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EIB and African Development Bank form partnership to boost investment, development across African continent

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) signed a partnership agreement to boost public and private sector investment in countries across the continent for shared development priorities.

The partnership’s action plan involves growing a shared pipeline of projects within the following themes: 

  • climate action and environmental sustainability; 
  • transformative large-scale quality infrastructure investment; 
  • information and communication technology infrastructure and services; 
  • financial inclusion with a focus on gender aimed at the empowerment of girls and women; 
  • education and training; and
  • the health sector.

The AfDB and the EIB have been cooperating since 2005, when they, along with the European Commission, signed a 'Memorandum of Understanding on an Enhanced Strategic Partnership'. They have jointly supported clean energy, water, transport, and private sector projects across Africa.

Press release - European Investment Bank

US Secretary of State nominee will strengthen role of US development programs

Appearing before the US Senate for his confirmation hearing, Anthony Blinken, the nominee for the US Secretary of State for the Biden administration, pledged to strengthen the role of development programs in the US government. Blinken said that US development programs will be elevated to have an equal footing with diplomacy, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that US development should be "front and center" and "not an afterthought".

Blinken's testimony covered a range of topics, including the US's commitments to remaining a member of the World Health Organization, to the equitable global distribution of vaccines, to a return to a human rights framework, to strengthening democracies, and to the consistent application of a gender lens to US foreign policy.

The importance of US development in the new administration has also been underscored by the fact that the next Administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will—for the first time—have a seat as a principal advisor at the National Security Council.  

News article - Devex

Dutch parliament adopts motion on national campaign for global inclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines

On January 20, 2021, a motion regarding a national campaign for inclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide was adopted by the Dutch parliament.

While the initiative was put forward by Gert-Jan Segers (Christian Union Party) and Lilianne Ploumen (newly elected leader of the Labour Party), most governing parties voted in favor of the motion, which passed with 127 of the total 150 seats in Parliament. 

The adopted motion calls for the government to engage in talks with relief organizations to realize a national campaign aimed at providing each person who has received a COVID-19 vaccine in the Netherlands with the opportunity to support the inclusive availability of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. These efforts would take place in addition to the measures already undertaken in collaboration with the COVAX Facility.  

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

UK's friendly tone on contested Ugandan elections shows UK is committed to open societies in word only, say critics

The UK government has been criticized by some members of the UK development sector for its response to the January 14, 2021 elections in Uganda, which are thought by many independent international observers to have been rigged by incumbent Yoweri Museveni. Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, was declared the victor and will preside over Uganda for a sixth term.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, said that the UK government "welcomes the relatively calm passing of the elections" but acknowledged "concerns", calling for an investigation into the massive internet shutdown ordered by the Ugandan government on the eve of the election. 

The elections were heavily affected by the closure of key social media sites, state-led violence, and the ongoing house arrest of the main opposition candidate, Robert Ssentamu, known by his stage name, Bobi Wine.

Professor Nicholas Cheeseman of the University of Birmingham’s Democracy and International Development program noted that the UK’s statement, which praised media coverage, was misleading given that the media had been heavily censored and EU observers were not invited to attend on the ground. Others have criticized Duddridge's response for what they see as a failure to live up to one of the UK’s stated foreign policy objectives of supporting open and democratic societies.

The UK government, seemingly in recognition of the criticisms, issued a new statement on January 19, this time noting "significant concerns" that there had been restrictions to political freedoms in Uganda following the election.

News article - Devex

Norway to redistribute surplus vaccine doses to low-income countries through COVAX Facility

The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag Inge Ulstein, announced in an op-ed that if all the current agreements go as planned, Norway will have three times the vaccination doses needed for its population. The government has decided that the surplus of vaccines will be redistributed to low-income countries through the COVAX Facility.

Ulstein addressed this situation as a moment of truth for international solidarity and justice. He affirmed that the world needs to secure a fair and equal distribution of vaccines and that Norway will be an active partner to ensure that the consequences of the pandemic for low-income countries are minimized. The Norwegian government has called on more countries to participate in strengthening COVAX and providing vaccines and surplus doses to low-income countries that need them. 

Op-ed - Vårt Land (in Norwegian)

UK Foreign Minister appoints new CEO of FCDO's strategic global forum institute

The UK Secretary for State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, has announced the appointment of Tom Cargill as the new CEO of Wilton Park, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) strategic global forum institute, which hosts high-level intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder discussions aimed at driving collective global security and prosperity.

Cargill is currently the CEO of the business development organization, British Expertise International, and was formerly the CEO of the UK-based NGO, Foreign Policy Group.

Press release - UK government

WHO member countries to decide on EU-led reform proposal for health emergency response

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) executive board will decide during their meeting on January 18-26, 2021, whether to back EU-led proposals for reforms to the agency’s response to health emergencies.

If the executive board calls for the creation of a resolution, WHO member countries will be able to decide whether to jointly agree on the resolution during the World Health Assembly beginning on May 24.

The resolution would call for strengthening the WHO’s capacity for health emergency preparedness and response, as well as increasing coordination with other UN agencies and partners.

In addition to the EU and its member countries, particularly Germany and France, the resolution is also being backed by 13 other WHO member countries: Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the UK, and the US. 

Newsletter - Politico’s Global Translations

News article - Politico Pro

Sweden adds US$11 million in additional funding for democracy, human rights to 2016-2021 development strategy for Asia, Oceania

Sweden has decided to add SEK 100 million (US$11 million) to its 2016-2021 strategy for regional development cooperation in Asia and Oceania, in response to deteriorations in democratic social development and respect for civil and political rights in some parts of the region, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Freedom of action for civil society organizations has been curtailed in several countries, independent media has increasingly come under pressure, and violence against women remains a major problem. According to the press release, corruption is rampant in many places, including in judicial systems in the region.

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

With eye toward refugee and low-income populations, Spain launches plan to support universal access to COVID-19 vaccines

The Spanish Ministry of Health and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation have launched the ‘Universal Access Plan: Sharing Vaccines against COVID-19’, aiming to guarantee that at-risk populations in low- and middle-income countries benefit from and have equal access to new COVID-19 vaccines.   

This operative plan establishes three priority areas through which Spain will help disburse COVID-19 vaccines: refugee populations experiencing humanitarian crises, low-income countries, and Spain's development partner countries. The plan also outlines the following channels through which Spain will disburse the vaccines:

  • The COVAX Facility, a global mechanism for vaccine procurement and equitable distribution;
  • European Union’s direct disbursements;
  • UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO);
  • Multilateral and regional organizations, such as the Pan-American Health Organization; and
  • Bilateral deals.

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (in Spanish)

'Universal Access Plan’ - Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (in Spanish)

Spain's Sánchez emphasizes link between country's development assistance and international political priorities

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez spoke at the annual conference of Spanish ambassadors that took place on January 18-19, 2021 in Madrid, Spain, reiterating his government’s strong commitment to multilateralism and EU institutions.

Sánchez made the case for the nexus between development assistance and international politics, emphasizing Spain’s development cooperation as a key instrument to effectively mitigate inequities, tackle the climate crisis, fight extreme poverty, and strengthen public health systems worldwide.

Press release - La Moncloa (in Spanish)

UK Prime Minister appoints MP Helen Grant as Special Envoy for Girls' Education

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the appointment of Helen Grant, a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Conservative Party, as the new UK Special Envoy for Girls' Education.

Grant will take over from Baroness Sugg, who formally held the role alongside her role as a Junior Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) but resigned in protest at the UK government’s planned temporary suspension of its commitment to provide 0.7% of its gross national income as official development assistance. Grant will not take on the role of Junior Minister of the FCDO.

Grant served under the former UK Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities between 2012 and 2015. She was also Minister for Sport and Tourism.

Twitter - Boris Johnson

Germany's CDU prepares for Merkel's departure with election of new party leader

On January 16, 2021, the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) political party elected Armin Laschet, currently State Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, as the party’s new chairman, replacing Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Laschet won the runoff vote against the conservative candidate, Friedrich Merz, after the third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, dropped out in the first round.

Armin Laschet is considered to represent a continuation of Angela Merkel’s centrist and moderate political discourse, but his victory does not guarantee that he will be the CDU’s candidate for chancellorship. While it is believed that Laschet strives for the candidacy, Laschet has stated that the decision around the party’s candidate will be made in coordination with Markus Söder, the head of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, Christian Social Union (CSU), in the spring of 2021.

News article – Deutsche Welle

Canadian scholars call on government to support Ethiopia and Tigray reconciliation

In a recent op-ed, Canadian scholars called on their government to support Ethiopia with post-conflict reconciliation.

Ann Fitz-Gerald and Hugh Segal argue that the conflict between the state of Ethiopia and the country's northern region of Tigray could lead to increased tensions in other African regions. The authors believe that lessons learned from Canada’s ongoing development and implementation of truth and reconciliation policies for indigenous communities could prove useful to Ethiopia in moderating a rapidly escalating crisis.

Op-ed - Policy Options 

As news breaks of decade-long, racially-motivated tax fraud scandal, entire Dutch cabinet resigns

On January 15, 2021, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte offered the cabinet’s resignation to the Dutch king. Rutte and all other ministers officially stepped down due to a major tax office scandal involving nearly ten years of false accusations of child welfare fraud against around 10,000 Dutch families, many of whom were targeted based on their ethnicity or dual nationalities.

The entire cabinet will continue on as a "caretaker" cabinet to handle the COVID-19 crisis until parliamentary elections on March 17, 2021, except for the Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate, Eric Wiebes, who oversaw the tax office at the time. Until the elections, the caretaker government will focus its efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic and is only permitted to decide on other topics that are deemed not controversial by the parliament.

News article – BBC

News article – NOS (in Dutch)

UK invites India, South Korea, Australia to G7 summer meeting in 2021 with hopes of launching "D10" of leading democracies

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has invited South Korea, India, and Australia to attend the G7 face-to-face meeting on June 11-13, 2021, which the UK is hosting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

The invitations are part of a bid by Johnson to turn the G7, a meeting forum for the world’s leading economies, into a forum for the world’s ten leading democracies. Johnson notes that the "D10" meeting will represent over 60% of the people living in democracies around the world.

The move to reformat the G7 has been met with resistance from some diplomatic circles, with France and Italy seeing it as an apparent attempt by the UK to diminish the power of the EU. The move does, however, have broad support from the US, with US President-elect Joe Biden keen to host a summit of democracies in his first year of office.

Johnson has also announced that he wants to host an early virtual G7 leaders' summit in February of 2021, in part to enable Biden to reaffirm US support for multilateralism, which came under great strain under Biden's predecessor. The UK government also confirmed that the agenda for the G7 will focus on:

  • Recovering and rebuilding from the COVID-19 crisis;
  • Championing action on the climate crisis and girls’ education; and
  • Promoting open societies, shared values, and human rights.

News article - The Guardian

Twitter - G7UK

Canada recognizes milestone of world's first refugee vaccinated against COVID-19

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has recognized the world's first COVID-19 vaccine delivered to a refugee as a major milestone. Gould stated that vaccinating the most vulnerable populations, globally, is essential for ending the pandemic. 

Canada has committed CA$865 million (US$680 million) to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), an international effort to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and CA$220 million (US$173 million) to the COVAX Facility, an ACT-A initiative that helps low- and middle-income countries access vaccines. Gould is the co-chair of the international engagement group for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financial mechanism.

News article - CTV Canada 

Biden proposes US$11.0 billion more for international COVID-19 relief

As former US President Donald Trump sought to once again cut US foreign assistance through a formal rescission proposal to Congress, the then President-elect Joe Biden proposed US$11.0 billion in international assistance for the COVID-19 response.

The assistance, part of a larger proposal to counter the pandemic, will go toward global health and humanitarian assistance. Biden also pledged to restore the US' global leadership role. 

As one of his first acts upon becoming the US President, Biden officially canceled Trump's rescission proposal.

News article - Devex

COVID-19 aerosol removal technology undergoes trials in Australia

The Australian Queensland Berghofer Institute of Medical Research is collaborating with the start-up company, MedAir Australia, to test an air sterilization device developed to remove COVID-19 virus aerosols from the air.

The technology aims to remove aerosols from areas where they are generated at high levels and where ventilation is inadequate. However, the device does not remove droplets, which are the major vector for transmission. A provisional patent has been applied for the device.

News article - Mirage News

Australian National University launches podcast series on international development and implementation

A series of podcasts entitled ‘Memorandum of Understanding: conversations about international development’ has been launched by the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University.

This series will cover the process and policies of international development and project implementation. It promises to have a documentary-style approach to interviews and expert analysis.

News article - Australian National University

In largely symbolic gesture, Trump once again tries to cut US foreign assistance

US President Donald Trump made his last attempt to cut US foreign assistance, sending a package of rescissions to Capitol Hill with proposed cuts of billions of dollars from global health and other foreign assistance. The rescission request has little to no chance of being implemented—Congress would have to affirm the cuts in order to become law and that is unlikely to happen.

Included in the proposed cuts were a US$4.0 billion cut to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has been helping to distribute vaccines globally. Other proposed rescissions included a US$1.5 billion cut from emergency overseas food assistance, US$2.0 billion from AIDS assistance funding, and other cuts to humanitarian and democracy programs as well as economic support to a number of countries.

News article - Politico