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Pandemic spending brought global foreign assistance to all-time high in 2020, but "much greater effort" needed, says OECD

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) released the preliminary data on its official development assistance (ODA) flows for 2020. Spending on COVID-19 relief pushed foreign assistance to an all-time high in 2020 (US$161.2 billion, +3.5% from 2019), but the OECD says funds are still insufficient.

Although governments internationally have provided the equivalent of US$16.00 trillion in COVID-19 stimulus measures, just 1% of that spending has been mobilized to help low-income countries respond to the COVID-19 crisis, said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. A "much greater effort" is needed to support vaccine distribution and health services and to support the income and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, he said.

The data showed that in 2020, 22% of bilateral ODA was provided as "non-grants" (loans or equity investments), an increase of 17% from previous years and a 39% increase from 2019 levels. By income group, flows to low-income countries decreased by 4% compared to 2019 while ODA to lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries increased by 7% and 36%, respectively. These trends imply that part of the ODA increase in 2020 is due to loans to middle-income countries at a time when debt relief is increasingly discussed, with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund recently calling for greater assistance to middle-income countries for tackling debt and the climate crisis.

Some of the donor-specific information includes the following:

  • Australia's ODA decreased by 11% due to cuts to bilateral assistance;
  • Canada's ODA increased by 8% due to heightened climate financing and in-country refugee costs;
  • EU Institutions saw a 25% increase in ODA due to a significant amount of additional funds for COVID-19 related activities and with sovereign lending increasing by 136% in real terms over 2019;
  • France's ODA increased by 11% due to an increase in its bilateral assistance and funding for COVID-19, including through lending;
  • Germany's ODA increased by 14% due primarily to the mobilization of additional ODA resources to fight the pandemic;
  • Italy's ODA decreased by 7% due to a drop in bilateral grants as well as in-country refugee costs;
  • Japan's ODA increased by 1% due to heightened bilateral lending;
  • The Netherlands' ODA decreased by 3% due to a loss of gross national income (GNI), as ODA levels were set based on maintaining the previous year's ODA-to-GNI ratio (0.59%);
  • Norway's ODA increased by 8% due to a rise in health-related ODA and contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • South Korea's ODA decreased by 9% due to cuts in its overall assistance program;
  • Spain's ODA decreased by 2% due to decreases in bilateral assistance;
  • Sweden's ODA increased by 17% due to heightened contributions to the Green Climate Fund;
  • The UK's ODA decreased by 10%, driven by the decrease in GNI while meeting the ODA to GNI ratio of 0.7%; and
  • The US' ODA increased by 5% due to increased contributions to multilateral organizations.

Press release - OECD

ODA 2020 detailed summary - OECD

More information - OECD

OECD data show Norwegian ODA at record high in 2020

Newly-released Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) numbers show that the Norwegian official development assistance (ODA) budget was at a record-high level at NOK39.5 billion (US$4.6 billion).

This accounts for 1.11% of gross national income (GNI) and is 0.11% higher than the goal of 1% of ODA/GNI. The increased funding was mostly allocated to global health, the collective international response to COVID-19, and humanitarian support. 

The OECD points to Norway as one of the countries with the biggest increase in ODA in 2020 compared to 2019. According to the official numbers from the preliminary figures, Norway’s development assistance increased by 8% from 2019 to 2020 (adjusted for inflation). 

Minister of International Development Dag Inge Ulstein emphasized that no one is safe before everyone is safe and that the increase of budget in this uncertain time has been a natural response. Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said that Norway has shown a great degree of flexibility, which is critical in many of the current humanitarian crises.

Press release - Norwegian government

OECD data show decrease in South Korea’s 2020 ODA in volume and as percent of GNI

According to the preliminary data of the 2020 official development assistance (ODA) announced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), South Korea’s total ODA was US$2.3 billion and it was 0.14% of the gross national income (GNI), which was a decrease from the previous year by US$210 million and 0.01% respectively.

This information indicates that South Korea failed to meet its target of reaching 0.20% of ODA/GNI by 2020. South Korea’s latest target is to reach 0.30% of ODA/GNI by 2030. South Korea ranked 16th in terms of ODA volume (it was 15th in 2019) and ranked 27th for ODA/GNI among 29 OECD DAC member states.

The decrease could be explained by a drop in bilateral assistance and contributions to regional development banks due to the COVID-19 crisis. In particular, concessional loans decreased by 13% from the previous year, and grant assistance decreased by 0.4%.

South Korea has continued to prioritize Asia, with around 50% of total bilateral assistance being allocated, followed by 23% for Africa and 8% for Latin America. Sector-wise, global health received the most bilateral assistance, accounting for around 42% of total bilateral assistance.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean)

To prevent "vaccine apartheid", former UK Prime Minister calls for G7 to temporarily waiver COVID-19 vaccine patents and endorse international vaccine levy to raise US$30.0 billion per year

Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, has called on the G7 (Group of Seven) to take action to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.  

Brown argued that wealthy countries, which make up only 18% of the world’s population, have bought up 60% of all confirmed vaccine orders (4.6 billion doses) and that this is leading to "vaccine apartheid" that threatens to leave COVID-19 spreading, mutating, and impacting everyone for years to come.

Brown stated that an additional US$30.0 billion is required each year to help countries to pay for COVID-19 vaccine doses and distribution. He recommended that the G7 undertake three key actions in order to bring down costs down and raise new funds:

  1. Set a temporary waiver of COVID-19 vaccine patents to enable low- and lower-middle-income countries to build up their manufacturing capacity at a lower cost;
  2. Set an international levy to raise funds based on a country's fair share similar to the levy that the UN agreed on in the 1960s to fund smallpox eradication—countries pay according to their abilities, measured by their national incomes, debts owed, and levels of wealth and poverty; and
  3. Provide an additional US$2.0 billion to the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) in the form of guarantees from rich countries, along with a fraction of that amount in grants—this would enable IFFIm to raise four times as much for a special vaccination facility which would be managed by the multilateral development banks.  

News article - The Guardian

Japan's JICA partners with France's AFD-initiated platform, Sport en Commun, to promote achievement of SDGs in Africa

On April 6, 2021, the UN's International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) joined Sport en Commun, a pan-African digital platform initiated by the French Development Agency (AFD) in November of 2020 to promote the achievement of the UN's global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

Sport en Commun aims to promote the funding of development projects through sports and matching resources. JICA's partnership with Sport en Commun builds on the bilateral relationship between Japan and France; Tokyo and Paris will also host the next Olympics and Paralympics. 

Press release - JICA

Press release - Sport en Commun

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry considers re-allocation of development assistance to Myanmar for humanitarian purposes

Following the crisis in Myanmar since the military coup in February 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea said it is considering re-allocating the official development assistance of KRW16.3 billion (US$15 million) that it allocated to Myanmar in 2021.

MOFA is looking into converting these funds into humanitarian assistance and is determining the local demand for humanitarian assistance and the current situation for refugees. It is possible that this development assistance will be provided to people in Myanmar via international organizations.

News article – Seoul Economy (in Korean)

Norway launches strategy for climate adaptation, prevention of climate-related disasters, fight against hunger

On April 12, 2021, Norway launched a new strategy to combat the climate crisis and hunger that marked a greater focus of Norway’s climate assistance on climate adaptation than before, in line with the Paris Agreement. The budget for climate adaption will increase from NOK3.2 billion (US$377 million) to NOK4.0 billion (US$471 million).

The overall goal of the strategy is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by strengthening partner countries’ abilities to adapt to climate change and prevent and deal with climate-related threats and natural disasters. The support aims to eradicate hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable food systems based on agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries. 

The strategy has five thematic priority areas: 

  1. Warning systems and climate services;
  2. Nature-based solutions;
  3. Climate-adapted food production;
  4. Infrastructure; and
  5. Innovative finance mechanisms.

Press release - The Norwegian government (in Norwegian) 

Report - The Norwegian government (in Norwegian)

Biden administration mulls over bigger role in global vaccination efforts

The Biden administration appears to be moving closer towards a policy of supporting vaccine sharing internationally. To date, the administration has provided financial support to increase the provision of vaccinations globally, including US$4.0 billion for COVAX (the vaccine-distribution initiative co-led by the World Health Organization) but has stopped short of committing to sharing any significant number of vaccines with the rest of the world.  

The US has bought enough vaccines to have each US adult vaccinated three times but has only made commitments to share a limited supply of vaccines with Canada and Mexico. Recent statements by both the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen indicated that the Biden administration may be changing that stance.

Blinkin acknowledged the calls for the US to do more and announced the appointment of Gayle Smith, CEO of the ONE Campaign, as the US Coordinator for Global COVID Response and Health Security.

Yellen spoke about the strong need for wealthy nations to increase their contributions to lower-income countries to offset the severe economic effects of the pandemic. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Yellen stated that the first task of wealthy countries "must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing, and therapeutics are available as widely as possible." 

News report - The Hill

Australia to provide locally manufactured vaccines to Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste

Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, has announced that Australia will share locally-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine doses with Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The local AstraZeneca vaccine is manufactured by CSL in Australia. 10,000 doses a week will be provided to Timor Leste and PNG, increasing later as production increases. Australia will also seek vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia through international procurement.

However, concerns about rare blood clotting cases have now led the Australian government to avoid using AstraZeneca for people under 50 years of age. Younger Australians have been advised to use the Pfizer vaccine, with 40 million doses being procured from overseas.

The Novavax vaccine will also be procured later in 2021 if approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) of the Australian government.

Press release - Minister for International Development and the Pacific

News article - The Guardian

In first budget proposal, Biden floats US$6.8 billion increase for US foreign assistance

US President Joe Biden has proposed a significant increase in the US foreign assistance budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022. 

The budget proposal, which is historically known as a 'skinny budget' and is a precursor to the full annual budget, called for a 12% increase in international affairs spending over FY 2021. The full budget will be released in the next couple of months.

The increase is a sharp change from the deep cuts requested by former US President Donald Trump. Over the four years, Trump's administration had proposed—and the US Congress rejected—cuts that ranged from 20-30%.  

The budget request reflected the Biden administration's priorities, including increased contributions to addressing the climate crisis and global health, increased assistance to Central America, and more resources for US diplomatic and development workforces.  

Development advocates have been pushing for a strong increase in the US foreign assistance budget, and while some believed that the proposal fell short, others greeted it as a good start. 

Specifics will appear in the full budget, but this proposal included US$10.0 billion for global health (of which US$1.0 billion is for global health security), US$10.0 billion for humanitarian assistance, US$2.5 billion for international climate programs, US$861 million for Central American assistance (which is part of a larger US$4.0 billion four-year proposal), US$3.3 billion for multilateral engagement, and almost US$2.0 billion for UN peacekeeping programs. 

News article - Devex

UK government suspends funding to Oxfam following new allegations of sexual exploitation

The UK government has stopped the global non-governmental organization (NGO), Oxfam, from applying for development assistance in response to new allegations of sexual exploitation by two Oxfam employees working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The suspension comes after Oxfam was banned from funding for three years following evidence of sexual exploitation by its staff in Haiti in 2018. Oxfam had only just been allowed to start reapplying for funds in March 2021,

Oxfam has stated that its recent suspension of the two employees in the DRC shows its commitment to tackling abuses of power. The UK government has noted that the suspension is currently temporary and has been put in place to ensure that Oxfam is fulfilling the high standards of safeguarding required by all NGOs applying for UK development assistance funds.

News article - BBC

Council of EU approves emergency US$147 million top-up in EU 2021 budget to combat COVID-19 crisis

The Council of the EU approved a top-up of €122 million (US$147 million) for efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis in the EU’s 2021 budget.

This emergency funding will be financed by the Solidarity and Emergency Aid Reserve (SEAR) and will go toward Digital Green Certificates for reopening travel, diagnostics, variant sequencing through the HERA Incubator (Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority), an exchange platform for 'passenger locator forms' through which travelers provide contact information, and wastewater monitoring.

This top-up is one component of a broader European Commission request for a total increase of €345 million (US$417 million) in funding for the EU’s COVID-19 response. In addition to the approved financing from SEAR, €216 million (US$262 million) will be provided as fresh funding through an amended 2021 budget and will reinforce the above priorities, as well as putting aside €100 million (US$121 million) for emerging needs. The remaining €8 million (US$9 million) of the overall Commission request will be reallocated from existing 2021 budget envelopes. 

Press release - Council of the EU

UK calls on World Bank to do more to support countries with health and economic impacts of COVID-19, to address climate emergency

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development, Dominic Raab, and the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, used the World Bank’s Development Committee meeting to call upon the World Bank to expand its efforts to support countries in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and the ongoing climate emergency.  

The UK specifically called on the World Bank to focus on four key areas:

  1. Bolstering economic recovery – The UK called on the World Bank to pursue innovative ways of using its balance sheet to maximize resources for member countries’ COVID-19 recovery – including through the provision of low-cost financing. The UK is also keen for the World Bank to support the G20 to implement a Common Framework to provide orderly debt treatment for eligible countries. In order to ensure prosperity and restore global growth, the UK also called on the Bank to do all it can to strengthen low-income countries' capacities to engage in global trade and compete in a digital trade environment. 
  2. Supporting countries through the immediate health crisis – The UK government called on the World Bank to continue to support countries with the rollout and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. In particular, the UK asked for the Bank to work closely with the COVAX Facility (the global vaccine initiative) and to engage its private sector arm, the International Finance Committee (IFC), in order to boost the manufacturing capacity of low-income countries in this regard.
  3. Supporting the development of human capital and a green recovery – The UK government also called on the World Bank to hardwire tackling the climate crisis and biodiversity into all of its recovery planning and support for countries. The UK would like the World Bank to undertake more crisis risk scanning, particularly around food security, and to work with other institutions, such as the UN, to increase the volume of financing available for disaster preparedness and early response. It would also like the World Bank to support countries in building back human capital – investing in low-income countries' health workforce, public health, and social protection systems.
  4. Supporting countries to tackle the climate emergency – The UK government also called on the World Bank to help countries more in managing the climate crisis, and it welcomed the World Bank’s commitment to increase its financing for this to at least 35%. The UK called for the World Bank to formally reject coal and oil energy investments and step up its support to countering famine and rising global food insecurity.

Policy paper - UK government

Germany applauds extension of debt moratorium, expansion of special drawing rights for sustainable global COVID-19 recovery

At the World Bank Spring Meetings on April 9, 2021, Norbert Barthle, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Development Ministry, welcomed the extension of the G20 Debt Moratorium Initiative until the end of 2021, which will grant low-income countries additional time to repay borrowed funds.

Barthle expressed support for the G20 agreement to renew Special Drawing Rights (SDR) worth US$650.0 billion to member countries. This decision releases additional foreign currency reserves to finance national COVID-19 vaccine campaigns and future investments for low-income countries’ sustainable development.

Barthle emphasized Germany’s support of the Green, Inclusive, Resilient Development (GRID) agenda by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to assure a global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The GRID agenda has been set out by the Development Committee of the WBG and IMF and focuses on financial and technical approaches to resume the progress of long-term global development and economic growth while also responding to the issues of climate change, poverty, and growing inequalities.

The Development Committee pointed out that global organizations’ partnerships and international cooperation between governments and the private sector are an essential aspect of the GRID agenda – especially for the global access and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines.

Press release - BMZ

Press release - The World Bank

Spain launches Rapid Recovery Fund for emergency humanitarian assistance

With an overall budget of €10 million (US$12 million) for 2021, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) launched the Rapid Recovery Fund to disburse ad-hoc humanitarian assistance and effectively respond to emergency needs in partner countries.

The Rapid Recovery Fund will focus on supporting vulnerable populations affected by climate disasters and conflict situations. Among other actions, the Fund will provide drinking water, health supplies, and food to affected people.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Spain's AECID and France's AFD talk global development collaboration

On April 9, 2021, the director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Magdy Martínez-Solimán, and the director of the French Development Agency (AFD), Rémy Rioux, met virtually to discuss the most pressing global challenges and explore potential partnerships between France and Spain in sustainable development.

AECID and AFD committed to strengthen coordination within the EU’s development system and to find a common position towards financial development cooperation in the framework of the Team Europe initiative.

Martínez-Solimán and Rioux also agreed that development cooperation cannot be treated as less important than migration policies, but rather both need to be addressed together.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Dutch cabinet continues support for HIV/AIDS programs

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, sent the Dutch parliament a letter regarding the implementation of a parliamentary motion to continue as many programs as possible unabated which focus on tackling HIV/AIDS.

The cabinet will continue support for protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) through its multilateral partners such as UNAIDS, Aidsfonds, Frontline AIDS, Robert Carr Fund, the Love Alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The Netherlands will also remain focused on improving the position of girls, young women, and marginalized groups at a national level.

Kaag stated that the future budget for SRHR depends on the development budget and the funding distribution chosen by the next cabinet, and confirmed that she supports the current distribution which allocates €70 million (US$85 million) for SRHR in 2021.

Press release – Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Spain to strengthen development cooperation in support of LGBTQ+ rights

Following an April 9, 2021 meeting between Magdy Martínez-Solimán (Director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID)) and representatives from 'Exterior es Diverso' (a platform created by LGBTQI+ members of the Spanish foreign ministry), Spain’s development leadership decided to strengthen efforts to support LGBTQI+ rights in partner countries.

Among other measures, AECID is evaluating the possibility of launching a specific development cooperation fund related to LGBTQI+ causes. While the new Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation for 2022-2025 as well as the new Law for International Cooperation (which will be released by the end of 2021) will adopt an approach based on LGBTQI+ rights, Spain will elaborate on new guidelines for effective inclusion of sexual and gender diversity in sustainable development policies.

Press release – AECID (in Spanish)

Netherlands contributes US$87 million for debt relief, COVID-19 crisis response

On April 9, 2021, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, announced that the outgoing cabinet of the Netherlands pledged an additional €72 million (US$87 million) for debt relief and COVID-19 response in low-income countries.

Kaag made the announcement during a virtual meeting with the World Bank. Of this new allocation, €40 million (US$48 million) is intended for the purchase of vaccines, and €12 million (US$15 million) is for the distribution and administration of those vaccines.

Kaag also emphasized the importance of debt relief for giving low-income countries more room to focus on improving healthcare.

News article – Reformatorisch Dagblad (in Dutch)

Sweden adopts new strategy for cooperation with Asian Development Bank

On April 8, 2021, the Swedish government adopted a new strategy on Sweden’s cooperation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for 2021-2024.

During this period, Sweden will particularly support the ADB’s work directed at promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth and recovery, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and climate protection in the Asia-Pacific region. The strategy also seeks to promote ADB’s support for peace and state-building in conflict-affected countries.

Per Olsson Fridh, Minister for International Development Cooperation, pointed out that the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in increased poverty in the region, while "at the same time, many of the most vulnerable and hardest hit by climate change also live in the region". The ADB "plays a very important role in supporting a sustainable and inclusive green recovery and transition in the region following the COVID-19 pandemic," Fridh said.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)