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Greenhouse emissions from beef cattle are dramatically reduced through adding seaweed to feed, says study

Methane emissions from beef cattle could be reduced by as much as 82% by adding seaweed to the cows' diet, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

The effectiveness of this does not diminish with repeated applications. The use of seaweed to reduce methane emissions is significant because agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, half of which is connected to cows and other ruminant animals.

The study was done by UC Davis through a collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the James Cook University in northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, and Blue Ocean Barns (a startup that sources seaweed-based additives).

News article - Select Science

With ten recommendations, civil society organizations call on French government to take more action on COVID-19 crisis

Following the one-year anniversary of when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the spread of COVID-19 a global pandemic, Collectif Santé Mondiale (a coalition of French NGOs, including Oxfam, ONE, Doctors of the World, and Action Against Hunger) published a position paper with ten recommendations for the French government to contribute to the global effort to tackle the health crisis.

The recommendations were the following:

  1. Fund the WHO-led Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative according to the fair share of France's wealth, i.e., allocate an additional €870 million (US$1.0 billion) to its past pledged amount of US$185 million;
  2. Share its financial support with each of the ACT-A pillars (vaccines, treatment, diagnostics, and health system strengthening) according to needs;
  3. Take part in the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and support the proposal for a temporary waiver of certain obligations from the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS, a World Trade Organization agreement) in response to COVID-19;
  4. Redistribute COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX Facility while following the WHO's Values Framework for the allocation and prioritization of COVID-19 vaccination;
  5. Create a new pillar dedicated to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and gender-based violence within the ACT-A framework;
  6. Ensure the transparency of public investments and the price of purchased vaccines through international initiatives such as COVAX;
  7. Consider and reinforce community and primary healthcare systems for crisis response;
  8. Fight the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on global health (including discrimination, other diseases, women's health);
  9. Include an increase of French assistance dedicated to global health in the bill on "inclusive development and the fight against global inequalities", which is currently being discussed by Parliament; and
  10. Increase resources allocated to global health through innovative financing, such as the Financial Transactions Tax, the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm), and the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights (SDR).

Press release - Collectif Santé Mondiale (in French)

UK hosts Climate and Development Ministerial meeting, calls for more and better climate finance and debt relief

The UK hosted a virtual Climate and Development Ministerial meeting on March 31, 2021, to address the climate challenges facing the poorest countries in the world, ahead of COP26, the annual UN climate conference which the UK will host this year (November 2021) in Glasgow.

The ministerial meeting brought foreign, development, and climate ministers from around the world together virtually, along with representatives from development banks. The meeting was focused on:

  • Improving  responses to climate impacts, with a focus on coordination and international cooperation to address losses and damages related to climate change;
  • Improving debt relief and alleviating fiscal pressure to enable low-income countries to address the climate crisis; and
  • Enabling more and better climate finance to help countries adapt to and mitigate climate change.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, who attended the meeting, called for a greater volume of climate finance to help vulnerable and poor countries, as well as debt relief to help increase their fiscal space for addressing climate challenges. Raab pointed out that there is an opportunity to ensure that efforts to build up economies after the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis support a green recovery. 

Earlier in the week, Lord Ahmad, a UK Minister for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, spoke at the UN's 'Meeting of Heads of State and Government on the International Debt Architecture and Liquidity'. Ahmad noted that the UK would use both its G7 Presidency and its hosting of COP26 to push for further debt relief action. In particular, he highlighted the need for the G7 to push for a general issuance of Special Drawing Rights from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide financial support to low-income countries, the need to establish a common framework that brings all official and private-sector creditors together to deliver coordinated debt treatments, and the need for increased transparency of sovereign debt.

Transcript - UK government 

Transcript - UK government

News article - Reuters

Biden administration quietly increasing assistance to Palestinians

Over the last week, US President Joe Biden's administration announced publicly that it would provide US$15 million to Palestinian communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and then it also notified Congress that it would provide US$75 million as economic assistance partly to regain Palestinians' "trust and goodwill". The latter tranche of assistance was not publicly announced and is likely to face Republican scrutiny.

The restarting of assistance is a significant reversal in policy from the cuts made by the administration of former President Donald Trump. Under US law, there are restrictions that prevent assistance from flowing to the Palestinian Authority, and the Trump administration cited this as part of its reason for cutting assistance. However, none of the current assistance is being provided to the Palestinian Authority.

A congressional notification affirmed that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will follow the vetting procedures for compliance. This notification was provided hours after the Government Accountability Office criticized USAID's earlier compliance efforts for not adequately vetting indirect recipients.

The notification indicated that the money, which may start flowing as early as April 10, 2021, would contribute to a variety of assistance, including health care, water, sanitation, infrastructure, assistance for Palestinian youth, small businesses, and disaster preparedness. The package will also provide US$5 million for civics groups, which the Biden administration believes will help in restarting peace negotiations. 

News article - Associated Press

Ford Foundation contributes US$12 million to Canada's Equality Fund

The Ford Foundation announced a commitment of CA$15 million (US$12 million) to Canada's Equality Fund at the recent Mexico-hosted Generation Equality Forum (GEF). The GEF highlighted the importance of feminist movements, organizations, and funds in achieving gender equality and human rights.

The Fund, launched in 2019, is an initiative aimed at harnessing "the power of investment, philanthropy and grant-making to build a gender-equal world".

The next part of the Generation Equality Forum will be hosted by France in June 2021.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

France launches new fund to spur innovation in global development practices and policies

France created 'Le Fonds d'innovation pour le développement' (The Innovation Fund for Development) to support innovation in the field of global development on technical, social, financial, environmental, and governance-related approaches. The fund launched its first call for proposals and has a budget of €15 million (US$18 million) for its first year. 

The fund is headed by Esther Duflo, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the call for proposals is open to governments, research centers, civil society organizations, and the private sector. Priority will be given to projects that spur innovation in low-income countries, especially France's 19 priority partner countries, most of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The fund is part of a larger effort to modernize French development policies in the framework of a new law on "solidarity development and the fight against global inequalities" being currently discussed at Parliament whose rapporteur is Member of Parliament Hervé Berville.

Press release - French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (in French)

Japan-based Global Health Innovative Technology Fund invests US$22 million to develop drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, visceral leishmaniasis

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT), a Japan-based international private-public partnership, announced that it will provide ¥2.3 billion (US$22 million) to develop new drugs for malaria, tuberculosis, Chagas disease, and visceral leishmaniasis, as well as a vaccine for malaria and diagnostics for tuberculosis.

GHIT is funded by a mix of private and public funders, notably the Japanese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust, along with a growing list of private sector funders and collaborators. In 2020, GHIT invested a total of ¥4.2 billion (US$40 million)

As of March 31, 2021, GHIT is funding 57 projects, comprised of 30 in their discovery stages, 20 preclinical studies, and 7 clinical trials.

Press release - Global Health Innovative Technology Fund

Germany contributes US$2.1 billion at donor conference for Syrian crisis

On March 30, 2021, at the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region', Germany has pledged €1.7 billion (US$2.1 billion) for the Syrian population suffering from the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Of this, around €1.1 billion (US$1.3 billion) are provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, €665 million (US$804 million) come from the Federal Foreign Office. In his statement, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the Syrian regime to make serious efforts to establish peace in the country. At the same time, Maas declined German participation in the reconstruction of areas controlled by the regime, as long as there is no “substantial political process”. 

Given the devastating humanitarian situation in Syria, humanitarian organizations, among them the German charity Caritas, have called on donor countries to support reconstruction projects in areas controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

International donors pledged a total of US$6.4 billion, short of the US$10.0 billion that was being sought by the conference's co-hosts—the EU and the UN. The raised funding will go toward humanitarian relief within Syria and the support of refugee camps in the region.

Press release – Federal Foreign Office

News article – Deutsche Welle

UK cuts humanitarian assistance to Syria by nearly third; meanwhile, speculation grows over who will take over top UN humanitarian position

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Minister, Dominic Raab, has announced that the UK will provide £205 million (US$275 million) to the Syrian refugee program at a recent donor pledging conference. This represents a cut of up to a third of the UK’s contribution from last year, which amounted to £300 million (US$403 million), and the cut comes despite heavy lobbying for the UK to maintain its commitment to Syria.

The decision to cut the budget comes as speculation grows as to who will replace Mark Lowcock, the former Permanent Secretary of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), when he leaves his role as the head of the UN’s humanitarian operations. Lowcock announced that he was departing imminently in order to spend more time with his family. The post has traditionally been given to a British national, though there is a drive to select the person based on merits.

British nationals in the running include Nic Dyer, the UK Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs, or Harriet Mathews, the Director for Africa at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Outside of the UK, Olof Skoog (a Swedish diplomat who is the EU Ambassador to the UN), William Chemaly (a Lebanese human rights and humanitarian protection specialist who has worked as a Senior Policy Advisor for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)), and Koen Davidse (a Dutch Executive Director at the World Bank) have all been proposed as potential candidates.

News article - The Guardian

News article - The New Humanitarian

Canada commits US$35 million to peace and stabilization projects in Iraq and Syria

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau has announced CA$44 million (US$35 million) for projects in Iraq and Syria working to combat Daesh, also known as ISIS. This funding was announced at the 'Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Small Group' meeting.

The funding will go toward eleven projects that are a part of the 'Stabilization Operations Program in Iraq and Syria' and is a demonstration of Canada's dedication to "advance stability in Iraq, Syria and the region". These projects specifically focus on providing essential services to citizens, strengthening public infrastructure, and supporting internally displaced peoples.

Currently, Canada contributes to all five aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh campaign: 

  1. Military campaign against Daesh;
  2. Stop influx of foreign terrorist fighters;
  3. Target Daesh financing and economic infrastructure;
  4. Stabilize liberated areas; and
  5. Counter propaganda.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Sweden pledges US$97 million in humanitarian support to address Syrian crisis

On March 30, 2021, during the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' hosted by the UN and the EU, Sweden pledged SEK811 million (US$97 million) toward humanitarian support efforts in Syria in 2021.

After ten years of conflict, more than half of Syrians are displaced, 90% of the population lives under the poverty line, and it is estimated that 13 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Sweden has been one of the largest donors of humanitarian support since the beginning of the conflict and it helped negotiate a solution for delivering cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syrians. 

Press release – Government Offices of Sweden (in Swedish)

Canada pledges US$40 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, pledged CA$50 million (US$40 million) in humanitarian assistance funding to Syria at the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region'.

The funding is directed toward supporting the acute and essential needs (nutrition, clean water, sanitation, primary health care, and sexual and reproductive health) of civilians in the region and sustainably stopping the Syrian war.

Including this recent pledge, Canada has committed over CA$330 million ($US263 million) in support to Syria in 2021. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

Spain’s Prime Minister Sánchez reshuffles his cabinet

On March 30, 2021, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a reshuffle of the Spanish coalition government, which is formed by his social-democratic Socialist Party (PSOE) and the left-wing Podemos Party.

Following the resignation of Pablo Iglesias (Podemos) from his role as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda after deciding to run for Madrid regional elections to be held on May 4, 2021, Sánchez appointed people to take his place. The Minister of Labor and Social Economy, Yolanda Díaz (Podemos), retained that title while also being appointed as the new Deputy Prime Minister. The Secretary of State for the Agenda 2030, Ione Belarra (Podemos), was appointed as the new Minister of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda.

The Spanish coalition cabinet is composed of four Deputy Prime Ministers: Minister of Presidency Carmen Calvo (PSOE), Minister of Economy and Digitalization Nadia Calviño (PSOE), Minister of Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera (PSOE), and the recently appointed Díaz.

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

South Korean head of academic association on foreign assistance suggests platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue and re-defining national interest

Dr. Sung-kyu Kim, President of the Korea Association of International Development and Cooperation (KAIDEC), the largest academic association on official development cooperation (ODA), mentioned in an interview that South Korea should move away from following what traditional donors are doing and rather set the future direction of South Korea’s ODA based on its own circumstances.

Kim mentioned that there should be a platform through which multiple stakeholders—including experts, civil society organizations, and the public—could communicate freely and equally on ODA, enabling varied participation in the ODA policy decision-making process.

Kim pointed out that different stakeholders have varied interpretations of what is best for the national interest. Kim stressed that the definition and scope of what is considered national interest should be expanded beyond the commercial interest of donors, and that in particular, academia should discuss how socio-cultural solidarity and inclusiveness of ODA correspond with national interest.

News article – Yonhap News (in Korean)

South Korea’s foreign ministry organizes strategic meeting on grant assistance for systematic and effective implementation of foreign development assistance

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Eui-yong Chung chaired the launch of the first 'Free Development Cooperation Strategy Meeting' that brought together representatives of multiple ministries and government agencies implementing grant assistance, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Gender Equality.

These strategic meetings on grant assistance will work as the highest-level meeting that deliberates and decides on South Korea’s overall grant assistance, as well as discuss related major strategies and policies, in order to strengthen the system and effectiveness of grant assistance implementation.

Experts have pointed out that fragmentation in the official development assistance (ODA) system is one of South Korea's major challenges. Chung stated that with the increase of South Korea’s ODA budget, the quality of foreign assistance should also improve. He also stressed that ODA should be implemented in line with the government’s diplomatic strategies.

News article – Newsis (in Korean)

South Korea commits US$18 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of South Korea announced that it will provide US$18 million in humanitarian assistance to help the refugees and particularly vulnerable groups such as women and children.

MOFA announced this at the fifth Brussels Conference on 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' held on March 30, 2021. South Korea, along with other participants, called for a nationwide ceasefire in Syria.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

France announces priorities for Generation Equality Forum and protection of women's rights

In a statement given during the opening ceremony of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF), French President Emmanuel Macron gave a statement detailing the goals of the Forum and France's priorities. The GEF is an initiative organized by UN Women and co-hosted by Mexico and France, aiming to accelerate progress to achieve gender equality through tangible measures during 2021-2026.

Macron pointed out the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women, including through an uptick of violence, the deepening of economic and social inequalities which exacerbate poverty and hunger, and attacks on women's rights and access to family planning. On top of this, women have been overrepresented among frontline workers taking responding to the pandemic, putting them at higher risk for infection. 

There is no excuse for the curtailing of women's rights, Macron said. As the Forum kicks off, he announced, France will focus its attention on supporting girls' education, bodily autonomy, and organizations that protect women's rights.

Video - French government (in French)

Japan provides US$50 million to finance women-owned businesses in Mexico

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced that it will provide US$50 million to finance women-owned businesses in Mexico through the Compartamos Banco, a microfinance bank in Mexico.

Compartamos provides services to small businesses in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, and about 90% of its clients are women.

Mexico has a high level of inequality, with about two million people living in extreme poverty. It is estimated that 30% of adults in Mexico do not have access to financial services.

These funds aim to support the expansion of women-owned businesses, mainly in the poorest states.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Spain reaffirms commitment to women's empowerment at Generation Equality Forum

At the kick-off event of the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) held in Mexico City, Mexico, on March 29-31, 2021, high-level representatives of the Spanish government emphasized the importance of accelerating progress for gender equality by 2030.

Convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, the GEF is a global gathering commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25), designed to further advance progress toward gender equality. The Forum will culminate in Paris, France in June 2021 with an ambitious set of concrete commitments from governments, private companies, and civil society organizations around the world.

Spain is strongly involved in this process and is co-leading the GEF Action Coalition for Economic Justice and Rights together with Germany, South Africa, Sweden, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Care International, and other civil society organizations.

As part of Spain's work on this Action Coalition, it will help raise awareness of and elevate solutions for issues including women's unpaid labor (which has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic) and their (relatedly) low levels of participation in the paid labor market.

Carmen Calvo (Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister), Arancha González Laya (Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation), Irene Montero (Minister of Equality), and Ángeles Moreno (Secretary of State for International Cooperation) participated in the event as well.

Press release – MAUC (in Spanish)

Spain launches 'Focus on Africa 2023' strategic plan

On March 29, 2021, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez participated in a high-level event to release ‘Foco África 2023’ (‘Focus on Africa 2023’), the new strategic program of the Spanish government to foster peace, stability, and sustainable development in the continent. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo and Arancha González Laya (Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation) also participated in this launch event, which served to reaffirm Spain’s goal to strengthen cooperation with the African continent.

The ‘Foco África 2023’ plan, which is aimed at supporting the implementation of the Spanish government’s ‘Third Africa Plan’ approved in March 2019, outlines Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa as priority partner countries. Specifically for development cooperation, Spain will focus its efforts on Mali, Niger, Senegal, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Morocco, Mauritania, Tunisia, and Egypt.

The new plan outlines seven strategic priorities:

  • Peace and security;
  • Sustainable development;
  • Trade and economic investments;
  • Global public services (with a focus on health, water, and sanitation);
  • Humanitarian assistance (with a focus on nutrition and education);
  • Gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment; and
  • Migration and mobility.

Press release – La Moncloa

'Foco África 2023' – La Moncloa (in Spanish)