Policy Updates

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Citing degradation of democracy, Sweden will phase out cooperation with Cambodia

On June 11, 2020, Sweden decided to phase out its bilateral strategy for Cambodia and focus forthcoming development cooperation with the country on promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The support will be aligned with a new objective in Sweden's strategy for regional development cooperation with Asia and Oceania.

“The democratic space in Cambodia has been severely restricted in recent years. This has made it difficult for broad and close cooperation," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "The [Swedish] government, therefore, chooses to refocus development efforts now in order to better support a change in human rights, the principles of democracy and the rule of law in the country. We will continue to support civil society, human rights defenders, and the voice of democracy in Cambodia. Sweden stands up for the principles of democracy and resigns when they are overridden."

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Spain's AECID coordinates efforts with regional governments to strengthen humanitarian assistance

On June 8, 2020, the Spanish development agency (AECID) hosted a meeting with local and regional government representatives to review Spain’s global response to COVID-19 and to coordinate humanitarian assistance efforts.

The AECID and several regional representatives agreed to strengthen their humanitarian efforts to effectively address the COIVID-19 pandemic in partner countries including by disbursing up to €1.6 million (US$1.7 million) to multilateral instruments working in addressing the COVID19 crisis in emergency contexts, such as the International Committee for Red Cross and the World Food Program.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Sweden and EU organize humanitarian airlift to Sudan

On June 10, 2020, Sweden, on behalf of the EU and in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, organized an airlift with 100 tons of humanitarian supplies to Sudan. The cargo included medicines and medical equipment and is the first of two private humanitarian aircraft to Sudan organized by Sweden and the EU, as commercial flights are unavailable. The second flight is scheduled to depart later in June and will contain equipment from the UNHCR, UNDP, and the Swedish Red Cross, as well as humanitarian workers.

"Sweden has had a large commitment to Sudan in recent years," said Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation. "I am proud that we can help establish air bridges to the country that supplies important medical supplies and bring down personnel to support Sudan's fight against the corona epidemic."

Sweden is a major humanitarian partner to Sudan and co-finances the airlifts through supplies from UNICEF, UNFPA, and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Canada's International Development Research Centre funds research on COVID-19 in low-income countries

Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has launched a rapid policy-relevant research response to better understand the unprecedented development challenges created by COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries. The IDRC is funding research efforts by 25 think tanks, networks, and consortia in low-income countries generating evidence-based recommendations for how governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations can most effectively respond to the crisis in low-income countries.

Research is focused on the following three themes: 

  1. Economic policies mitigating impacts of the pandemic;
  2. Public and private sector measures supporting vulnerable group and promoting gender equality during the pandemic; and
  3. Responses to protect democratic freedoms and security throughout the pandemic.

The IDRC plans to publish research findings in the coming months. 

Press release - IDRC

Two former USAID heads criticize administration's plan to move pandemic response to the State Department

Two former Administrators of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), one a Democrat and the other a Republican, strongly criticized a recent proposal by the Trump administration to move control of pandemic responses to the US Department of State (State).

Brian Atwood, who served under President Clinton, and Andrew Natsios, who served under President G.W. Bush, called the idea "counterproductive" and one that would both add costs and delay a US response during a pandemic.

The restructuring, dubbed the Pompeo Proposal, would move most of USAID's global health program to State. This would detach health from other development programs, such as food and nutrition programs, which are often critical to avoiding deaths. Further, while State has the political skills to respond to political crises, it does not have the capacity to manage large scale development programs or emergency responses.

The Pompeo Proposal would require Congressional approval.

Op-ed - Politico 

Former Australian ministers seek greater agricultural research for pandemic prevention

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for greater preparedness for pandemics and outbreaks of other diseases affecting the world. Former Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, and former Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, are calling on the Australian government to integrate research and development in agriculture, health, and the environment in order to reduce the risk of future pandemics. An integrated approach is particularly necessary for dealing with food chains involving close contact between humans and animals.

The Australian government recently released a new development strategy titled 'Partnerships for Recovery', which outlines a shift in the country's development programming to focus on stability and economic recovery from COVID-19 in the Indo-Pacific region.

News article - Australian Financial Review

USAID gives long-awaited clarification on rules for purchase of PPE by relief workers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has clarified the guidance regarding implementing partners' ability to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) using USAID funds. The long-awaited guidance laid out broad restrictions against USAID implementing partners using any funds for PPE without prior written approval.

There are two exceptions to the restrictions -- one is for use by staff under any USAID grant or contract. The other is to allow the purchase of PPE for beneficiaries if the materials are manufactured in the area where assistance is provided, but only if the PPE is not intended for the US market. The guidance, which has been held up for months, has meant that relief groups have only received a portion of the US$1.6 billion that Congress approved in March as part of the global COVID-19 response. It will remain in effect until there is a surplus of PPE available in the US. 

News article - The New York Times

Guidance - USAID

CIDP quantifies impact of COVID-19 on Canadian development spending

Canada's International Development Platform (CIDP) has analyzed the impacts of COVID-19 on Canadian development spending, specifically how COVID-19 is affecting new development projects and the pace of government contracting.

March marks the end of the Canadian fiscal year, making it typically an important month for development project commitments and contracting. In March 2020, however, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) recorded a 90% slowdown in new development projects.

Analysis - CIDP

Council of EU welcomes mobilization of US$39 billion for 'Team Europe' global response to COVID-19

The Council of the EU released conclusions welcoming the nearly €36 billion (US$39 billion) that has been mobilized for the 'Team Europe' support package for partner countries to help support their response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Council called for the package’s full implementation in cooperation with partner countries, on the basis of a joint assessment of needs, in alignment with medium- and long-term programming, and in coordination with other relevant bodies, such as the African Union and development banks.

The conclusions also highlighted the Council’s support for the ACT Accelerator global COVID-19 initiative and reiterated its support to other global health multilaterals addressing the pandemic.

Conclusions on "Team Europe package" - Council of the EU
Team Europe global response financing breakdown - Council of the EU

European Investment Bank to finance companies combating COVID-19 with US$181 million

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has awarded 36 companies working to combat COVID-19 with €166 million (US$181 million) worth of financing in the form of equity and grants through the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot. The financing will support the selected companies’ innovative projects to assist in COVID-19 prevention and treatment: including producing bio-contamination wipes, ventilation monitoring systems, and developing an antibody platform to treat severe cases. 
Press release - European Commission

South Korean President Moon Jae-in emphasizes role of the Committee for International Development Cooperation in ODA implementation

During a meeting with the prime minister, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea emphasized the important role of the Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC) for systematic implementation and enhanced effectiveness of South Korea’s ODA, especially with the role of ODA becoming more important with COVID-19.

The CIDC is chaired by the prime minister and is the highest decision-making body on South Korea’s ODA. In mid-2017, President Moon ordered that CIDC strengthen its function as the control tower of South Korea’s ODA and comprehensively and systematically manage South Korea’s overall ODA. The framework act on international development cooperation was amended on May 26, 2020, to reflect this stronger role. The amendment will come into force in late 2020.

Press release – South Korean Office of the Prime Minister (in Korean)

Japan announces plan to invest in transportation, agriculture, healthcare, human resource development in Philippines

Japan has announced that it will provide ¥154 billion (US$1.4 billion) in loans to alleviate traffic congestion, as well as ¥3.1 billion (US$29 million) to improve agriculture, healthcare, and human resource development in the Philippines.

Japan plans to support the construction of coastal roads and a bridge connecting Cebu Island to Mactan Island, as well as a bypass that connects the south of Davao City with its ports. Cebu is the second-largest metropolitan area in the Philippines (population: 2.85 million as of 2015) and is a rapidly growing trade center. The population of Cebu is expected to reach 3.8 million by 2030, however, its transportation capacity has not kept pace with its rapid urbanization. Similarly, Davao City has achieved high economic growth in recent years and its economic importance is expected to grow.

As part of this announcement, Japan also committed to 1) provide agricultural machinery (for example, tractors) to improve sugar harvest; 2) provide health and medical equipment (for example, CT Scanners and MRI systems) to bolster the Philippines' response to COVID-19; and 3) finance the enrollment of 22 young government officials in graduate schools in Japan to develop human resources. Compared to the Philippines’ economic growth rate of 6% to 7%, the agricultural sector has been growing at a significantly slower rate. As for COVID-19, there were over 16,000 cases and 920 deaths in the Philippines, and the medical infrastructure is not sufficient for tackling the pandemic. Finally, the Philippines lacks adequate human resources, organizations, systems, finances, and capabilities to address all of the development challenges it faces, including those described above.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Spanish CSO platform calls upon government to taking international leadership against COVID-19

The Spanish civil society platform 'Futuro en Común' comprising of development NGOs and other organizations advocating for the 2030 Agenda, released a report containing proposals for addressing the COVID-19 crisis and associated consequences.

In the report, Futuro en Común called upon Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ cabinet to:

  • assume a leadership role at the global stage;
  • prioritize the 2030 Agenda;
  • strengthen Spain’s international development cooperation; and
  • increase Spain’s official development assistance to 0.7% of its gross national income by 2030.


Press release – La Coordinadora

Report – Futuro en Común (in Spanish)

US claims to lead global COVID-19 response efforts, but only fraction of promised assistance has been delivered

Although the US Trump administration claims to have led in the global response to COVID-19, over 75% of the assistance that Congress approved in March of 2020 has yet to be spent. Two supplemental appropriations containing foreign assistance funding have passed in Congress since that time, totaling US$1.6 billion, most of which was to be spent through the US Department of State ('State') and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Although State and USAID have so far committed to spending US$1 billion on pandemic assistance to more than 100 countries, only US$386 million has actually been released to the countries in need and, of that total, only US$11 million has been provided to private relief organizations. Relief groups on the front lines, to whom where the money was supposed to be transferred quickly, expressed alarm that the funds are unspent, hurting prevention efforts.

The delay is attributed to slow decisionmaking and micromanagement as well as the lack of a ruling on whether funds can be spent on personal protective equipment (PPE). USAID had earlier put a restriction on the use of grant money for PPE until the White House had clarified its position.

The delays are likely to affect future funding decisions in Congress about additional money for the global response. 

News article - The New York Times

UK announces US$79 million in development assistance to Colombia for climate efforts

On World Environment Day, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that it will provide £64 million (US$79 million) in development assistance to Colombia — which is home to almost 10% of the world’s biodiversity — to support rainforest preservation and sustainable, rural livelihoods.

This funding comes from the UK’s International Climate Finance Fund (UK IFC), which is a pool of funding dedicated to supporting climate change. This financing builds on the £173 million (US$213 million) of development assistance that has already been provided to Colombia through the UK ICF program. The UK government has committed to doubling its climate financing in the next couple of years.

News article - inews

Anticipating budget cuts, UK's DFID puts new funding decisions on hold

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has informed all of its suppliers that it is putting some of its new funding decisions on hold in light of anticipated cuts to the development budget brought on by the economic recession likely to hit the UK as a result of COVID-19.

The UK’s development assistance budget is particularly vulnerable to a UK wide economic recession, as the country's Official Development Assistance (ODA) is tied to the performance of the UK's economy. The government is committed to delivering 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as ODA.

DFID is keen to prioritize life-saving assistance and funding that supports measures to address COVID-19 and is working on a number of scenarios for how to manage this prioritization and the inevitable cuts that will follow. DFID will set out its plans out in more detail in the coming weeks.

News article - Devex

Japan to provide US$14 million for health and medical equipment to Laos

Japan announced that it will provide ¥1.5 billion (US$14 million) for health and medical equipment to strengthen Laos’s response to COVID-19.

The globalization of goods, services, and supply chains has made COVID-19 a major threat to social and economic conditions throughout the world, including Japan. According to the Japanese government's press release, COVID-19 needs to be tackled by nations together. The government stressed the importance of preventing the spread of the virus in countries with weak healthcare systems, not only for the nation’s public health but also to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 to other countries.

According to the press release, although COVID-19 is not yet widespread in Laos, the healthcare system is extremely fragile and the virus could potentially spread throughout Laos and the Mekong region. Therefore, the funds will provide Laos with health and medical equipment such as ambulances and medical beds to strengthen the healthcare system.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

UK's new Shadow International Development Minister outlines Labour Party's development priorites

The Labour Party’s recently appointed Shadow International Development Secretary, Preet Gil, has set out the party’s new vision for international development. Gil has called for a strong, independent Department for International Development (DFID) that can function as a global leader in tackling poverty and inequality. While the Labour party’s immediate priority would be to focus some of the UK’s ODA budget on addressing COVID-19, Gil argued that the ODA budget must also be used to tackle long-standing inequalities related to gender, climate, healthcare, water and sanitation, and nutrition.

Gil also identified solidarity as a guiding principle of Labour’s approach to international development. In practice, this means forging partnerships with a wide variety of actors around the world (including faith groups, charities, academics, trade unions, co-operatives, movements, and businesses) and ensuring that the UK's development assistance prioritizes the inclusion and amplification of excluded or marginalized voices.

Op-ed - LabourList

Norway pledges US$1 billion at Gavi’s Global Vaccine Summit: 30% increase from 2015 pledge

At the Global Vaccine Summit, convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in London on June 4, 2020, Norway pledged US$1 billion for the period of 2021-2025. This represents a 30% increase from Norway’s most recent pledge to Gavi in 2015 of US$771 million for the period of 2016-2020. Norway was represented at the event by both Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Minister of Development Dag Inge Ulstein.   

“We know from our own experience that investing in vaccines is one of the best public health investments we can make," Solberg said in her address. "Norway was one of the founders of Gavi 20 years ago. We believed, and still believe, in the vision and mission to improve the world, one vaccine at a time.” 

Speech transcript - Government of Norway

Canada pledges US$429 million at Gavi’s Global Vaccine Summit: 20% increase from 2015 pledge

At the Global Vaccine Summit, convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) in London on June 4, 2020, Canada reiterated its May pledge of CAD600 million (US$429 million) for the period of 2021-2025. This represents a 20% increase from Canada’s most recent pledge to Gavi in 2015.

Canada announced the pledge at the Group of Friends of Solidarity for Global Health Security virtual meeting in mid-May of 2020, several weeks prior to the Global Vaccine Summit. 

Since 2002, Canada has provided more than CAD1 billion (US$716 billion) in funding to Gavi, including CAD500 million (US$358 million) for the current period (from 2016 to 2020). Canada was represented at the Summit by Prime Minister Trudeau who has been an outspoken advocate for international action on vaccine development.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada