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Chair of UK Parliamentary Committee on International Development accuses UK’s FCDO of "dodgy information" on ODA spending; independent watchdog berates UK for poor transparency

The Chair of the UK’s parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC), Sarah Champion, a Labour Party member of parliament, has accused the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of consistently providing "dodgy information" on its official development assistance (ODA) spending, in a practice she has labeled as "arrogant".

The remarks follow an exchange of letters between Champion and Philip Barton, the FCDO’s permanent Under-Secretary, around unpacking the FCDO’s future spending plans on ODA for 2021-2022. The FCDO outlined key spending areas, but what is included in the spending areas was unclear and incomparable to ODA spending in previous years. For example, one single budget line called 'Strategic priorities and other programme spending' covered three separate budget lines when compared to previous years. Champion noted that the strategy lacks clarity, making it extremely difficult to provide effective oversight and scrutiny of government decision-making.

Champion’s comments came at the same time as the UK’s independent assistance watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), released a report criticizing the FCDO for declines in transparency. The report noted that it had been challenging at times to get information from the FCDO on ODA spending and that this was in stark contrast to the ICAI's more open exchanges with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the CDC Group (a UK development finance institution), both of which are also responsible for parts of UK ODA spending.

News articles – Devex

News article – Devex

Follow-up review of 2019-2020 reports – ICAI

Dutch parliament adopts motion to make additional donation to COVAX, promotes COVID-19 vaccine donations in EU

On June 22, 2021, the Dutch parliament adopted a parliamentary motion asking the government to assess whether the Dutch government can make an additional contribution to COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, and to request EU member states to make additional COVID-19 vaccinations to COVAX when the situation allows.

The motion was submitted by Member of Parliament Tunahan Kuzu, of the political party Denk, and the motion received 121 out of 150 votes. All four government coalition parties—the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 (D66), and Christian Union (CU)—voted in favor of the motion.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

South Korea pledges US$600 million over next five years for energy investment in Africa

South Korea's Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), together with the African Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Korea, signed the Korea-Africa Energy Investment Framework (KAEIF) with a budget of up to US$600 million over the next five years.

This financial support will be used to implement energy infrastructure projects across African nations.

Press release – Yonhap Infomax (in Korean)

Japan highlights importance of addressing climate emergency during 10th meeting of SDGs Promotion Headquarters

On June 22, 2021, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi, among others, participated in the 10th meeting of the SDGs Promotion Headquarters to assess Japan's progress on the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their relation to the climate emergency.

The meeting discussed a Voluntary National Review (VNR) based on the report titled 'Towards Achieving the SDGs in the Post-COVID-19 Era', which evaluated Japan's progress on the SDGs to date. The members of the meeting decided to present the report at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF), which will be at the UN in July 2021.

During the meeting, Suga emphasized the importance of international cooperation in achieving SDGs and that the climate emergency is a humanitarian issue. Japan aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese) 

UK government creates new Ministerial Council and Office for Science and Technology in bid to drive breakthroughs in key challenges facing UK and world

On June 21, 2021, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of a new Ministerial Council on Science and Technology. The Council will be chaired by Johnson and will set the strategy for how science and technology can be used to tackle societies' biggest challenges within the UK and around the world.

Johnson also announced that the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, will take on an additional role as National Technology Advisor and head a new Office for Science and Technology Strategy. The Office will support the Council in the development of the strategy and drive forward its implementation, ensuring that science and technology lie at the heart of policy and public service development across all elements of the government. One of the Office’s first tasks will be to identify the potential technology breakthroughs that the UK should strategically prioritize.

The announcement supports the government’s Integrated Review of Foreign, Diplomatic, Defence and Security Policy recommendation that the UK should strive to be a scientific powerhouse in the next 10 years.  

The UK government is investing £14.9 billion (US$20.0 billion) in research and development (R&D) in 2021-22, the highest level that it has been.

Press release - UK government

Norway becomes one of biggest contributors to Global Partnership for Education, with US$441 million pledge

On June 21, 2021, the Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein attended the digital Nordic Midsummer Festival together with his Scandinavian colleagues, where Ulstein announced that Norway will give NOK3.7 billion (US$441 million) to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for 2021-2025.

This corresponds with Norway's NOK740 million (US$88 million) per year to GPE, which means an increase of NOK 50 million (US$6 million) per year compared to the previous period (2018-2020). The donation makes Norway one of the biggest contributors to the partnership.  

Ulstein underlined that GPE is an important partner to ensure that all children get access to education. He argued that education is the most effective tool for securing equal opportunities for all, and it is a key element to ensuring social and economic development.  

The funding from Norway will give 88 million children, including 46 million girls, access to education. It will also provide 175 million children with basic reading skills.  

Press release – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Norwegian) 

Former Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs appointed new EU Special Representative for Sahel

The European Council appointed Emanuela Del Re as one of three new European Union Special Representatives (EUSRs), with Del Re's role to be specifically on the Sahel from July 1, 2021 to August 30, 2022.

Del Re served as Italy’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation from August 2018 to February 2021.  She was elected to the Italian parliament for the first time with the Five Star Movement in March 2018. Del Re is a sociologist and specialized in topics pertaining to migration, refugees, conflict studies, religion, and minority populations.

Press release – European Council website 

Australian researchers move forward on trials of local mRNA vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine nasal spray

The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Melbourne, Australia plans to undertake the first phase clinical trial of a locally developed mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate. This trial would begin in October 2021 with initial results expected by the middle of 2022.

In addition, researchers at Brisbane's Nucleus Network ("the only Phase 1 clinical trials specialist with clinics in Australia and the United States") plan to shortly commence clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine delivered through a nasal spray. The vaccine aims to reduce infection risk by delivery in the same area where the virus enters the body.

News article - The Australian 

News article - Voice of America News

Major Christian advocacy group calls for permanent increase in Australian assistance

'Micah Australia', a movement of Australian Christians, has called on the Australian government to make permanent its temporary increase in official development assistance (ODA) for the current year. This would mean an ODA budget of A$4.5 billion (US$3.8 billion) in future years.

Micah has proposed an increase in Australia’s assistance and greater COVID-19 vaccine sharing to end the pandemic more quickly. It also asked that Australia fund a A$150 million (US$113 million) famine prevention package aimed at countries at risk of famine, especially some in Africa and the Middle East.

Forty women from Australian churches and Christian organizations met with the Australian Treasurer and opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, to seek this accelerated response to the pandemic.

News article - Sight Magazine

WHO criticizes UK funding cuts to neglected tropical disease program, as parliamentary inquiry reveals "car crash" of government's management and impact of cuts

The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticized the UK government’s decision to stop funding its 'Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases' (NTD), or ASCEND, program. The WHO has not been able to fill the funding hole left by the UK’s exit and this has resulted in the program closing down early, as it was initially due to continue until March 2022. WHO noted that the premature end of the program risks causing 30,000 needless deaths, as ASCEND provided critical support to national NTD programs in 19 countries.

The revelation was made as part of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee’s inquiry into the UK development assistance cuts. The Committee has been inundated with "damning" evidence from UK partners on both the impact of the cuts but also the management of them. Many partners noted a chaotic and messy process which often gave partners limited time to manage the cuts, with devastating impacts on recipients of the assistance. A statement released by Plan International UK, a charity for children's rights, said that the cuts appear to have been rushed without much consideration of resulting impacts and that "car crash" could be used to describe the situation.

News article - Global Citizen

News article - Devex

Germany supports COVID-19 vaccine production in Senegal with start-up financing worth US$24 million

German development minister Gerd Müller visited the Institute Pasteur de Dakar, a vaccine production site certified by the World Health Organization that developed a concept for the establishment of COVID-19 vaccine production capacities on site. Müller promised the Institute a German start-up financing worth €20 million (US$24 million), which shall be provided by April 2022 at the latest.

Müller called the planned build-up of production capacities the “jumpstart in the fight against the pandemic in Africa”. COVID-19 vaccines are supposed to be filled from April 2022 on and a production line to be built at the same time. Vaccines will be produced under license.

Müller visited the Institute in Senegal's capital city of Dakar at the end of his trip to West Africa, which included also visiting Togo, Gambia, and Sierra Leone.

Press release - Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

News article - Handelsblatt (in German)

Spain presents Special Ambassador on Global Food Security as candidate for FAO committee chairman

On June 18, 2021, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAUC) announced that Gabriel Ferrero, the Ambassador on Special Mission for Global Food Security (the former MAUC’s Director-General for Sustainable Development), is Spain's candidate to chair the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

The new chair for CFS will be appointed on October 11-14, 2021. 

Ferrero’s career has been dedicated to sustainable development and food security. Between 2011 and 2012, he worked at the United Nations in different posts such as Coordinator of the UN High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Japan supports development of policies for mass transit corridors in Bangladesh

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced that it will support the development planning of mass transit corridors in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Due to heavy traffic, Dhaka faces chronic air pollution. While JICA has been supporting the creation of public transportation in this region, there are issues regarding unclear procedures for the application and approval of permits and difficulties coordinating across stakeholders.

JICA will help facilitate connections across various modes of transportations such as buses, formulate policies necessary for urban development around stations, and coordinate mechanisms among related organizations. This project will contribute to two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—Goal 11 ('Sustainable Cities and Communities') and Goal 13 ('Climate Action'). 

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Norway concerned about humanitarian situation in Myanmar, increases support by US$1 million

Norway announced an increase in humanitarian assistance of NOK10 million (US$1 million) to Myanmar, amounting to a total of NOK58 million (US$7 million) this year.

Since the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, over 190,000 people have been displaced in the country. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, stressed that there is a great need for humanitarian support.

Humanitarian organizations working in Myanmar must have safe and unhindered access to the population of Myanmar, said Søreide in a press release.  

Press release – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Norwegian)

South Korea provides US$4 million in humanitarian assistance to Venezuela

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea pledged at least US$4 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees and migrants in Venezuela for 2021 at the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants held on June 17, 2021.

The conference was held to promote awareness of the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, where the second-largest displacement crisis in the world is occurring.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Japan highlights importance of strengthening food supply chains during UN’s Food Systems Summit, open and fair trade rules

On June 18, 2021, Japan participated in the UN’s Food Systems Summit, which aims to facilitate dialogue across various stakeholders such as food companies, producers, and consumer groups.

During this meeting, Japan's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Eiichiro Washio underlined the impact that COVID-19 has had on the global food system and discussed the strengthening of food supply chains based on open and fair trade rules. A panel discussion was also held across stakeholders to discuss other issues and potential solutions.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

South Korea’s grant agency commits US$13 million for agricultural development in Vietnam

South Korea's Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) announced that it will invest US$13 million by 2030 for human resource development in Vietnam's livestock industry, in partnership with the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This investment will support the Vietnamese government’s goal of increasing the share of livestock in the agricultural sector to 40% by 2030.

News article – Yonhap News (in Korean)

Norway publishes review of Norwegian assistance to Palestinian education system

On June 18, 2021, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI) published its report that was commissioned by the EU on Palestine's educational material. This came after Norway's announcement in 2020 that it would withhold 50% of its yearly funding to the Palestinian education system until Palestine stopped using textbooks that Norway perceived as promoting hate and violence.

The GEI report found many improvements "in the Palestinian curriculum since 2017, especially in terms of human rights, gender equality and diversity" and that "several unacceptable illustrations" have been removed or adjusted. The report also acknowledged that the textbooks reflect that Palestine has lived under occupation and the subsequent conflict for decades. The report stated that the Palestinian Authority should "improve more of the content in textbooks and continue to improve the quality of the education".

Norwegian State Secretary Audun Halvorsen said that Norway will monitor the progress made and continue the dialogue with the Palestinian authorities as Norway decides the next steps on providing development assistance. 

Halvorsen stressed that Norwegian assistance to the Palestine education system is vital for the children growing up in the area, as well as education will be a key element in a future Palestinian state, stability, and development in the area.  

Press release – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Norwegian)

French NGOs ask French government to double funding to SRHR ahead of Generation Equality Forum

On June 18, 2021, eleven French civil society organizations published a joint call to action to urge French President Emmanuel Macron to double France’s funding for sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) ahead of the Generation Equality Forum for gender equality to take place in Paris June 30-July 2, 2021.

The organizations stated that in light of recent lost progress on guaranteeing equal rights and the magnitude of the financial needs to achieve the SRHR 2030 targets, France must play a leading role in closing the international funding gap and in limiting the negative impacts of the UK's recent development budget cuts.

According to the French NGOs, the additional investment required worldwide each year to enable a comprehensive SRHR package in low- and middle-income countries is estimated at US$31.0 billion. In 2019, France spent €97 million (US$115 million), or less than 1% of its official development assistance (ODA), on SRHR. Its bilateral assistance was nearly 11 times less than that of the UK and nearly 5 times less than that of the Netherlands.

The French NGOs expect France to commit to doubling its current international assistance to €200 million (US$238 million) per year for SRHR during 2021-2026.

They also note that initiatives to strengthen access to sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls exist, with stakeholders ready to commit, notably through the Global Financing Facility (GFF), the Muskoka Fund, and UNFPA Supplies (United Nations Population Fund).

Press release - Global Health Advocates (in French)

Sweden appoints Chargé d'Affaires at Swedish Embassy of Burkina Faso as new Ambassador to Guinea

On June 17, 2021, Sweden appointed Mia Rimby as the new Ambassador to Guinea, based in Stockholm.

Rimby is currently Chargé d'Affaires at the Swedish Embassy of Burkina Faso and has previously worked for the UN in the US, Kyrgyzstan, and China, the Embassy of Sweden’s Section Office in Honduras, as well as in the Africa Unit at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Rimby will assume her new position during the fall of 2021.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)