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UK and Unilever’s global hygiene campaign successfully reaches one billion people

The UK government’s development assistance-funded campaign with Unilever on global hygiene has reached its goal of reaching one billion people globally.

The program, set up in 2020, is aimed at raising awareness and changing behavior to make sure that people are washing their hands with soap regularly and disinfecting surfaces. The UK government provided £50 million (US$67 million) and Unilever provided a further £50 million (US$67 million).  

The program has helped to:

  • Train 140,000 staff members, including teachers and community health workers, on hygiene skills,
  • Install 500,000 handwashing stations;
  • Deliver 75 million Unilever hygiene products; and
  • Run information campaigns in 37 countries on hygiene in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - UK government

Humanitarian organizations call for increased international assistance in Canada's new budget

Ahead of Canada releasing its new budget on April 19, 2021, Canadian humanitarian organizations urged Trudeau's government "to increase spending on international assistance in line with its increased spending on tackling the pandemic at home".

Specifically, 'Save the Children Canada' and 'Cooperation Canada' called on the federal government to meet the increasing need for international assistance especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

These groups argued that Canada's ratio of official development assistance (ODA) to gross national income (GNI) "is at the lowest point in 50 years". 

News article - Radio Canada International

Japan and US release joint statement on Indo-Pacific, climate emergency, COVID-19 crisis

Japan and the US released 'U.S. – Japan Global Partnership For a New Era', a joint statement on their commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to bolster security in the region.

Japan and the US discussed the Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership to create a sustainable and green global economic recovery, as well as the U.S.-Japan Climate Partnership to address the climate crisis.

Both countries also reiterated their commitment to combatting the COVID-19 crisis and to increase support for COVAX, the global vaccine initiative.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Press release – The US White House

Japan to host Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment meeting in June; Foreign Minister reiterates Japan’s commitment to universal health coverage

On April 15, 2021, at the 'One World Protected' event hosted by the US and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan will be co-hosting the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) Summit in June 2021.

Motegi also ensured Japan’s commitment to equitable vaccine distribution through the COVAX Facility, the global vaccine initiative co-led by Gavi, as well as through the 'Quad', a vaccine framework led by Japan, Australia, India, and the US.

He emphasized the importance of universal health coverage in tackling the COVID-19 crisis and achieving the delivery of basic healthcare to the world.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Opinion survey shows Australians support donating one million domestically-produced vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea

A survey initiated by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) indicated that 76% of Australians would support donating one million doses of Australian-produced vaccines to Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Over 80% indicated support for the Australian government helping PNG to stop the spread of COVID-19 in that country.

The CEO of ACFID, Mark Purcell, stated that this poll should reassure politicians that the public overwhelmingly backs action to vaccinate Papua New Guineans.

News article - Mirage News

Sweden develops new development cooperation strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations

On April 15, 2021, the Swedish government commissioned the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) to develop a foundation for a new development cooperation strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations.

Sweden’s support of democracy support constitutes an important part of Sweden’s development cooperation and aims to promote democratic development, respect for human rights, and equal opportunities for women and men.

"The Swedish party-affiliated organizations are helping to promote democracy by strengthening democratic multi-party systems and parliamentarism around the world at a time of democratic decline," said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation.

Sweden’s existing strategy for democracy support through Swedish party-affiliated organizations expires in 2022.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

UK parliament calls for government to raise ambitions for COP26 by setting clear targets, creating new UK environmental diplomacy strategy

The UK Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee has issued a new report calling on the UK government to raise its ambitions as this year's host of COP26, the global climate conference in November 2021, by setting clear targets that the UK Presidency wants to achieve at the conference and creating a new environmental diplomacy strategy to guide its foreign policy in future years.

The UK government has already set out four objectives for COP26:

  1. Encourage countries to submit more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions;
  2. Protect communities and help them adapt to climate change;
  3. Help raise the global US$100.0 billion target of climate finance; and
  4. Close off the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The report, as part of the Committee’s inquiry into environmental diplomacy, notes that while these objectives are welcome, they are too broad and lack measurable indicators for success. The report calls for the UK to set out an ambitious set of indicators in June 2021. The indicators should be established via an inclusive and participatory process, involving the lowest-income countries and those countries most affected by the climate crisis.

The report also calls for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to publish an environmental diplomacy strategy that would set out the Department’s medium-term strategy on the environment beyond COP26. The report calls for a new unit within the Department to be established to support this work. Finally, the report highlights that the UK needs to coordinate and support the COP27 Presidency (an African nation, it is yet to be confirmed which) to ensure ongoing success for next year's climate conference and beyond.

Report - UK Foreign Affairs Report on Environmental Diplomacy

Sweden appoints current Ambassador to Uganda as new Ambassador to Somalia for autumn of 2021

On April 15, 2021, Sweden appointed Per Lindgärde as Ambassador to Somalia in Mogadishu. He will take up his new position in the fall of 2021.

Lindgärde currently serves as Sweden’s Ambassador to Uganda and has previously been the Ambassador to Nigeria.

He has worked at the Swedish Embassies in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, as well as a Swedish representative in Geneva. He has also served as the UN Secretary-General's Deputy Envoy for Somalia and has been a special advisor for the Horn of Africa at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Negotiations close on new EU/Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Partnership Agreement

The EU and the members of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) have concluded talks on a new Partnership Agreement to succeed the 21-year-old Cotonou Agreement, which is due to expire. 

The new agreement will govern relations between the EU and OACPS countries for the next twenty years. It covers issues such as human rights, sustainable economic development, migration and mobility, democracy, governance, peace and security, human development (e.g., health, education, and gender equality), and the climate crisis.

The agreement must be approved by the Council of the EU with consent from the European Parliament before it can be signed, which is expected to happen in the second half of 2021. 

Press release - European Commission

Q&A - European Commission

Agreement text - European Commission

'One World Protected' event hosted by US and Gavi raises US$400 million, launches campaign to raise additional US$2.0 billion for global efforts against COVID-19

On April 15, 2021, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the US hosted 'One World Protected', an event to tackle the COVID-19 crisis globally. The event raised almost US$400 million and marked the beginning of a campaign to raise US$2.0 billion more for the vaccine financing instrument, the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

With the targeted US$2.0 billion, Gavi aims to provide almost two billion vaccine doses for people in 92 low-income countries and accelerate the vaccination rate.

The US$400 million, which contributed to Gavi's 2021 goal, included US$258 million from Sweden and US$47 million from the Netherlands.

The campaign will culminate in June of 2021 when Japan will host the Gavi COVAX AMC Summit.

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

German Development Minister calls for European investment plan to support Africa in becoming “green continent”

In an interview with the German newspaper, Focus, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, pointed to the importance of conceptualizing climate protection and development together. According to Müller, the African continent can play a prominent leading role in the fight against the climate crisis by using renewable energy sources in the continent's ongoing economic development.

An efficient fight against the climate crisis can only be pursued with a global turnaround in energy policy, Müller said. If the 600 million people without access to electricity on the African continent are provided with electricity through coal-fired plants, we will never achieve our climate goals.

Müller called for a European investment plan to support Africa in becoming “the green continent of renewable energy”. To this end, green hydrogen would be an important source, Müller said, which can be produced most efficiently in countries with high solar power.

Green hydrogen production plants are currently being built with German support in Tunisia, South Africa, and Brazil. According to Müller, this not only creates attractive job opportunities for young people but also enables a “quantum leap” on the path to a global energy transition.

Müller also called on the EU to extend its Green Deal with an African-focused component, including investments in renewable energy and climate adaptation measures 

News article - Focus Online (in German) 

French NGOs call on French government to support COVID-19 global response according to national wealth

In a joint op-ed, representatives from the NGOs Global Citizen, ONE, Pandemic Action Network, and Global Health Advocates (Action Santé Mondiale) called on the French government to do its fair share to support global and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

While signatories welcomed the French government's call to G7 countries to share vaccine doses with other countries as soon as possible, they called on French authorities to financially support the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a partnership launched by the World Health Organization and other partners, as well as ACT-A's vaccine pillar, COVAX, which aims to give 30% of the global population access to COVID-19 vaccines by early 2022.

The advocates wrote that France has not contributed to ACT-A in proportion to its wealth, ranking 13th among total contributors and providing 14 times less funding than Germany so far. The authors asked that France provide an additional €1.0 billion (US$1.2 billion), which they said amounts to its fair share according to its national wealth.

Op-ed - La Croix (in French)

With additional US$263 million to COVAX for COVID-19 vaccine access, Sweden becomes largest per capita contributor

On April 14, 2021, Sweden announced a comprehensive investment totaling SEK 2.5 billion (US$293 million) in the area of global health. The investment is primarily to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, but the support also aims to prevent and manage the risk of corruption as well as counteract crowding-out effects in healthcare systems in the world’s lowest-income countries.

"Sweden will also be the world's largest contributor to COVAX in per capita terms and the fourth largest donor in total. We do this to show solidarity, but also to contribute to the common goal of all countries to end the pandemic," said Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation.

The funds will be distributed as follows:

  1. In addition to the SEK 200 million (US$23 million) already committed, Sweden will make an additional contribution to COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, of SEK 2.3 billion (US$263 million)—the funds will be made available to COVAX in 2021, but the actual payments will span a 10-year period;
  2. Sweden will allocate an additional SEK 250 million (US$29 million) to the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to ensure that essential vaccine doses are available in low- and middle-income countries; and
  3. Sweden will provide a grant of SEK 10 million (US$1 million) to Transparency International with the aim of combatting corruption and counterfeit vaccines.

As the COVID-19 crisis has had major displacement effects on healthcare provision in the world's lowest-income countries, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) will specifically work to invest in resilient healthcare systems and counteract crowding-out effects. Moreover, Sweden will participate in a global initiative using new technology to help ensure that vaccines end up where they are supposed to go.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

German Development Minister criticizes projected ODA decline, says funding levels must remain high to address economic, health, and food insecurity crises

Newly-released Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) numbers show that the official development assistance (ODA) from the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members reached a record high of US$161.2 billion in 2020, a significant portion of which was used for fighting the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries. Germany, one of the DAC members, contributed US$28.4 billion in 2020.

In an interview, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller, praised Germany for reaching its 0.70% ODA-to-GNI goal this year but criticized the projected decline of German ODA in the upcoming years, due to plans to increase spending on in-country spending on economic recovery.

Germany should maintain 2020's high ODA level, Müller said, to address the burgeoning economic, health, and food insecurity crises triggered by the pandemic. The German mid-term financial plan for 2023-2025, which includes a decrease in ODA of 25% between 2021 and 2025, does not appear to take into account these increased funding needs, he said.

News article - Deutsche Welle (in German) 

Press release - Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (in German)  

Following OECD data release, Spain's NGO network calls for increases to Spanish ODA

Following the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) publishing its preliminary data on official development assistance (ODA) disbursements for 2020, the network of Spanish development NGOs, 'La Coordinadora', released an analysis arguing that Spain should contribute more ODA in order to combat the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis globally.

According to the OECD release, Spain’s ODA net disbursements amounted to US$3.0 billion in 2020, making it the 13th-largest OECD donor. In relative terms, Spain’s ODA reached 0.24% of its gross national income (GNI).

The analysis highlighted that, following current trends, Spain would not reach the government’s target of increasing ODA to 0.5% of GNI before 2046.

Press release – La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Press release – OECD

OECD data show increase in Japan’s 2020 ODA in volume and as percent of GNI

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) for 2020, which showed that Japan’s ODA was US$16.3 billion in 2020, a 4% increase from 2019.

The percentage of Japan’s ODA compared to gross national income (GNI) also increased, from 0.29% to 0.31% of ODA/GNI.

Among the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries, Japan had the fourth-highest ODA, behind the US, Germany, and the UK.

A major reason for the increase in ODA was due to the COVID-19 crisis, as well as Japan’s support to revitalize economic activities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

New needle-free COVID-19 vaccine candidate to be trialed in Australia

Private Australian biotechnology company, Technovalia, announced that approval has been granted to allow a phase one clinical trial of its COVID-19 candidate vaccine, COVIGEN. The vaccine has been developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical company BioNet.

The vaccine trial is supported by the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund. It is being undertaken through a collaboration between Australian institutions and industry, including the University of Sydney.

COVIGEN is the first needle-free DNA-based vaccine candidate to be tested in Australia.

News article - Mirage News

UK announces members of newly formed Gender Equality Advisory Council for G7

The UK government, which holds the Presidency of the G7 (Group of Seven) this year, has published the full list of members for its newly created Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC). 

The GEAC was created in order to ensure that the G7 puts women at the center of their "build back better" agenda following the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Council is comprised of 19 members selected from each of the G7 countries and beyond. Members reflect a commitment to democracy and women’s empowerment, and many are drawn from the realm of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. 

The Council will publish an independent report with recommendations for how the G7 can ensure that women are at the heart of recovery efforts.

Press release - UK government

OECD figures show EU and member states significantly increased ODA spending to US$79.5 billion in 2020

The EU and its 27 member states significantly increased official development assistance (ODA) to €66.8 billion (US$79.5 billion) in 2020, according to preliminary figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The €8.9 billion (US$10.6 billion) gain represents a 15% increase in nominal terms. 

In 2020, the EU and its member states’ combined ODA made up 0.50% of the EU27’s collective gross national income (GNI). This increase from 0.41% in 2019 is due in part to the increase in ODA but also due to a decrease of 4.70% in collective GNI.

The EU Institutions, made up of the European Commission and European Investment Bank (EIB), increased ODA by €3.7 billion (US$4.4 billion), or 27%, from 2019 for a total of €17.0 billion (US$20.2 billion).

The Commission’s ODA increased by €2.8 billion (US$3.3 billion), or 22%, from 2019 to €15.8 billion (US$18.8 billion) in 2020. Due to loans to the private sector, EIB-managed ODA increased by €830 million (US$988 million), or 211%, to €1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion).

Press release - European Commission

Q&A - European Commission

News article - Euractiv

Press release - OECD

US intelligence report warns "far-reaching" effects of COVID-19 pandemic will last years

The Annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, issued by the US intelligence community, warned that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will "ripple through the world for years".

The annual assessment, which had been paused during the last year of former US President Donald Trump's administration because the administration disagreed with some of the assessment's conclusions, offered a grim analysis of the "far-reaching" effects of the pandemic.

The effects can be seen not only in the global health sphere but also in the economic, political, and security spheres. Further, as every country has been affected by the pandemic to some degree, the assessment said that even when a vaccine is widely available in all countries, the economic and political impacts will continue to be felt for years. Addressing the climate crisis, as well as other issues, will also face additional challenges.  

News article - ABC News