allocate US$ 94 million from 2020 - 2025. 

News article - Bistandsaktuelt

South Korea shifts ODA budget further toward COVID-19 response

The South Korean government announced its second supplementary budget to finance the domestic emergency relief fund addressing COVID-19. Amounting to KRW7.6 trillion (US$6.2 billion), the supplementary budget also called for adjustments in other sectors including official development assistance (ODA). The supplementary budget includes reductions to the 2020 ODA budget of KRW276.7 billion (US$227 million), primarily from concessional loans and overseas volunteer programs that were suspended due to COVID-19 lockdown in partner countries. Details of the cuts are as follows:

  • Cuts to concessional loans: KRW200 billion (US$164 million);
  • Cuts to bilateral ODA projects: KRW14 billion (US$12 million);
  • Cuts to overseas volunteer programs: KRW36 billion (US$30 million);
  • Cuts to global fellowship programs: KRW11 billion (US$9 million); and
  • Cuts to administrative support for the Green Climate Fund: (KRW6.5 billion (US$5 million).

Of the US$227 million in cuts to the ODA budget, the supplementary budget cut US$50 million from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). In response to the cut, MOFA stated that it will increase humanitarian assistance to partner countries affected by COVID-19.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), which is in charge of concessional loans, also faced a budget cut of KRW200 billion (US$164 million). In response, MOEF has announced the following measures to support partner countries:

  • Provision of US$400 million in ODA to strengthen COVID-19 healthcare systems in partner countries;
  • Suspension of repayment on US$110 million worth of loans extended to 26 partner countries;
  • Doubling of the amount of ODA to South Korea's 'New South' and 'New North' policies to US$7 billion for the next three years, with an increased focus on global health cooperation; and
  • Support for economic cooperation with Russia and Uzbekistan.

In addition to these measures, South Korea will also set up a task force with 12 ministries and five governmental organizations to support global efforts to fight COVID-19.

News article – Yonhap news (in Korean)

Press release - South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance

Press release - South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance

ONE publishes new 'Africa COVID-19 Tracker' compiling data on COVID-19 response, impacts

ONE, an organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases, published its ONE Africa COVID-19 Tracker, which compiles and updates data for every African country, providing regional trends and country-specific information including the following:

  • Indicators related to the COVID-19 response, including testing and vaccination rates, as well as the number of cases, deaths, and doses allocated through COVAX, a global initiative to equitably distribute vaccines and treatment;
  • Indicators related to how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies, including external finance, foreign assistance, government expenditure, and external debt; and
  • Indicators related to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on poverty, population density, life expectancy, and food insecurity.

Through the Tracker, ONE aims to provide a centralized place for the data to help people across all sectors tackle the crisis.

Press release - ONE

Report notes lack of Norwegian policy coherence for development

Norway's development agency, Norad, has released a report titled 'Evaluation of Norwegian Efforts to Ensure Policy Coherence for Development'. The report, conducted by Fafo Research Foundation in collaboration with the Peace Research Institute Oslo recommends 1) establishing a new forum with a range of experts to open and initiate debates related to policy coherence, 2) that the forum annually reviews Norwegian policy goals against global development goals, and 3) that embassies systematically report to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on any issues that arise. 

Report - Norad

NGOs issue manifesto calling for next UK government to lead on global development

The UK international development NGO network, BOND, has issued a manifesto ahead of the general election on December 12, 2019. The manifesto calls for the next UK government to lead in 'building a just and sustainable world' by:

  • Enhancing the UK’s leadership on international development through a focus on poverty and inequality;
  • Promoting global economic, financial and other rules that benefit all;
  • Tackling climate and environmental degradation;
  • Supporting peacebuilding and humanitarian principles in areas of conflict or crises; and
  • Strengthening democratic and public accountability at the international level.

News article - Bond

EU Development ministers discuss key issues in Tallin

EU ministers responsible for development met informally under the rubric of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council to discuss digitalization, relations with advanced developing countries, crisis prevention, and the European External Investment Plan, designed to promote investment in EU partner countries in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood region. NGO representatives present at the meeting reportedly raised concerns about repurposing development assistance for European security and migration management through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.  

Website and livestream - EU2017

Norway contributes US$6 million to relief efforts in southern Africa following Cyclone Idai

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.

Press release - Government of Norway (in Norwegian)

UK religious groups call on government to provide debt relief to developing countries impacted by climate chaos

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.

News article - The Times

Press release - Oxfam

Foreign ministers pledge to fight for women’s rights at first all-female summit

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. 

News article - France24

EU development ministers applaud Dutch ODA increase

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.

 Article - Algemene Dabbled (AD; in Dutch)

Norway promotes Global Financing Facility ahead of November conference to mobilize resources

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. 

Opinion piece - Dagbladet (Norwegian)

France launches Support Fund for Feminist Organizations

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.  

Press release - French Development Agency 

Dutch development minister announces additional US$11 million to GFF, reiterates commitment to WHO, Gavi, Global Fund

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.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

High chance of UK Conservative Party leadership contest this summer

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.  

News article - The Guardian

News artice-  Spectator