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Japan will provide US$33 million to improve schools, living conditions of Palestinian refugees

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced that it will provide ¥2.4 billion (US$33 million) to improve schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as improve the living environments of refugee camps in the West Bank.

JICA will improve 155 classrooms, rooms for teachers, libraries, multipurpose halls, science laboratories, technology laboratories, accessible classrooms, toilets, and more, to ten schools. JICA will procure ICT (information and computer technology) and educational equipment, as well as provide consulting services. JICA will also provide grants to improve refugee camps in the West Bank, especially for youth, people with disabilities, and women.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Sweden pledges US$20 million for new hunger-focused humanitarian support package in response to COVID-19

In response to the humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, on October 21, 2020, the Swedish government presented a new support package of SEK 170 million (US$20 million) against global hunger. The funds will primarily be allocated to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

It has been estimated that the number of people suffering from acute hunger as a result of the pandemic will double in 2020 and affect approximately 265 million people.

Peter Eriksson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, emphasized that we are facing the greatest hunger crisis ever, and that the climate, COVID-19, and hunger crises are all connected. Commenting on how more countries are reducing their humanitarian assistance as the need for it increases, he assured that Sweden will remain committed to its 1% of GNI target and is actively encouraging others to remain committed as well. 

In addition to the new support package, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has already committed SEK 189 million (US$22 million) to the WFP for 2020, including emergency food assistance and humanitarian air transport/logistics in the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen. Sida’s agreement with WFP for the period 2019-2021 amounts to SEK 695 million (US$80 million).

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

South Korea commits US$10 million in humanitarian assistance to Sahel countries

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea announced its plan to contribute US$10 million in humanitarian assistance to conflict-affected countries in the Sahel region to overcome socio-economic, security, and humanitarian challenges.

The announcement was made at the ministerial roundtable on the central Sahel co-organized by Denmark, Germany, the European Union, and the United Nations on October 20, 2020. The target countries of the assistance include Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

News article – Yonhap News

EU pledges US$52 million in humanitarian support, food assistance to Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger for 2020

European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič pledged on behalf of the EU nearly €44 million (US$52 million) for the rest of 2020 to three countries in the Central Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger – to help address ongoing humanitarian and food crises.

Across the region, which is facing one of the fastest-growing humanitarian crises, more than 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of the EU’s pledge, €20 million (US$24 million) will support the World Food Programme in addressing the food crisis in the region, while the rest of the funds will support humanitarian actions.

Press release - European Commission

EIB lends US$28 million to biotech company to develop potential COVID-19 treatment

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed a financing agreement with Atriva Therapeutics, a German biotech company, for a €24 million (US$28 million) loan to finance the research, development, and clinical testing of a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Atriva will use the loan to begin Phase II clinical trials on its antiviral therapeutic candidate, ATR-002, for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The treatment targets RNA viruses, which also include diseases like influenza and SARS, in addition to COVID-19. The loan is backed by the Infectious Diseases Finance Facility (a European Commission and EIB collaboration).
Press release - Atriva

Canada pledges increase in international assistance spending, announces projects in Sahel to fight COVID-19 and climate crises

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced that Canada will increase development assistance spending in the Sahel. This pledge is in response to "the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel" and a commitment to support those most vulnerable being impacted.

Gould announced Canada's plan to build "bilateral development assistance programs with Chad and Niger", as well as Canada's involvement in four new development projects in Burkina Faso to respond to critical gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), food security, and agricultural resilience to climate change in the context of COVID-19.

These commitments aim to help the most vulnerable, including those dealing most with the ramifications of the COVID-19 and the climate crises. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

COVID-19 crisis will not alter policy framework protecting SRHR, women's rights, says Dutch development minister

Dutch development minister, Sigrid Kaag, updated Parliament on the state of affairs of the four grant proposals under the policy framework Strengthening Civil Society, namely: Power of Voices, Power of Women, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Partnership Fund, and Peace and Security.

Kaag stated that despite the shrinking Dutch gross national income (GNI), the budget for the policy framework remains the same as the previously published budget. She also ensured that, while the COVID-19 crisis has a major influence on the development of the policy framework, the original planning and thematic elements of the framework will be maintained.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Norway allocates additional US$44 million to Sahel crisis relief

At the Digital Donor Conference hosted by the UN, Denmark, Germany, and the EU, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide announced that Norway will allocate an additional NOK390 million (US$44 million) for victims of the crisis in the Sahel that has intensified as a result of COVID-19, among other reasons. 

Norway has already agreed to support the region with NOK100 million (US$11 million). The additional funding is allocated from the humanitarian budget and supports measures toward peace, food security, and education. The funding is valid from 2020 to 2022. 

News article – Bistandsaktuelt (in Norwegian)

Dutch minister addresses parliamentary questions on 2021 development cooperation budget

Dutch Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Minister, Sigrid Kaag, answered 257 factual questions about the 2021 development cooperation budget raised by the parliamentary committee on Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation committee.  

Kaag's answers, in a letter published on October 20, 2020, aimed to clarify the budget, decisions, and goals of the government in the field of development cooperation for next year.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Japan holds Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting, discusses “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, COVID-19, continued cooperation

On October 20, 2020, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi held the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) to strengthen cooperation with Pacific Island countries. He discussed Japan’s cooperation with Pacific Islanders to establish a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, as well as Japan’s continued efforts to provide assistance and promote human resource development.

Motegi also highlighted Japan’s provision of medical supplies and equipment to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the Pacific Islands. Japan aims to work with the Pacific Island countries to address international issues.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press release - Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting

Japan's Board of Audit releases report evaluating development assistance programs, recommends additional steps

On October 20, 2020, the Board of Audit of Japan published a report evaluating the effectiveness of Japan’s development assistance programs. The report focused on whether Japan’s development assistance programs have addressed the current situations of partner countries, whether provisions were being utilized, and whether adjustments were made with partner countries to ensure the steady implementation of such programs.

The report reviewed the construction of primary schools in Papua New Guinea as well as the Solomon Islands’ radio broadcasting network for disaster prevention. Japan provided ¥8 million (US$79 thousand) for the construction of two primary schools in Papua New Guinea, but due to safety concerns, the construction of these schools was abandoned without Japan’s knowledge. The Board of Audit recommended that necessary actions be taken to confirm the progress of future projects.

Furthermore, Japan provided ¥500 million (US$4 million) to install a radio broadcasting network for disaster prevention in the Solomon Islands. However, during a field survey, the Board of Audit noticed that parts of the equipment have been defective for at least one year. The report, therefore, suggested that Japan should provide sufficient communication on how to maintain the equipment to ensure that it functions during emergencies.

Press release - Board of Audit of Japan (in Japanese)

News article - Tokyo Shimbun (in Japanese)

News article - Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese)

Netherlands publishes 2020 scorecards for nine multilateral organizations

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) published new scorecards for nine international multilateral organizations supported by the government of the Netherlands:

  1. Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance;
  2. United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO);
  3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
  5. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD);
  6. Asian Development Bank (ADB);
  7. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD);
  8. United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and
  9. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The MFA assessed these partner multilateral organizations through existing reports and other information sources. The scorecards are used to examine whether the organizations in question are functioning properly and whether the work they do is of importance to the Dutch government.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Former Dutch Ambassador to Mozambique named as new Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality

Since October 2020, Pascalle Grotenhuis has assumed the role of Director-General of the Development Cooperation Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Dutch Ambassador for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. She succeeds the previous ambassador, Mette Gonggrijp, who is currently on sabbatical.

Prior to this role, Grotenhuis was the Dutch ambassador to Mozambique from 2015 to 2020.

Press release – Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

European Commission’s 2021 plans include formation of continental research and development agency, COVID-19 humanitarian assistance

The European Commission released its 2021 work program listing key initiatives for the upcoming year, which includes plans to present a proposal for an agency for biomedical research and development to be a "European BARDA" (Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) as well as building a "global approach" to the topics of research, innovation, education, and youth.

As Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed in her recent State of the European Union address, the Commission plans to put forward several health-related proposals in late 2021 to strengthen the "European health union" which includes creating a common data space for healthcare. The plan to strengthen the health sector also includes a new agency that would emulate the role of the United States' BARDA, which has allowed the US to quickly fund vaccine research, development, and manufacturing via advance deals with vaccine producers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas the EU had to repurpose an emergency instrument with limited funds for this purpose. The European BARDA would support biomedical research, preparation, and response. 

The 2021 work program additionally includes the release of proposals on:

  • The EU’s role in strengthening multilateralism, including by leading the global response to ensure equitable access to a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine (early mid-2021);
  • A renewed partnership with the EU’s Southern Neighborhood (early 2021); and
  • Humanitarian assistance in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (early 2021).  

Press release - European Commission

Reporting on climate finance is fundamentally flawed, says Oxfam; "true value" of climate finance loans is less than half of amount reported

In a newly released report on climate finance, Oxfam evaluated progress towards a 2009 commitment by high-income countries to jointly provide US$100.0 billion per year by 2020 to help low-income countries reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis. The report found that of the US$59.5 billion in annual public climate finance reported in 2017-2018, only US$12.5 billion was provided as grants, while an "astonishing" 80%, US$47.0 billion, was given in loans.

About half of the loans (US$24.0 billion) were non-concessional, meaning they were "offered on ungenerous terms requiring higher repayments from poor countries". Oxfam calculated that the true value of the loans after deducting interest and repayments (known as the 'grant equivalent') was less than half the reported amount.

Calculating climate finance can be an imprecise science. According to The Guardian, there is no agreed-upon definition of climate finance, thus, the US$100.0 billion commitment could include private-sector flows. Furthermore, total spending on climate finance is still likely outweighed by ongoing investments in fossil fuels; the world's largest investment banks have financed fossil fuels with more than £2.20 trillion (US$2.66 trillion) since the 2015 international climate Paris Agreement.

To improve assistance standards, Oxfam recommended that the definition of climate finance should include funds that help build smallholder farmers' resilience and that support feminist solutions. Financing "efficient" coal power and providing non-concessional loans to countries "grappling with unsustainable debt" should not be counted as climate finance, they argue.

2021's COP26, annual climate talks under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will be an important venue for nations negotiating new collective goals to succeed the US$100.0 billion commitment in 2025. No follow-up commitment currently exists. Low-income countries are expected to submit emissions-reduction plans before COP26; they are still waiting to learn what financial assistance will be available from high-income countries, a major challenge in their policy planning. High-income countries, which primarily shape the climate finance landscape, are also in most cases the biggest contributors to climate degradation. There is, for the most part, consensus internationally that these nations bear the responsibility for providing the lion's share of the finance needed to resolve the impending climate crisis, which includes addressing the levels of increased inequality which it has already exacerbated.

Discussions at COP26 in Glasgow should lead to a major shift in the breakdown of climate finance by funding type, said Oxfam; grant-based climate finance should significantly outweigh loans-based finance in the future, especially non-concessional loans which Oxfam says should not be counted towards UNFCCC climate finance obligations. The improvement of global accounting standards for all donors is also a top priority.

Report - Oxfam

Press release - Oxfam

News article - The Guardian

Japan’s Suga highlights continued partnership with ASEAN in speech

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made a speech at the Vietnam-Japan University (VJUL), sharing Japan’s vision in Asia and his desire to build relationships with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.

ASEAN and Japan have been working closely together, which has been exemplified during the COVID-19 crisis. Vietnam sent 1.2 million masks to Japan, while Japan has been providing medical supplies and equipment in the form of grant assistance, as well as helping human resource development.

Suga also discussed a range of cooperation efforts to improve connectivity in ASEAN countries. Presently, Japan has been focusing on hard and soft infrastructure, but the future will be in digital technology and supply chains. Suga also stressed the importance of human resource development through strengthening partnerships, and that Japan's and ASEAN's shared views on rule of law, openness, freedom, transparency, and inclusiveness will help collaboration.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

Canada announces series of new diplomatic appointments

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs François-Philippe Champagne has announced a series of new diplomatic appointments. These include:

  1. Ailish Johnson Campbell, Ambassador to the European Union (replacing Daniel Costello);
  2. Jenny Hill, Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan (replacing Douglas Scott Proudfoot);
  3. Reid Sirrs, Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (replacing David Metcalfe); and
  4. Claude Demers, Ambassador to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (replacing Julie Shouldice).

News release- Global Affairs Canada

Government funding urgently needed to reach US$7.2 billion target for COVID-19 treatment access, warn Unitaid and Wellcome Trust

In an open editorial published in the weekly newspaper 'Le Journal du Dimanche', Philippe Duneton (interim executive director of Unitaid) and Paul Schreier (director of operations of the Wellcome Trust) called on governments to take action and support the most fragile countries in accessing COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

Both representatives emphasized the need to support Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) while the richest countries currently are securing agreements with pharmaceutical companies to secure tests, treatments, and vaccines for their own populations.

Duneton and Schreier advocated for additional funding for COVID-19 treatments while pointing out that US$300 million had been pledged compared to the US$7.2 billion urgently needed.

They noted that despite the EU efforts to mobilize funding for ACT-A, from the US$16.0 billion pledged, funding has not been disbursed yet and needs to be followed through on.

The authors concluded by indicating that from the US$7.2 billion needed to fund the 'therapeutics pillar' of ACT-A (led by Unitaid and Wellcome to accelerate the development of and fair access to treatments), US$4.0 billion should be secured within the next two months, and they called on donors to urgently take action.

Op-ed - Le Journal du Dimanche (in French)

Members of UK's Conservative Party call for national leadership on WASH and nutrition

Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Andrew Mitchell, a former Secretary for State for International Development, wrote an article in the Telegraph newspaper calling for UK global leadership on 'water, sanitation and hygiene' (WASH). In the same newspaper, Conservative MP David Mundell, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nutrition, made a similar plea for UK leadership on nutrition.

Regarding WASH, Mitchell highlighted the problem that three-quarters of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have soap and water with which to wash their hands at home. He also noted the limited funding to date available for addressing the problem – even before the COVID-19 crisis, only 15% of countries had the money they needed to get water, lavatories, and hygiene to the people in their country without it. Mitchell underlined the importance of WASH to address COVID-19 and noted that out of the US$20.00 trillion committed to the COVID-19 response so far by the international community, only 0.02% has support WASH interventions. He called on the UK to encourage other donors to come behind the UN’s 'Hand Hygiene for All' partnership. He also indicated that the UK should use its upcoming G7 and COP26 leadership to highlight that addressing climate change and the pandemic requires a focus on the basics of water and sanitation.

Regarding nutrition, Mundell cited the pandemic's impact on undernourishment, noting that the UN is warning that the number of people facing starvation could double to 260 million with a further five million likely to suffer 'wasting' (connected to a higher risk of death if not properly treated). Mundell acknowledged UK leadership in the past on nutrition. However, he also noted that UK development assistance on nutrition will run out this year and called on the foreign secretary to renew the government's commitments to addressing global malnutrition.

News article - The Telegraph

News article - The Telegraph

German development minister supports World Bank president’s call for debt relief

During the World Bank’s annual meeting on October 16, 2020, German Development Minister Gerd Müller called on private banks, investment funds, and China to participate in a debt moratorium for the "poorest countries" in the world.

According to Müller, the G20 debt moratorium agreed on in April had helped the 46 poorest countries save US$5.0 billion in interest that could be used to fight COVID-19. However, the G20’s planned extension of this moratorium until mid-2021 would not be enough, as the COVID-19 crisis “won’t be over in a year”, Müller stated.

Therefore, he called on investment funds, private banks, and also Chinese creditors to participate in a moratorium. With many states on the brink of state collapse, Müller warned of a new debt crisis. Backing Word Bank President David Malpass' call to forgive poor countries’ debts, Müller emphasized that debt cancellation is a pivotal step. However, a debt transparency initiative would be a prerequisite, Müller said, to ensure that the interest saved will be channeled in health and social security.

News article - Reuters (in German)

Press release - BMZ (in German)