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Spanish government approves 2021 budget bill

On October 27, 2020, the Spanish cabinet approved the state budget bill for 2021, which will be discussed and eventually approved by Parliament by the beginning of next year. According to the budget bill estimates, the overall government spending for 2021 will amount to €236.3 billion (US$278.5 billion).

The public spending in the national health system will amount to €3.2 billion (US$3.7 billion), or a 75% increase compared to 2020 figures, while the spending in research, development, and digitalization will amount to €11.5 billion (US$13.5 billion), or an 80% increase compared to 2020.

Government estimates for official development assistance (ODA) will be published in the coming days. According to several Spanish media, Spain’s development financing may increase by 20% in 2021. The budget bill envelope of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, which includes ODA and other budgetary lines, amounts to €1.4 billion (US$2.0 billion), a 20% increase from 2020 to 2021.

Press release - La Moncloa (in Spanish)

Press release - Ministry of Finance (in Spanish)

News article - Europa Press (in Spanish)

South Korea commits US$10 million to support Rohingya refugees

On October 22, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea participated in a conference on sustaining support for refugees of the Rohingya crisis, and MOFA announced that the South Korean government will provide US$10 million in humanitarian assistance this year to support the Rohingya refugees.

The assistance will be used to not only help the refugees overcome the humanitarian crisis but also to respond to the health crisis due to COVID-19.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

University of Bergen establishes first pandemic center in Norway

The University of Bergen (UiB) opened its first pandemic center in Norway on October 27, 2020. The center will be the third of its kind in the world and will promote and gather research on pandemics, particularly on COVID-19. The center will include researchers from all of the university's faculties. 

The center aims to be a resource for the general public, government authorities, and researchers to educate all sectors and ensure better preparation for the next pandemic.

It will provide research-based knowledge on infection control measures and infections' stages. Beyond research on medical consequences, the center also hopes to contribute research on the socio-economic, legal, and ecological impacts of pandemics.

The pandemic center is a part of the new 'Alrek health cluster' in Bergen, Norway, which consists of the University of Bergen, Bergen Municipality, Norwegian Health Institute, NORCE Research Center, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and Haraldsplass Hospital. 

Press release - University of Bergen (in Norwegian)

Japan announces joint lead managers of JICA COVID-19 response bonds

The joint lead managers of the Japan International Cooperation Agency's (JICA's) new COVID-19 Response Social Bonds have been announced. The bonds, which come in ten- and twenty-year varieties, are non-guaranteed, domestic, capital market bonds, and are expected to be launched in December 2020.

For the ten-year Fiscal Investment and Loan Program (FILP) Agency Bonds, the joint lead managers will be SMBC Nikko Securities, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, Mizuho Securities, and SBI Securities.

For the 20-year bonds, the Joint Lead Managers will be SMBC Nikko Securities, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, and Mizuho Securities.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

EU commits US$46 million to Malawi for nutrition, social protection

The EU has allocated €39 million (US$46 million) in support for Malawi to respond to the COVID-19 crisis through funding for nutrition and social protection. 

This support includes a €16 million (US$19 million) top-up to €70 million (US$83 million) in funding for a program called Afikepo that will enable 280,000 children in 200 primary schools to receive school meals.

The EU’s support will also provide €23 million (US$27 million) to the National Social Cash Transfer Programme, increasing the total funding from €50 million (US$59 million) to €73 million (US$86 million). This will increase the cash transfer program’s reach among poor rural households with limited access to the labor market from 65,000 beneficiaries to 80,000 in the next year, as well as enabling 27,000 poor urban households to receive three months of cash support to lessen the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

Press release - European Commission

Report shares six-month survey results on food security and recovery under COVID-19, proposes R&D investment options

Research funded by the Australian Council for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) has assessed food security and opportunities in the following five geographies: the Philippines, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and seven Pacific Island Countries (Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji).

The results highlighted COVID-19 related problems including limited access to agricultural supplies and areas, as well as ten pre-existing vulnerabilities that exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis in all five geographies.

The study also listed six factors important to post-pandemic agricultural recovery and resilience, which include the availability of imported staples, food system governance, and support provided by social protection measures.

The review proposed several research and development (R&D) investment options to support the recovery and resilience of food systems in each geographical area.

Op-ed - Development Policy Centre, Australian National University

Report - Australian Council for International Agriculture Research

Dutch parliament and Global Partnership for Education discuss investments in education

On October 26, 2020, Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), held a talk with Dutch members of parliament (MPs) of the Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation committee on the importance of further investments in global education.

MPs asked questions on the work of GPE regarding digital learning, psychosocial support, and support for marginalized groups such as children who are LGBTQ+.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

South Korea’s finance ministry approves concessional loan of US$20 million for Asian partner countries’ COVID-19 responses

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOSF) of South Korea announced its approval of emergency concessional loans of US$20 million for its partner countries in Asia, including the Philippines (US$10 million), Cambodia (US$5 million), and Bangladesh (US$5 million) to support their COVID-19 responses.

The fund will be provided by the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF). Similar support was provided to partner countries in South America and Africa, including a concessional loan of US$5 million to Paraguay and US$7 million to Ethiopia.

Press release – Ministry of Strategy and Finance (in Korean)

Japan provides US$20 million to improve hospitals in Cambodia

Japan has agreed to provide ¥2.1 billion (US$20 million) to improve referral hospitals in the Siem Reap Province in Cambodia. 

The project will be implemented at the Siem Reap Provincial Referral Hospital and four subordinate referral hospitals. The project is estimated to take 69 months and will include the construction of a new ward and the maintenance of medical equipment for three years after delivery.

The project is expected to improve basic health services and contribute to Sustainable Development Goals three and eleven (good health and sustainable communities). 

Press release – The Japan International Cooperation Agency

South Korea partners with UNDP to support sustainable rural development in ASEAN member states

South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to support the rural development of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states by committing to provide KRW6.0 billion (US$5 million) from 2020 to 2022.

With financial support from the MAFRA, the UNDP will implement official development assistance (ODA) projects in Cambodia and Myanmar, the two key partner countries of the South Korean government’s New Southern Policy. This is also the first agreement between the MAFRA and the UNDP in the area of agriculture and rural development.

News article – Financial News (in Korean)

Overcoming pandemic will be impossible with “vaccine nationalism", says German federal president

At the opening of the World Health Summit on October 25, 2020, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier appealed to the community of states to better collaborate in the fight against the COVID-19 crisis. While acknowledging that governments have to first and foremost represent their people's interests, he urged that this pandemic cannot be overcome through “vaccine nationalism”.

Emphasizing that “no one is safe until we are all safe” from COVID-19, Steinmeier underscored the importance of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to ensure globally fair and affordable access to treatment, and he called for further support for the COVAX Facility which contributes to this collaboration. Thereby, he particularly addressed the US, saying “When it comes to making a success of our efforts to date, no country has been missed more than the United States of America,” and he called on the next US presidential administration to join the COVAX Facility.

The World Health Summit was originally planned to take place in Berlin, with around 2000 participants. Due to COVID-19, the event took place as a fully digital conference.

Press release – Federal President

News article – Tagesschau (in German)

2015 initiative for navigating tight development assistance budgets now absorbed by Australian foreign affairs department

The Guardian Australia reported that the 'innovationXchange' initiative introduced by the previous Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has ceased to be a separate entity in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Department indicated that the innovation approach had become distributed across the Department.

The initiative was announced in 2015, with the goal of finding new ways to meet development objectives in the context of falling development assistance budgets.

However, a Devex report earlier in 2020 suggested that the initiative suffered from the lack of tolerance for risk within the Department.

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

In wake of sexual abuse scandals, UK bans government officials providing international development assistance from having sexual relations with recipients

The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has recently announced that it is banning its government officials that provide international development assistance from having any sexual relationships with the recipients of UK development assistance. Parliament opened an inquiry that led to the ban following reports of sexual abuse scandals that rocked the UK charity sector in 2018.

The FCDO noted that the inherently unequal power relations between development assistance staff and recipients means these types of relationships are inappropriate. If staff members are found to be breaching this rule, it will be treated as potential gross misconduct.

The new regulation came in response to concerns expressed by the UK parliament’s International Development Select Committee that the government’s new strategy on safeguarding against sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in the sector only strongly discouraged intimate relations but did not outright ban them.

The International Development Select Committee is now trying to establish whether the new ban applies to other government departments responsible for delivering UK development assistance or only applies to FCDO officials.

News article - Reuters

50-year-old target of 0.7% of GNI to ODA remains unmet, say French NGO leaders; ODA is needed more than ever to combat global inequality

On October 24, 1970, some of the wealthiest countries from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) agreed to allocate 0.7% of their wealth for development assistance within five years. On October 24, 2020, fifty years later, leadership from prominent organizations co-authored an op-ed to call on these countries to meet their commitment.

The authors—the heads of Oxfam France, ONE France, Coordination SUD (France's national NGO umbrella organization), and development economist Gabriel Zucman—indicated that this target has never been collectively reached by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries. They pointed out that development assistance is a much-needed redistribution mechanism, especially in today's world of unprecedented levels of inequality.

In 2019, OECD DAC member states only redistributed 0.3% of their GNI on average. Oxfam calculated that if donor countries had kept their promise of allocating 0.7% of their wealth to development assistance, they could have collectively allocated an additional US$5.70 trillion to poor countries since 1970.

Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, and the UK have met or even exceeded the 0.7% target, and the authors called for the other governments to increase their assistance as well to tackle poverty and inequality, notably through financial transaction taxes or other innovative financial levies.

Op-ed - Le Monde (in French)

US to provide CEPI US$20 million for vaccine development against COVID-19, emerging infectious diseases

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it was providing US$20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support the development of vaccines to combat emerging infectious diseases.

The funding, which is planned for a five-year period, will need annual approval from Congress. The money will support vaccine development for CEPI's priority diseases, which include Lassa fever and Ebola, as well as support innovative platform technologies for rapid vaccine development to fight COVID-19 and 'Disease X' (the term used to represent currently unknown pathogens which could cause future pandemics).

CEPI was founded in 2017 and is a coalition of public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations to accelerate the development of vaccines against future emerging diseases as well as to ensure the equitable distribution of such vaccines.

Press release - Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Australia releases 27 COVID-19 country assistance plans

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, announced that Australia was releasing specific development cooperation plans to assist 27 countries in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Each plan was agreed upon following consultations and reflected each individual country’s circumstances and requirements over the next two years.

The plans were in line with the government’s new development assistance policy, Partnerships for Recovery, announced on May 29, 2020. This policy emphasized responding to COVID-19 as well as assisting the economic recovery of countries in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

US joins international anti-abortion declaration in latest move threatening SRHR and LGBTQ+ rights

The United States joined Egypt, Brazil, Hungary, Indonesia, and Uganda as co-sponsors of a non-binding anti-abortion declaration. Critics pointed out that this is the latest example of the Trump administration allying with leaders accused of human rights abuses while supporting global restrictions on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

At the signing ceremony, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that this Geneva Consensus Declaration "defends the unborn and reiterates the vital importance of the family". He also explicitly stated that "there is no international right to abortion" although UN human rights groups have sought to protect abortion rights.

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus sign indicates more) rights are also challenged by the declaration. The text specifies family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society", wording which is used to exclude, target, and in some countries, sentence to death LGBTQ+ people.

News article - The Washington Post 

UK announces US$62 million in new support to Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced an additional £48 million (US$62 million) of UK development assistance to support the refugees of the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, as well as to help Bangladesh deal with the COVID-19 crisis and natural disasters. The commitment was announced just ahead of the UK, US, European Union, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) co-hosting a pledging conference for the Rohingya crisis.

The UK will have provided close to £300 million (US$389 million) to the Rohingya crisis since 2017, when thousands of Rohingya people escaped Myanmar's brutal, systematic violence against them. About 860,000 of the Rohingya who escaped Myanmar live in Cox's Bazar, a district in Bangladesh with overcrowded refugee camps, with no access to formal education or work opportunities.

£38 million (US$49 million) of the new funding will support humanitarian assistance in Cox’s Bazar and the other £10 million (US$13 million) will assist the country in responding to the pandemic and natural disasters, such as flooding, which make the refugees' conditions more difficult and are worsening in part due to the climate crisis.

Press release - UK government

UK spending review to provide budgets for government departments for just one year, due to COVID-19

The UK government has announced that it is scaling back its ambitions for its forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) due in late November as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Normally, the CSR enables the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to set out a medium-term spending framework for all government departments for a three to five year period. However, due to the high levels of economic uncertainty produced by the pandemic, this year’s CRS has been scaled back and will provide the budgets for all departments (resources and capital budgets) for 2021-22 only.

This includes setting the budget for the new Foreign, Development and Commonwealth and its international development assistance budget. The UK has already announced that there will be cuts to the development assistance budget of 20% for 2020-21, and it has indicated that further cuts are expected next year.

The government has noted that the forthcoming CRS will focus on three key areas:

  • Supporting jobs;
  • Enhancing support for vital public services to deliver first-class frontline services; and
  • Investing in infrastructure to level up the country and drive economic growth.

Press release - UK government

South Korea provides Ethiopia US$5 million for COVID-19 response, strengthens partnership on health, sustainable development

Ambassador Ham Sang Wook of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) visited Ethiopia from October 19-20, 2020, to celebrate South Korea's provision of US$5 million in emergency relief to Ethiopia, as well as to meet with Ethiopia's Minister of Health Lia Tadesse.

The emergency relief provided is part of South Korea's 'COVID-19 Comprehensive Rapid Response Program', for which Ethiopia was selected as a partner country.

The two representatives discussed ways to institutionalize and strengthen cooperation on health security while reviewing the idea of establishing a consultative mechanism between health and foreign ministers from both countries.

Ethiopia has historically been a close partner of South Korea since the 1950-1953 Korean War, when Ethiopia sent troops to help South Korea against North Korea and China.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs