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Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia (MIKTA) launch development cooperation institutions network for stronger partnership

Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia, the five countries of the 'MIKTA' partnership which was formed in 2013, recently launched a network among their development cooperation institutions for discussion on international norms on foreign assistance, mutual sharing of development cooperation strategies, and promotion of triangular cooperation.

This partnership will also be implemented in line with the values and strategies of MIKTA itself. For South Korea, this can be an opportunity to create synergies by engaging with MIKTA as a whole rather than its previous approach of working bilaterally with each MIKTA member countries.

Press release – KOICA (in Korean)

Japan provides US$289 million for COVID-19 response in Papua New Guinea

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided up to US$289 million in loans for the COVID-19 response in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Due to a reduction in economic activity and a decrease in the price of crude oil, economic growth is expected to drop.

This loan is expected to contribute to the recovery, stability, and sustainable development of PNG through financial support co-financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), as well as through the curbing of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs launches global platform on gender equality

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and two civil society organizations—Plan International Norway and FOKUS (Forum for Women and Development)—have launched the global campaign 'Action for Equality', with the aim to commemorate and take action on behalf of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, which is "considered to be the most comprehensive global policy framework for the rights of women".

The two organizations work on advancing children’s rights and international gender issues. The goal is to raise both awareness and action about gender equality and lift women’s rights higher on the global agenda through a digital knowledge platform campaign.

The platform includes a quiz on global gender equality and suggestions on how to start the conversation and act on the topic. The campaign aims to show that none of the world’s countries are in line for achieving full gender equality before 2030. The campaign highlights that the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the risk of earlier achievements being reversed. 

Website - Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Plan International, and FOKUS

UK’s independent assistance watchdog outlines review agenda for 2021-2022

The UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), has set out which UK government development assistance programs and policies it will review in 2021-2022.

ICAI will review the UK government's:

  • Use of official development assistance (ODA) to respond to the COVID-19 crisis one year on;
  • Alignment of UK ODA to the UN Paris Agreement on climate action;
  • Humanitarian response to COVID-19;
  • ODA to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA);
  • Use of ODA to support democracy and human rights;
  • ODA to support education in light of its commitments;
  • ODA in Afghanistan as part of a country portfolio review; and,
  • Peacebuilding efforts with a focus on gender.          

Report - ICAI Work Plan

Biden repeals infamous 'global gag rule' and restores funding to UNFPA, increasing protection for sexual and reproductive health and rights, global health

Fulfilling a campaign promise, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order that formally revoked the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the 'global gag rule', for its restrictions on global health and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

Additionally, Biden ordered that US agencies involved in foreign assistance shall waive all existing conditions in any current grants that contain Mexico City Policy restrictions, notify current grantees of that waiver, and stop imposing these restrictions for any future awards.  

Biden ordered US agencies to withdraw from the Geneva Consensus Declaration, an anti-abortion declaration signed by 34 countries. Biden also directed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to resume funding for the United Nations Population Fund. 

News report - The Washington Post  

Press release - The White House

European Parliament development committee adopts EU-AU strategy, calls for central role of human development

Members of the European Parliament’s development committee voted to adopt a new European Union-African Union (EU-AU) partnership strategy that goes beyond cooperation on green transition, energy, digital transformation, sustainable jobs, good governance, and migration to also give human development a central role in the partnership. 

The committee called for prioritizing education, improving health care, and strengthening health systems, as well as supporting climate adaptation, regional integration, a continental free trade area, sexual and reproductive health and rights, debt relief, and the human dignity of refugees and migrants. 

Members of the European Parliament also urged that the EU-AU relationship should be one of equals, moving “beyond the donor-recipient relationship”.

The report is expected to be adopted by the full plenary during its March 2021 session and will feed into the new partnership negotiations between the European Commission and the African Union.

Press release - European Parliament

News article - Euractiv

Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation freezes support for UNDP over possible malpractice in Russia

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, has frozen the transfer of €10 million (US$12 million) to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—one-third of the yearly amount that the Netherlands usually pays to the organization—as a direct response to the possible misuse of allocated funds for an energy project in Russia.

Kaag became aware of the possible misuse in May 2018 and stated that the UN did not properly address these issues until late last year. Consequently, she is still in discussion with other organizations and donor countries about whether or not these measures are sufficient to lift the freeze.

News article - NOS (in Dutch)

Dutch product development partnerships publish report on impact in preventing and responding to global health threats

In their new report, 'Keeping The Promise: Product Development Partnerships’ (PDPs) Role in the New Age of Health Research and Product Development', the Dutch government-supported PDPs identified the key factors that helped them succeed in the prevention of and response to global health threats such as tuberculosis, malaria, and COVID-19.  

Key factors that were found included: minimizing the costs of product development by pooling resources and leveraging partnerships, building a global capacity for scientific research, and ensuring a needs-based approach.

The report concluded by stating that with increased funding and political support, PDPs can continue to develop and drive equitable global access to health technologies. Dutch PDP funding is up for renewal in 2022. 

Report - Product Development Partnerships

Dutch CSOs share recommendations on gender equality for 65th session of UN Commission on Status of Women

On January 28, 2021, Atria, a Dutch knowledge institute "on gender equality and women's history", and Wo=Men, a Dutch gender platform with affiliated professionals and organizations that "fights for equal power relations between women, men and gender non-conforming people", presented a document with recommendations for working areas from Dutch civil society for the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which will take place in March 2021.

The report was presented to Esther van Dijk, Dutch Minister of Education, Culture, and Science, and the recommendations for themes that were made by the civil society organizations (CSOs) included: 

  • Ensuring women’s full and meaningful participation and decision-making in public life; 
  • Eliminating gender-based violence; 
  • Challenging gender stereotypes; and
  • Ensuring a gender transformative COVID-19 response. 

News article - Wo=Men (in Dutch) 

Report - Atria and Wo=Men

Two in three people think climate change is global emergency, says largest ever global climate poll

A new global poll conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UK’s Oxford University and covering over a million people in 50 countries around the world, has found that two-thirds of those polled think that climate change is a global emergency.

The poll was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic and about half of its respondents were aged 14-18. The most popular solution to resolving the climate emergency, among respondents, was to conserve forests and lands. This answer was followed by the responses to:

  • Use more solar, wind, and renewable power;
  • Switch to climate-friendly farming techniques; and
  • Invest more money in green businesses and jobs.

News article - BBC

UK parliament’s new report on secondary impact of COVID-19 on low-income countries finds countries facing hunger, debt, healthcare challenges

The UK parliament’s International Development Committee issued a new report on the secondary impacts of COVID-19 on low-income countries on January 26, 2021. The report warns that the setbacks to development as a result of the pandemic could be even worse than the direct impacts for low-income countries.

The report found that routine healthcare processes such as childhood immunization programs were grinding to a halt as systems buckled. Low-income countries' national economies were being saddled with increasing levels of public debt. The Committee wrote, "We welcome the UK’s role in extending the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative to 30 June 2021, the measure to temporarily suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries."

The report also found that job losses were impacting peoples’ welfares, particularly their access to nutrition, as families struggle to afford to feed their families. Finally, the report also finds that the secondary impacts of COVID-19 are gendered, with a rise in unpaid care work and violence against women who are often stuck at home due to national lockdowns.

The report recommends, among other things, that the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) should:

  • Replenish funds to NGOs working on the front lines to tackle the impact of COVID-19;
  • Set up a multi-year, cross-departmental global health strategy to ensure non-COVID-19 healthcare in low-income countries is strengthened;
  • Push for the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to be extended beyond June 2021 with private lenders encouraged to join;   
  • Update its nutrition commitments, which expired at the end of 2020, and expand funding in this area to address undernutrition and food insecurity; and,
  • Refresh the Department for International Development's (DFID) Strategic Vision for Gender Equality.

Report - International Development Committee

Once most vulnerable are vaccinated, UK should suspend immunization campaign and redirect doses to low-income countries, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has asked the UK to pause its program of COVID-19 vaccination after treating its most vulnerable, in order to help ensure a fairer global rollout of the vaccine. The UK currently has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world.

The WHO is not only asking the UK to take this step as it is the morally right thing to do, enabling poorer countries to also vaccinate their vulnerable, but also because it makes economic sense. Vaccine nationalism – which refers to high-income countries vaccinating their own populations first – could cost rich countries US$4.50 trillion, according to the WHO, while the world economy could lose US$9.20 trillion if low-income countries do not have access to COVID-19 vaccines, according to the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation

Inequitable vaccine access may also lead to more variants of the virus emerging.

News article - The Guardian

EU rolls out US$18 million initiative to support access to digital finance in Africa, Caribbean, Pacific

The European Commission created a new €15 million (US$18 million) initiative with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) to improve access to digital finance for 600,000 women, youth, and entrepreneurs in African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries. 

This initiative aligns with the EU Strategy with Africa and the recent launch of the EU’s new Digital4Development Hub. It is aimed at improving resilience to economic shocks like those caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Press release - European Commission

UK Foreign Minister provides little detail to UK Parliament on where assistance cuts will fall; NGOs and parliamentarians worry UK will backtrack on gender equality promises

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, appeared before the UK parliamentary International Development Committee on January 27, 2021. Raab was questioned, among other things, on which development programs will be cut under the government's proposed decrease in the UK development assistance budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% in 2021.  

Raab provided little detail in his response, only noting that the UK will not be "salami-slicing" budgets, where all programs face would small cuts, but will instead focus on protecting programs within the seven priority areas outlined by the government. These areas are: climate change and biodiversity; COVID-19 and global health security; girls' education; science, research, and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; trade and economic development; and humanitarian preparedness and response.

Raab denied the figures used within a recent article produced by The Guardian newspaper last week, that noted that UK Ambassadors had been tasked with finding between 50 -70% of cuts to apply to the bilateral development programs in their respective countries.

UK NGOs have been highly critical of the lack of transparency and consultation around how decisions will be taken to reduce the UK’s development budget. The Centre for Global Development, a global think-tank based in London, noted that it took four years for the UK development budget to be scaled up from 0.5% of GNI to 0.7% but will be cut in just four months, highlighting concerns around ensuring value for money when reducing the budget. Raab confirmed when questioned that the government does not have a clear threshold to determine when the UK will go back to 0.7%, but that the decision will rest on multiple factors.

Raab also evaded giving a clear response when asked whether the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will embed the former Department for International Development’s Strategic Vision on Gender Equality, instead noting only that girls’ education and preventing sexual violence will remain priorities. This has sparked concern amongst NGOs and parliamentarians that the UK may backtrack on its holistic approach to addressing gender equality.

News article - Bond

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

News article - BBC

News article - British Foreign Policy Group

EU increases global humanitarian assistance budget for 2021 to US$1.7 billion

The EU has increased its humanitarian assistance budget for this year by 60% from the initially adopted 2021 annual budget, to respond to increased needs due to the COVID-19 and climate crises.

The new budget allocates €1.4 billion (US$1.7 billion) for humanitarian assistance, a significant boost compared to the €900 million (US$1.1 billion) allocated in the 2021 budget adopted last year. This includes a €505 million (US$614 million) allocation to countries in Africa impacted by the Lake Chad Basin crisis, the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel, and displacements due to armed conflicts in South Sudan, Central African Republic Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Funding has also been allocated for the Middle East and Turkey (€385 million or US$468 million), Asia and Latin America (€180 million or US$219 million), and for humanitarian air services and for unforeseen needs (€302 million or US$367 million). 

The European Commission will publish a renewed EU humanitarian strategy in the first quarter of this year to propose ways to step up the EU response to meet the greatly increased humanitarian needs worldwide. 

Press release - European Commission

Multilateral approach needed to fight COVID-19, says Germany's Merkel at World Economic Forum

At the World Economic Forum’s virtual summit on January 26, 2021, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a multilateral approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic, saying individualistic approaches "won't help solve the problem".

Merkel confirmed that Germany will continue supporting the COVAX Facility and called on high-income countries to provide further funding to the initiative. The COVAX Facility, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, including low-income countries.

According to Merkel, the question of funding, however, is only one part of the equation; "the other thing in a time of scarcity is the availability of the vaccine,” she said. Merkel would be very glad to see Gavi close the first deals for COVAX, she said and promised that Germany will do everything it can to ensure that the distribution proceeds quickly.

Merkel also called for a strengthening of the World Health Organization (WHO) and highlighted US President Joe Biden’s decision to rejoin the WHO as an important step and positive sign. 

Press release – The Federal Chancellery (in German)

Canada contributes US$12 million to UN Peacebuilding Fund

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, announced at the virtual UN Peacebuilding Fund Replenishment Conference, that Canada will commit CA$15 million (US$12 million) to the UN Peacebuilding Fund. 

The Fund, started in 2006, "empowers UN entities, local governments, regional organizations, financial institutions and civil society and helps prevent conflict and build peace in fragile states." Canada has consistently proven itself to be a top donor to the Fund. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Leaked draft of EU research work plans call for EU global leadership on combating diseases

Draft work plans for the EU’s research program, Horizon Europe, leaked online, and included is a call for EU leadership, particularly in its partnership with Africa, through international partnerships and cooperation, to tackle infectious diseases, global health security, and the global burden of non-communicable diseases. 

This cooperation will include pooling the best expertise globally, providing access to the best research infrastructures, and aligning on investments. The EU aims to reduce cross-border health threats of epidemics and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens both in the EU and globally, with a particular focus on AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, hepatitis, and waterborne diseases. 

News article - Science|Business

Draft EU health research work plan - Tiko Pro

Climate Adaptation Summit convenes world leaders, launches Adaptation Action Agenda to enact resiliency measures

World leaders convened digitally at the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) to launch partnerships to tackle the climate crisis, pledge financial support, and sign on to adaptation measures to be enacted while countries fight to prevent further environmental devastation. The Summit was hosted by the Netherlands on January 25-26, 2021.

CAS resulted in the "2030 Adaptation Action Agenda for accelerating climate adaptation action", which aims to make 2021-2030 a "make-or-break" decade of action against the climate crisis. The Agenda takes into account the new challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, with further commitments to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015 by all UN member states.

The Climate Adaption Summit also helps prepare for COP26, the annual UN Climate Change Conference, which will take place in November 2021 after being postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government participants included the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the UK, many of whom made announcements or pledges:

Australian Minister for Environment, Sussan Ley, announced that Australia would develop a new climate resilience and adaptation strategy this year, and the country will join the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment, an initiative of COP26.

France’s Climate Ambassador, Stéphane Crouzat, announced a new €4 million (US$5 million) contribution to the CREWS Initiative, "a mechanism that funds Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for risk informed early warning services".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged €220 million (US$268 million) to support low-income countries adapting to the climate crisis.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new 'Adaptation Action Coalition'—developed in partnership with Bangladesh, Egypt, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia, and the UN—that aims to turn political commitments made through the UN 'Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience' into tangible support. Around 120 countries including the EU and 90 organizations have signed this.

Newly-appointed US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, reiterated that the US is rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and is working on its new nationally determined contribution (NDC). The US will announce its NDC "as soon as practical" and plans to "significantly increase the flow of finance, including concessional finance" to help adaptation and resilience measures.

International institution and business leaders also attended and announced initiatives:

President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gilbert Houngbo, officially launched a climate adaptation fund, the 'Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program', to help smallholder farmers. IFAD aims to mobilize US$500 million to support more than 10 million people.

President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, announced the launch of the 'Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program' (AAAP), in coordination with the Global Center on Adaptation. The program aims to mobilize US$25.0 billion to "scale up and accelerate climate change adaptation actions across Africa".

France's Macron calls for multilateralism, action on climate at World Economic Forum

During the digital Davos Agenda, organized by the World Economic Forum on January 26, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Professor Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, about the lessons learned so far from the current pandemic and urged companies to play an active role in reducing inequality within society. 

Macron also stressed the importance of the climate crisis to be on the agenda during the post-COVID-19 world, mentioning the French-organized One Planet Summit which took place in January 2021, as well as the importance of the US re-entering the Paris Agreement on climate. One of the next key climate events, he said, will be the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) in Kunming, China. Macron said that the outcome should be a "new" Paris Agreement on biodiversity, which takes into account the concept of One Health, which is a concept of working with the awareness that humans, animals, and the environment are interconnected. 

Macron also talked about the need for a more efficient multilateralism, taking into account the "Paris Consensus", which refers to post-COVID-19-world principles agreed upon by world leaders at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2020. “We need to build a new consensus, including a new mode of cooperation and efficient multilateralism between states,” he said. 

Transcript - French Presidency (in French)