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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

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)

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

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

The Netherlands accelerates €13 million in development funding for UNRWA following US funding cuts

In response to funding cuts by the US the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, has stated that the planned annual budget of €13 million for the The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would be made immediately available, instead of being dispensed in several payments as originally planned.

UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees residing in the Palestinian territories, but also in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The organization is currently struggling with large financial deficits. These are especially acute because the US government has withdrawn part of its financial contribution. As a result, UNRWA can no longer guarantee a number of basic needs, such as training for more than 500,000 Palestinian children, basic health care, and food.

Press release - government of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

November 23, 2017: Partos holds event on improving efficiency in development projects

The Partos Efficiency Lab, an initiative of Partos, the Dutch development NGO umbrella organization, organizes an event on assessing and improving efficiency in development organizations’ projects. The event examines the trajectory of projects from start to finish, and discusses various methods that can help to improve efficiency. A wide range of cases, from Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) to higher education, is examined.

Location: The Hague, The Netherlands

Website - Partos

Norway reaches US$1.2-billion target for development assistance to Syria

In 2016, Norway committed NOK 10 billion (US$1.2 billion) to education, food, health, water and sanitation services in Syria. At the conference on Syria held in Brussels in March, Norway committed additional NOK 2.45 billion (US$298 million) in 2019. Support for education will be prioritized and the funding will go through the United Nations, the Red Cross, and Norwegian humanitarian organizations. 

Press release - Government of Norway (in 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 

Canada to co-host ASEAN meetings on cybersecurity and disaster relief

At the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Singapore, Canada announced that it will co-chair the ASEAN Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Disaster Relief, with Lao People’s Democratic Republic and China. During its co-chairmanship, Canada will coordinate the annual meeting, relevant workshops, and the work plan for disaster relief in the region.

Canada has also committed to co-hosting an ASEAN regional forum (ARF) workshop on cybersecurity in 2019 with Singapore, aimed at promoting the development of national cybersecurity policies that include elements such as international law and human rights obligations.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

UN members gather in New York for 2019 High Level Political Forum

Representatives of UN member states have gathered in New York for the seventy-fourth High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), an eight-day UN summit on sustainable development. The theme of this year's meeting has been announced as  'Empowering People and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality'; as such, the focus of all events and speakers will be upon methods for and progress towards eradicating inequalities amongst and within member states and vulnerable populations therein.

The HLPF serves as an in-depth, critical review of the global progress made on the 2030 Agenda, and on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The set of goals set to be reviewed this year are the following:

  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all;
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries;
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts;
  • Goal 16Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels;
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

Reviews are conducted voluntarily by member states, who share their national and sub-national progress towards the SDGs with attendees. The review-sharing process provides a platform to analyze achievements and examine growth areas through partnerships with attending organizations and stakeholders. 47 countries have volunteered to give reviews this year.

United Nations - High Level Political Forum website

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)

UK think-tank calls for government to provide US$25 billion to UN Climate Fund by 2030

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a UK based policy think-tank, has released a new report calling on the UK to scale up its contributions to the UN Climate Fund three-fold to amount to £20 billion (US$25 billion) by 2030.

The report calls for a new model of international co-operation in an era of environmental breakdown and calls on the UK government to dramatically increases its funding to the UN Climate Fund, in order to pay its fair share, in light of its historical carbon emissions record. The UK government currently provides £1.4 billion (US$1.8 billion) to the UN Climate Fund over a four-year period up until 2023.

News article - The Guardian

Report: Our Responsibility - IPPR

Impact evaluation highlights sustainability of MCC/Plan USA education project

To commemorate the International Day of the Girl, the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) hosted an event to highlight a recent 10-year impact evaluation of Plan International USA’s 'Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed' (BRIGHT), a girls’ education program in Burkina Faso. The independent evaluation showed that the government and local communities have successfully sustained the results of the program years after its conclusion, with notable improvements in school attendance and performance. 

Publication - Plan International USA

Canadian civil society disappointed with Budget 2019

The Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), an umbrella organization representing Canada’s international development and humanitarian organizations, has voiced its disappointment with the new Budget 2019 put forward by the federal government. According to the CCIC, the budget does not contribute additional resources to achieve the targets of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy. CCIC plans to launch an e-petition calling for a significant increase in official development assistance and asks all political parties to make development an election issue.

News release- Canadian Council for International Cooperation

At Gavi COVAX AMC Summit, world leaders raise US$2.4 billion for equitable vaccine access: enough to vaccinate 30% of adults in AMC elligible countries

Gathering virtually at Gavi COVAX AMC's 'One World Protected' Summit on June 2, 2o21, world leaders raised a total of US$2.4 billion in public and private sector finance for equitable vaccine distribution, surpassing the event's fundraising target and raising the total pledged to date to COVAX AMC to US$9.6 billion.

Donor commitments included:

  • US$38 million from Australia;
  • US$176 million from Canada;
  • US$120 million from France;
  • US$800 million from Japan; and
  • US$60 million from Spain.

A number of new dose-sharing commitments were also announced at the summit, increasing COVAX's supplies by over 54 million doses. Pledges included:

  • 30 million Japanese-produced doses pledged by Japan to the COVAX Facility and other countries;
  • 15 million doses pledged by Spain to the COVAX Facility (in addition to the 8 million previously pledged); and
  • 2 million doses pledged by Sweden to the COVAX Facility (in addition to the 1 million previously pledged).

The funds raised at the Summit will secure 1.8 billion doses for low-income countries in 2021-2022: sufficient supplies to immunize nearly one-third of the adult population in AMC-eligible countries. The money will also be used by COVAX to diversify its vaccine supply against new variants and fund the global health strategy planning for 2022 and beyond.

Press release - Gavi the Vaccine Alliance

UK proposes ‘Brexit’ approach for R&D cooperation

The UK has outlined its preferences for a research agreement with the EU post-Brexit  in ‘Collaboration on science and innovation: A Future Partnership Paper’. The paper lays out the UK’s case for continuing a strong research partnership with EU Member States. It seems to suggest that the UK and EU should negotiate detailed terms for an enhanced ‘associate country status’  in the context of the next EU Research Framework Program (FP9). The UK benefits significantly from EU research funding: from 2007-2013, the UK contributed about €5.4 billion to EU research and development in 2007-2013, while it received €8.8 billion.

Publication - Government of the UK

September 10, 2018: Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation hosts event on tax reform and sustainable development

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) hosts an event titled 'How can tax reforms create sustainable development?', centered on comprehensive reform of tax systems being carried out by the G20 countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). More than 150 countries are now involved in the reform, but critics says that reforms do not go far enough, claiming that only rich countries will benefit from the changes. Speakers include representatives from Norad, the OECD, think tanks, and academia. 

Location: Oslo, Norway 

Event website (in Norwegian) 

EU's Coronavirus Global Response conference raises total US$8.2 billion

The Coronavirus Global Response international pledging conference on May 4, 2020 — which was hosted by the European Commission together with Germany, UK, France, Japan, Italy, and Canada — raised €7.4 billion (US$8.2 billion) in pledges for the global cooperation effort to respond to COVID-19. Notably, the United States declined to participate.

The EU and its member states raised €4.0 billion (US$4.4 billion) of the total amount pledged by world leaders and foundations. The European Commission committed a total of €1.0 billion (US$1.1 billion) in grants alongside €400 million (US$442 million) in guarantees on loans, with €100 million (US$110 million) going to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and €158 million (US$174 million) going to the WHO. However, this €1.4 billion (US$1.5 billion) pledge largely re-packages the funding the Commission has previously committed since the fundraising effort counted money already spent or allocated since January.
Of the total raised, at least US$1.4 billion was specifically earmarked for CEPI, at least US$267 million for the therapeutics accelerator, and an additional US$1.1 billion was specifically earmarked as other research and development efforts for COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. A total of US$1.3 billion of new funding was pledged for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for its 2020 replenishment.
In a strong symbolic show of unity, world leaders expressed the importance of global cooperation and solidarity to address the COVID-19 crisis, citing the need to make sure any future vaccine is equitably accessible to all.
In addition to Europe, world leaders from around the globe participated, including Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš of the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, and the President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and African Union Chairperson. China participated at the ministerial level. High-level representatives from industry, the World Bank, WHO, Gavi, UNITAID, and others also participated.
The governance arrangements for managing the money raised is still largely to be determined, but the funds will go to three partnerships for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, to be co-convened by the following global health organizations, respectively: CEPI (jointly with Gavi), the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (jointly with UNITAID) and FIND (Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, jointly with the Global Fund).

Press release - European Commission
Opening remarks by President von der Leyen - European Commission
Opening remarks by President Charles Michel - European Council
Q&A: The Coronavirus Global Response - European Commission
Coronavirus Global Response webpage - European Commission

News article - Politico