Policy Updates

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European Commission proposes US$93.5 billion for development in next seven-year EU budget

The European Commission has proposed boosting funding for development by allocating €86 billion (US$93.5 billion) in funding to the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) in its newly published proposals for an updated EU long-term budget - the 2021-2027 multiannual financial framework (MFF), and a new EU Recovery Fund - Next Generation EU.

This is an increase from the EC’s 2018 MFF proposal of €79 billion (US$85.9 billion). The funding increase would go to the new External Action Guarantee and the European Fund for Sustainable Development. 
The proposal also calls for a target adjustment to the current MFF to allow €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) in 2018 prices of additional support to development for 2020. 

MFF proposals - European Commission
Amended NDICI regulation - European Commission

Trump signs executive order directing US agencies to protect religious freedom

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order, 'Advancing International Religious Freedom', requiring both the US Department of State ('State') and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund projects and programs that protect religious freedoms globally.

The order, signed without fanfare, directs State and USAID to spend US$50 million in countries that have been found to violate religious freedoms. Diplomats must also increase their efforts to raise issues of concern with partner countries where religious discrimination was an issue. In April of 2020, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued its annual report, designating certain countries as "Countries of Particular Concern." Designated countries include India, Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Vietnam, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Kora, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US government advisory board. 

News article - The Hill

UK pledges additional US$199 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen

Ahead of the UN’s virtual High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen on June 2, 2020, the UK Foreign Minister, Dominic Raab, announced an additional £160 (US$199 million) in humanitarian assistance to the country. The funds are expected finance training of 12,000 healthcare workers on how to operate safely in a COVID-19 environment and the operation of nearly 4,000 health centers.  

With the addition of this new funding, the UK’s development assistance to Yemen now totals £970 million (US$1.2 billion) since the conflict began.  

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is currently the largest in the world, with more than 24 million people (over 80% of the population) vulnerable and requiring help. The new funding will mean the UK has provided a total of £970 million (US$1.2 billion) in development assistance to the country since the conflict began.  

Press release – UK government  

Norwegian civil society receives payouts worth US$413 million to support on-the-ground work in low-income countries

Norwegian civil society organizations (CSOs) are now receiving payouts amounting to NOK4.3 billion (US$413 million). This is the largest total amount ever allocated to Norwegian CSOs. The funding aims to support civil society in low-income countries and strengthen their capacity to promote development in their own countries. The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the strong belief that no one should be left behind are guiding principles for the cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the CSOs. 

In recent years, numerous countries have introduced restrictions making it challenging for CSOs to carry out their work. As a result, the Norwegian government has prioritized partnerships with Norwegian organizations that have solid local networks and which collaborate with other organizations. Each organization went through a diligent application process to be recognized as a partner to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Press release – Norwegian Government (in Norwegian) 

Dutch Development Minister looks back on Netherlands’ support for EU development cooperation

On May 27, 2020, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, presented an annual letter to Parliament on Dutch efforts regarding EU development cooperation.  

The letter outlines the priorities of the Dutch cabinet (which include sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), combatting climate change, and international corporate social responsibility) as well as some reflections on recent developments and achievements. 

Kaag reflected on the Netherlands’ advocacy for the inclusion of SRHR topics during negotiations on the European Union’s ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument’ (NDICI) in 2019. The Netherlands also called upon other EU member states and the European Council to create an EU action plan on international corporate social business in November of 2019. 

The letter also notes the results of a large-scale study on the effectiveness of EU-development cooperation in the period of  2013-2018, solicited from the European Centre for Development Policy (ECDPM) and the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitiek (DIE) by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study’s findings were generally positive and underlined the importance of the EU as a global actor for development cooperation. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

Spanish NGO platform holds annual general assembly

The Spanish development NGO umbrella organization ‘La Coordinadora’ held its 38th ordinary annual assembly through a videoconference, which was virtually attended by members from 76 partner NGOssalong with the Spanish foreign ministry’s Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno. During the meeting, La Coordinadora emphasized the importance of Spanish development cooperation and official development assistance (ODA) for effectively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Secretary of State Ángeles Moreno reiterated the current government’s commitment to increasing Spain’s ODA to 0.5% of the gross national income by 2023.

Press release – La Coordinadora (in Spanish)

Australia commits US$23 million to COVID-19 vaccine and treatment development

Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, announced a commitment of A$36 million (US$23 million) for domestic research into treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. This includes a further A$14 million (US$9 million) for vaccine development projects and A$7 million (US$4 million) to support the development of anti-viral therapies.

Funding will be provided through Australia’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF has already provided A$30 million ($20 million) for domestic COVID-19 research in 2020.

Press release - Department of Health

South Korean government commits US$15 million to Asian Development Bank’s Ventures Facility Investment Fund

The South Korean Ministry of Small Medium Enterprise and Startups (MSS) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) announced that they will co-fund the Asian Development Bank’s(ADB’s) Ventures Facility Investment Fund with a total commitment of US$15 million. The funds will come from both ministries, with MSS providing US$10 million and MOEF providing US$5 million.  

Newly launched by the ADB, the Ventures Facility Investment Fund will mainly invest in clean technology, financial technology, agriculture, health, and other sectors relevant to the sustainable development of partner countries in Southeast Asia. The fund will also target South Korean startup companies that wish to venture into the Southeast Asian market. The fund has characteristics of a social impact fund, in that it addresses not just profitability but also social values such as gender equality, poverty, and climate change.  

The target amount for the fund was US$60 million; in addition to South Korea, contributions came from Finland (US$22 million), the Nordic Development Fund (US$10 million), and the Climate Investment Fund (US$13 million). 

Press release – Ministry of SMEs and Startups (in Korean) 

COVID-19 represents opportunity to rethink global health approaches, says UK think-tank

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK based research and think-tank, has called for international donors to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to adopt a new approach to addressing global health. In a recent blog post, ODI experts outline five key global health issues for donors to focus on:

  1. Installing universal healthcare: COVID-19 has revealed the dangers of excluding people’s access to healthcare. The fallout from COVID-19 could offer an opportunity for the implementation of universal healthcare systems. One ODI study suggests that in 71% of cases (based on 49 countries studied) governments' decision to install a universal healthcare system followed a crisis.
  2. Maintaining a focus on primary healthcare systems: COVID-19  poses a real risk that resources will be diverted away from primary healthcare as they are focused on hospitals and intensive care units. When Ebola hit West Africa the diversion of resources toward the outbreak may have resulted in a doubling of deaths from measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS,  and tuberculosis.
  3. Focusing on mental health: The negative impacts of the crisis on people’s mental health has drawn attention to the issue. This focus needs to be maintained in the post-crisis period, especially in low-income countries, as mental health issues interact with social and political factors of exclusion and vulnerability.
  4. Learning lessons on gender and discrimination from HIV/AIDS and Ebola: There are lessons to be learned from past outbreaks about gender-based discrimination. Special attention needs to be paid to women who make up the majority of healthcare workers and carers and are therefore at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  5. Prioritizing equitable access to water and sanitation: COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of adequate water and sanitation and its role in enhancing public health. While more than two-thirds of countries have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) policies in place, less than 40% consistently finance or monitor these policies. While donors have made progress in this area, many marginalized and vulnerable groups still lack access. Their needs must be prioritized moving forward.

Blog – ODI

South Korean development agencies discuss COVID-19 response strategy for partner countries

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Korea Foundation for International Healthcare (KOFIH), two major development assistance agencies in South Korea, discussed their response strategy to COVID-19 with partner countries at an international conference on May 31, 2020 titled 'COVID-19, Global Impact and Alternative Prospects', organized by the Seoul National University Asia Center.

During a panel focused on the future of development cooperation in light of COVID-19, KOICA Director of Social Value Management Song Jin-ho discussed the need to increase global resilience against COVID-19 through the use of big data, including through systematic database management.

KOFIH Director of Global Development Cooperation shared his concern on the concentration of funding to COVID-19 leading to a lack of funding in other necessary health areas including maternal health, child health, and malaria. He also discussed the potential lack of leadership, weak governance and negative economic growth rate that may result in partner countries. He stressed the need to focus on comprehensive support for stronger health and medical systems for infectious disease response, rather than concentrating on specific diseases or sectors.

Japanese Diet Member urges greater ODA budget allocation to COVID-19 response

Japanese House of Counselors Member Gaku Ito (Japanese Communist Party) has urged that a greater portion of the ODA budget be allocated to medical care and public health - as well as social support such as public education - to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Speaking at the House of Counselors ODA Special Committee meeting, Ito indicated the importance of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, emphasizing that widespread infection across the continent may eventually lead to subsequent spread to Japan. At the same meeting, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi asserted that supporting countries with fragile healthcare systems is an important issue for the international community.

Additionally, Ito requested that greater contributions be made to the development of vaccines via GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tamaki Tsukada highlighted the importance of vaccines in protecting citizens.

In making his case, Ito noted that in 2018, Japan’s allocation of ODA budget to economic infrastructure was 57.3%, disproportionately higher than that of other ODA DAC members. Meanwhile, according to Ito, only 15.8% of the ODA budget was allocated to sectors such as health and education.

News article – Akahata Shinbum (in Japanese)

Trump's decision to withdraw from the WHO sparks lots of criticism in US

US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) following an earlier move to freeze all funding to the organization while the US undertook a 60-day review. Criticism was swift and widespread, including from US medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, whose CEO said the move could endanger children, cause a surge in polio cases, an increase in deaths from malaria, and undermine vaccination campaigns. The president of the American Medical Association said the decision was illogical and will hurt the response to COVID-19. The former head of the US Centers for Disease Control also condemned the decision, saying that it will make both the US and the world less safe.

Trump reportedly cut ties with the WHO because it had allowed China to mislead the world about COVID-19.

News article - CNN

Australia publishes new development policy focused on COVID-19, abandons policy review

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has released Australia’s latest development policy outlining its two-year approach to international development. The policy is titled ‘Partnerships for Recovery’ and outlines a development cooperation program focused on stability, health security, and economic recovery in partner countries. The policy also reveals that Australia will continue to emphasize loans for infrastructure development in the Pacific over the next two years.   

The policy highlights the importance of equitable access to vaccines when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed. Australia commits to working with international and Australian partners — including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — to ensure that any newly developed vaccines are widely available. 

So far, commitments made in light of COVID-19 only drawing around 4% of Australia’s annual development cooperation budget, however, DFAT has indicated that the challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis will dwarf Australia’s ODA budget. As a result, the government has abandoned its wider review of Australian development policy, which was due to be released in July 2020. 

Policy - DFAT 

News article - Devex 

Australia redirects US$176 million of ODA to fund regional COVID-19 response

Australia’s Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, has announced her government’s plan to redirect funds from its annual ODA program to provide medical, humanitarian, and economic support to Timor Leste, Indonesia, and the Pacific. These funds will primarily be drawn from programs halted or slowed because of COVID-19, for example, ODA usually used for scholarships and volunteer programs. 

At least A$280 million (US$176 million) over two years will be redirected to support countries in Australia’s immediate region in their efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis. This will include A$6 million (US$3 million) in funding for the World Food Program, primarily for air transport and logistics services delivering humanitarian and critical medical supplies as well is assessments on food security for Pacific countries. 

Press release – Minister for Foreign Affairs 

Press release – Minister for Foreign Affairs 

US’s announced withdrawal from WHO sends “wrong signal at the wrong time”, says German Foreign Affairs Minister

The US' planned withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked criticism from the German government. According to Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas, the withdrawal sends “the wrong signal at the wrong time”.  The COVID-19 pandemic is the first truly global crisis of the century, he said, and global cooperation is needed to meet this challenge.  

German Development Minister Gerd Müller echoed the criticism, stating that the world needed more international coordination and cooperation, not less. To balance the US’ withdrawal, Müller called for increased EU engagement and funding in the field of global health, criticizing the fact that the EU’s COVID-19 protection shield has so far operated only internally.  Müller repeatedly called to elevate the WHO to a world pandemic center and to globally join forces in a worldwide vaccination campaign.  

On May 29, 2020, US President Donald Trump announced that the US’ relationship with the WHO had been severed. It is unclear as yet whether Trump can implement this immediately and unilaterally. The US president has accused the WHO of being under Chinese control and of responding improperly to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

News article – Tagesschau (in German)  

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

OECD casts doubt on whether UK’s US$373 million for COVID-19 vaccine research can be counted as ODA

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which sets the international rules on what counts as official development assistance (ODA), not all funding for research for a COVID-19 vaccine will be counted as ODA. To qualify as ODA, funding for research and development related to COVID-19 will need to be assessed to determine whether it was spent with the economic development and welfare of low-income countries as the main objective. 

The UK has already committed £300 million (US$373 million) in ODA to supporting COVID-19 vaccine research, £250 (US$310 million) of which has been given to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). The OECD DAC has noted, that while core funding for CEPI will be counted as ODA in 2020 (given the institution’s focus on diseases that predominately impact low-income countries), all CEPI funding for COVID-19 vaccine research will need to be reported as earmarked funding for this purpose. It will subsequently be assessed to determine whether it meets ODA criteria. This is because the development of a COVID-19 vaccine theoretically benefits both donors and recipient countries alike. 

News article – Devex  

Australia’s leading NGO body calls for additional US$1.3 billion in ODA over four years after survey suggests high public support for international COVID-19 assistance

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) is calling on the government to allocate an additional A$2.0 billion (US$1.3 billion) over four years to Australia’s development assistance program to cover the costs of growing challenges, arising as a result of COVID-19 crisis. 

ACFID’s call cites an earlier statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) regarding the scale of the COVID-19 crisis, which DFAT claims will “dwarf” Australia’s ODA program resources. It further references a survey conducted by ACFID, which indicates that 72% of the Australian public support the provision of increased financial assistance and expertise to the poorest nations, to assist their responses to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Press release - ACFID 

South Korea commits US$3 million in humanitarian assistance for Venezuelan refugees, migrants

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that it will provide US$3 million in humanitarian assistance to support Venezuelan refugees and migrants during the COVID-19 crisis. 

South Korea made the announcement at the ‘International Donors Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants in the Countries of the Region amid COVID-19’. held on May 26, 2020, and organized by Spain, the EU, UNHCR, and IOM. The conference aimed to mobilize global support and contributions to the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis response amid COVID-19. The conference resulted in total donor pledges of US$2.8 billion, including US$653 million in grants.  

This support is part of the US$100 million humanitarian aid commitment made by South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the 73rd World Health Assembly in May 2020. So far, South Korea has distributed around US$23 million in total, with US$17 million through bilateral channels and US$5.5 million to WHO and UNICEF.  


News article – ReliefWeb  

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Korean) 


South Korean development NGOs announce plan to provide US$50 million to 64 countries to combat COVID-19

The Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development (KCOC) announced its plan to provide US$50 million (KRW62 billion) to 64 partner countries to support their COVID-19 response. The plan, entitled the ‘KCOC appeal for the global community to overcome COVID-19’, is a detailed follow-up measure to the statement issued by KCOC in April that called for effective assistance for partner countries with weaker health and medical systems to fight COVID-19. 

Out of the total amount, US$25 million will come from KCOC’s own funds, with the rest coming from funds from external partners such as the South Korean government and private sector companies. The funds will include US$20 million allocated in Africa, US$23 million in Asia, US$6 million in Latin America, and the remainder in the Middle East. The total amount will be used to implement approximately 170 projects that target the prevention of infectious diseases, health and medical system support, and livelihood support for vulnerable groups. 

KCOC is an association of development NGOs implementing foreign assistance projects, with over 138 members located in South Korea.  

Press release – Korea NGO Council for Overseas Cooperation (in Korean) 

German parliament passes motion for increased global health engagement

On May 28, 2020, the German parliament passed a motion submitted by the governmental parliamentary groups CDU/CSU and SPD, committing to greater engagement in the field of global health and explicitly supporting the WHO. The motion states that the WHO is "the only internationally legitimated authority on health issues" and should, as such, be “strengthened and sufficiently funded to meet the growing challenges". To this end, the motion explicitly calls for an increase in assessed contributions to the WHO. The Federal Government should promptly introduce the long-planned strategy for a global health policy and use the German EU Council Presidency from July to December of 2020 to elevate global health to a key priority within the EU.  

In the debate, the oppositional parties the Greens, the Free Democratic Party, and the Left called on the government to expand their engagement in health system strengthening in partner countries. The Greens and the Left advocate for Germany to spend at least 0.1% of its economic output on health-related development cooperation. 

Only the far-right party AfD fundamentally criticized the WHO and German health authorities during the debate, declaring them incompetent in their current COVID-19 response. 

News article – Tagesschau (in German) 

Press release  CDU/CSU and SPD motion on Global Health (in German)