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Australia commits US$361 million to increase COVID-19 vaccine access

Australia's Foreign Affairs and Health Ministers have announced an additional A$500 million (US$361 million) to purchase COVID-19 vaccine doses and provide technical assistance to the Pacific region and Timor-Leste. The funding will also support national regulators in assessing vaccine effectiveness and safety.

The new funding is in addition to the A$23 million (US$17 million) already committed for vaccine access to the Pacific. It will be provided over three years and be classified as official development assistance (ODA). The regional vaccine access and health security initiative are in addition to the existing ODA budget, which is capped at A$4.0 billion (US$3.0 billion) annually.

Australia previously committed A$80 million (US$58 million) to the Advance Market Commitment, a financial mechanism of the global Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, to assist poorer countries in obtaining fair access to successful vaccines.

Australia's new funding follows major commitments from China to provide vaccine access to five Southeast Asian countries.

News article - The Sydney Morning Herald

Sweden pledges additional US$8 million in support of UN peacebuilding and women's participation

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of UN’s Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security, and within the framework of its global COVID-19 response, Sweden has pledged to contribute an additional SEK 75 million (US$8 million) to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

Peter Eriksson, Minister of International Development Cooperation, emphasized that "much remains to be done to achieve concrete results for people on the ground."

Sweden is one of the largest donors to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. The Fund, which aims 30% of its financing at gender equality, has successfully met this target in recent years.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Canada introduces new 'women, peace and security' agenda initiatives, commits US$11 million for women peacebuilders

While celebrating the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (which recognized the important role that women play in preventing conflicts and called for increased inclusion and protection of women), Canada released new 'women, peace and security' (WPS) agenda initiatives.

The government will provide CA$10 million (US$7 million) for women peacebuilders globally and CA$5 million (US$4 million) for grassroots women peacebuilders. Canada has also introduced a new annual awards program to bring attention to excellence in WPS research and civil society leadership, and is planning a global advocacy campaign to "recognize, support and protect the important work of women peacebuilders".

The WPS agenda is a key part of Canada's feminist international foreign assistance policy.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Ahead of government review, UK parliamentary committee releases new vision for UK's next decade of international policy

The UK’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, a cross-party parliamentary body, has released a new report following its inquiry into the future of UK international policy. 

The report, titled 'A Brave New Britain? The Future of the UK’s International Policy', is intended to influence the findings of the government’s integrated review of UK foreign affairs, defense, and development which aims to establish a vision of Britain’s global role over the next decade.

The report is highly critical of the UK’s existing international approach which, it notes, has left the UK  "adrift", lacking clarity, confidence, and coherence. Centered around the need for a strengthened leadership role for the government’s new Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the report makes the following eight key recommendations on how the UK can increase its engagement at a global level:

  1. Prioritize the Indo-Pacific and European regions within its new international policy, given their importance to the UK’s prosperity and security: The report recognizes that the government has already indicated that it will tilt its foreign policy to the Indo-Pacific region, given the growing economic and geopolitical importance of the region, and the report asks for the government to provide greater detail into the strategic goals and resources that will be provided to achieve this shift. However, the report also argues that this shift must not come at the expense of neglecting the UK's European interests and calls for greater efforts to establish links with European capitals following Brexit.
  2. Strengthen the strategic coordination between the Department of Trade and the FCDO to ensure greater policy coherence and impact of the UK’s trade policy: The report references other countries where a trade department has been fully absorbed into a foreign affairs department to enable greater coherence.
  3. Ensure the FCDO prioritizes mediation, conflict resolution, and atrocity prevention:  The report recommends the FCDO be provided with an enhanced institutional ability to coordinate with the Ministry of Defence in this sphere to ensure coherence.
  4. Publish a soft power strategy that includes a resource budget and gives the FCDO the leadership role in coordinating the multiple government departments to deliver on this strategy: This call comes from an analysis in the report that highlights that the UK’s comparative advantage on soft power is at risk of being eroded by rival powers and the financial threats from the COVID-19 crisis on the UK economy. The report takes a very wide view of soft power, looking beyond the BBC World Service and British Council to include UK’s educational institutions and even the UK’s markets and financial infrastructure.
  5. Lead on reform of multilateral organizations: The report highlights the importance of ensuring international organizations maintain relevance in today’s changing world and benefit all and not the few.
  6. Work through networks of like-minded nations to achieve goals: Using its convening power, the UK should seek to build issue-based coalitions of the willing that can be to used achieve change. The report points to networks around supporting democratic values against authoritarianism, or networks around cooperation on vaccine research, as examples of how this approach could be used to achieve key UK goals.
  7. Continue to commit to fighting the existential threats of climate change and global health security and ensure these are priority areas for future UK international policy: The Foreign Affairs Committee notes that it will be holding inquiries into these two threats in the near future to look into more detail about how the UK can deliver leadership in these areas.
  8. Deploy its convening power and thought-leadership on regulations around frontier sectors such as emerging technologies, cyber, and space domains: This includes establishing diplomatic missions to the leading technology companies to achieve their cooperation in setting future rules and standards.

Report - House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee

Sweden allocates additional US$16 million to address impact of COVID-19 crisis on SRHR

In response to global repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), the Swedish government has decided to allocate an additional SEK 140 million (US$16 million) to counteract the displacement effects of the pandemic on vital activities linked to SRHR, with a particular focus on the continent of Africa.

Peter Eriksson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, pointed out that child and maternal mortality rates are rising globally and women's rights are decreasing due to the COVID-19 crisis. Eriksson emphasized, "We cannot accept that development is regressing.”

Out of the SEK 140 million (US$16 million), SEK 100 million (US$11 million) will be administered through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The remaining SEK 40 million (US$5 million) will be used to support the implementation of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s strategy for SRHR in sub-Saharan Africa.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Australian development assistance to Indonesia has fallen by 50% over six years, confirm foreign affairs officials

Australian Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Frances Adamson, has confirmed that Australian development assistance to Indonesia was budgeted at A$255 million (US$181 million) this year.

This was the same level as the last financial year and half the figure provided in 2014-2015.

Funding this year to Indonesia had not increased due to additional COVID-19 spending, but Australia established a new health partnership within the Indonesian assistance program as a result of the pandemic.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne emphasized that Australia’s cooperation plan involved assisting Indonesia in its response to the COVID-19 crisis.

News article - The Canberra Times

UK announces world’s first guidance for protecting female peacebuilders

The UK government has established what it says is the first global guidance on how to protect female peacebuilders, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women’s role in conflict prevention.

The new guidance provides a road map for how countries can involve women in peace-building, and it includes recommendations to standardize the pay of women peacebuilders, train local authorities on the threats faced by women working in this sphere, and establish secure transportation for these women.

Research by UN Women and the Council on Foreign Relations shows that peace talks involving women are far less likely to fail and far more likely to last for a longer period. However, despite this, women are still often missing from conflict prevention processes with women making up only 2% of mediators and 8% of negotiators on average between 1990 and 2017.

The UK government also announced new funding to the Women Mediators across the Commonwealth (WMC) network and further funding to support research into the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls living in fragile and conflict-affected states, such as Afghanistan and Nigeria.

News article - Devex

Press release - UK government

Devex study highlights five potential effects of US election on global development policy

The November 3, 2020, US elections could have significant implications for the future of US global development policy. Authors of a Devex analysis pointed to five possible development changes following elections, in addition to the races to watch for:

  1. More money for a global COVID-19 response: Emergency COVID-19 funding has been stalled for months, so experts hope the election will revive those efforts and see some version of the Heroes Act (versions of which were approved by the House in May and October) or another package.
  2. The level of funding for US foreign assistance: Trump administration has made it clear that it will dramatically cut development budgets. Experts caution not to expect that a Biden administration or Democratic Senate majority would automatically mean more money, but it could mean the distribution of current development funds. New congressional leaders will also impact these funds, considering that both Democratic and Republican development champions will be leaving their roles.
  3. Changes in congressional committee leadership: The House of Representatives leadership was expected to shift, with an open leadership spot for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as for the Appropriations Committee and State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate's future was less certain; it has ten senators on its Foreign Relations Committee up for re-election which could change the fabric of the Senate even if Republican Senator Lindsey Graham remains chairman.
  4. Renewed priority for foreign assistance reforms: The Trump administration significantly restructured and limited the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A Biden administration could provide an opportunity to recommit to assistance reforms that have been subsequently neglected, as well as give more weight to the development and diplomacy sectors again since the defense sector has had more focus under Trump.
  5. Changes in the US's credibility of democratic governance over foreign assistance programs: The analysis highlights that Biden has promised that if elected, his administration would seek to prioritize democracy and governance. 

News article - Devex 

Japan emphasizes international cooperation for health systems strengthening during OECD meeting

From October 28-29, 2020, 37 OECD member countries including Japan participated in the OECD Meeting of Council at Ministerial Level. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga opened with a video message and highlighted the importance of international cooperation to strengthen health systems.

Suga praised the OECD Southeast Asia Regional Program (SEARP) support of policy reforms and efforts in Southeast Asia and highlighted their efforts for digital transformation.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

South Korea contributes US$10 million to COVAX AMC

South Korea announced its plan to donate US$10 million to the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), the financial mechanism designed to provide low-income countries equitable and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines.

South Korea's contribution supports Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance's financial goal to be able to secure one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for partner countries by the end of 2021.

South Korea has already announced its plan to secure COVID-19 vaccines for 60% of its population through the COVAX Facility, the global procurement mechanism of COVAX's efforts, organized by the World Health Organization and Gavi.

News article – Relief Web

Dutch government addresses parliamentary questions on foreign policy expenditures, climate financing, ODA cuts

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister, Stef Blok, answered 85 questions about the 2021 ‘Homogeneous Group for International Cooperation’ (HGIS) note, a document in which the foreign policy expenditures of all ministers are specified.

Questions answered by Blok ranged from details on climate financing, definitions of gender-sensitive COVID-19 responses, and which cuts to official development assistance (ODA) are currently being prepared.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Canada's IDRC launches call for proposals from researchers in LMICs, Canada with emphasis on food systems security

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in partnership with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, has called for research proposals focused on improving policy interventions, as well as finding novel solutions to problems related to environmental sustainability, gender, population health, and social equity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Funds are available for doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows in both LMICs and Canada focusing on one or more of the below themes:

  1. Promoting healthy and sustainable food systems in LMICs;
  2. Supporting interdisciplinary exchanges of ideas; and
  3. Harnessing existing lessons and best practices from research, policy, and civil society realms that work to improve food systems, environmental sustainability, and global health.

Press release - International Development Research Centre

UK, World Bank-backed expert panel publishes report on cost-effective approaches to alleviating global education crisis

The Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP) has released its first report on the best investments for tackling the learning crisis in vulnerable countries.

The GEEAP, convened by the UK and World Bank and hosted by Building Evidence in Education (BE2), consists of leading global education experts with the mandate to give "succinct, usable, and policy-focused" recommendations for policymakers' education investments in low- and middle-income countries.

The report recommends that donors prioritize:

  • Ensuring that teaching is based on the ability and learning level of students rather than age or grade;
  • Increasing investments in pre-primary education to halt the learning disparity seen by age five;
  • Developing structured lesson plans with teacher mentoring and training;
  • Supporting merit-based scholarships to disadvantaged children to help them remain in school; and
  • Working to reduce travel times to schools.

The UK's involvement in these efforts contributes to the UK's goal for every girl to have up to 12 years of quality education and ties into the UK's upcoming leadership of the Global Partnership for Education replenishment summit and the G7 next year (of which girls' education will be a central theme).

Evidence shows that the COVID-19 crisis is adding to what was already a global learning crisis in many low-income countries.

Report - Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel

Press release - UK government

EU could start vaccinating 700 million people in April, says European Commission president

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU could begin vaccinating 700 million people with a supply of potential COVID-19 vaccines in April 2021.

Speaking at a press conference with her special advisor, global health expert Peter Piot, von der Leyen outlined the EU’s best-case scenario, that significant vaccine supplies would be available starting in April, which could fully cover the EU’s population of 446 million and still leave doses available for donation to poorer countries.

The EU has signed advance purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV) for potential COVID-19 vaccines. If all of these vaccine candidates end up being safe and effective, the EU would have 1.2 billion doses available in 2021. However, von der Leyen acknowledged that not all candidates will be successful.

Press conference video - European Commission

News article - Politico

Spanish foreign ministry's ODA envelopes to increase by 21% in 2021

On October 28, 2020, the Spanish cabinet approved the state budget bill for 2021, which will be discussed and eventually approved by the parliament by the beginning of next year. According to the budget bill, official development assistance (ODA) funding packages at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union, and Cooperation would increase by 21% compared to the current ODA budget for 2020.

The ODA budget bill, to be managed by the Spanish foreign ministry, will be around €670 million (US$790 million). While the ODA budget of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation will increase from €323 million (US$381 million) in 2020 to €377 million (US$444 million) in 2021, the ODA budget allocation for the Secretary of State for International Cooperation (SECI) will increase from €229 million (US$270 million) to €293 million (US$345 million).

Overall estimates for Spanish ODA in 2021 will be published by the Spanish parliament in the coming weeks.

State Budget Bill for 2021 – Ministry of Finance (in Spanish)

Dutch parliament debates 2021 development budget; COVID-19 divides and delays debate

On October 26, 2020, the Dutch parliament debated the 2021 budget for foreign trade and development cooperation with Dutch Development Minister Sigrid Kaag. Disagreements notably arose regarding potential increases to the development cooperation budget.

Anne Kuik, a member of parliament (MP) for the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), highlighted the importance of health systems in low-income countries in the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis. MPs of the Reformed Political Party (SGP), Socialist Party (SP), Green Party (GroenLinks), and Labour Party (PvdA) expressed their concerns about the budget for development cooperation in the coming years. For this reason, SP, GroenLinks, and the PvdA proposed to increase the budget by €500 million (US$573 million).

Conversely, the largest opposition party, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), argued that the economic situation in the Netherlands due to the COVID-19 crisis should be a reason to decrease the development budget.

The amendment for an increase in the budget will be discussed in the second part of the budget debates, which was postponed due to Kaag's quarantine after being in close contact with a COVID-19 case. 

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Spanish NGO publishes annual report on global education, makes recommendations to achieve SDG 4

On October 28, 2020, the Spanish development and faith-based organization Entreculturas released its annual report, this year titled ‘The return to school: a global challenge in the shadow of the pandemic’, which analyzed the current state of global education and made recommendations on how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on quality education.

Entreculturas also called on the Spanish government to strengthen global education policies and increase funding to multilateral instruments such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a fund dedicated to improving education in low-income countries.

Press release - Entreculturas (in Spanish)

Report - Entreculturas (in Spanish)

Germany strengthens 'One Health' project, will invest US$35 million in Kenyan pandemic center

At the 2020 World Health Summit, an annual leading global health conference, German Development Minister Gerd Müller announced that the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will invest €30 million (US$35 million) to set up a 'One Health' pandemic center in Kenya.

One Health is a multidisciplinary approach that recognizes humans' connections with other species and their shared environment, a concept discussed in the context of zoonoses (infectious diseases which spread from animals to humans) which can lead to pandemics.

The funding is part of Germany's efforts to expand the One Health and pandemic preparedness projects in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Given that at least 40 more potential pandemic-causing viruses have been identified, the BMZ will put an additional focus on food security and early detection of zoonoses in food production, in cooperation with the World Bank.

Parliamentary State Secretary, Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, will be heading the newly set up One Health Directorate at the BMZ. According to Flachsbarth, the “One Health triad of human health, animal health, and a healthy environment” needs to be strengthened to effectively tackle future pandemics.

Press release – BMZ

EU seeks to lead WHO reform efforts, will jointly table resolution at World Health Assembly

Following a recent videoconference of health ministers, EU member states have decided to adopt a common position on the World Health Organization (WHO) reform process and to strengthen their role as a bloc in leading WHO reform efforts and responding to Europe's rising COVID-19 cases. 

Member states released Council conclusions calling for increased transparency, effectiveness, and influence for the WHO, as well as boosting funding and information-sharing.

The coalition will jointly table a resolution at the World Health Assembly on November 9, 2020, and plans to campaign worldwide to gain more support for their proposals.

Press release - Council of the EU

New development bank, Invest International, cannot include SDGs as institutional goals, says Dutch development minister

Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister, Sigrid Kaag, answered the questions raised by the parliamentary Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation committee on the authorization to establish the Dutch financing and development institution, Invest International.

Kaag explained that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be included as goals of Invest International due to their end date of 2030 and because Invest International's budget will be a mix of official development assistance (ODA) funds and non-ODA funds.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)