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Stronger measures desperately needed to stop pervasive sexual exploitation in development sector, says UK parliamentary report

An inquiry into sexual exploitation in the international development NGO sector by the UK parliament's International Development Committee (IDC) has found evidence of pervasive abuse of those receiving assistance. The report showed that accountability mechanisms to prevent abuses and hold perpetrators accountable are woefully inadequate with limited investigations, poor protection for whistleblowers, and weak safeguarding mechanisms. 

The Chair of the IDC, Sarah Champion, concluded in the report that the development sector was the "last safe-haven" for abusers and that the culture of the development assistance sector itself was a significant factor in the scale of the problem. The report singled out the UN, calling on the international body to stop the routine use of immunity from prosecution during missions as a shield to protect perpetrators.

Changes must go beyond a box-ticking exercise, the report emphasizes, and address the problematic culture of the development sector overall. Authors called for greater localization of programming to start approaching the issue, referring to the process of engaging recipients of assistance in the design and oversight of development programming.  

Inquiry report - IDC

News article - The Guardian

News article - Devex

South Korean government aims to increase climate-related development assistance to 22.7% of total ODA

South Korea announced that it will expand the share of official development assistance (ODA) on climate from the current 6.7% to 22.7% of its total ODA, as part of South Korea’s global strategy on the Green and Digital New Deal.

22.7% is the average percentage for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members.

Mainly targeting the new emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America, while considering the local contexts and needs, the South Korean government will aim to increase the implementation of ODA projects for the Green New Deal according to the DAC average. Doing so will also provide South Korean small-medium enterprises (SMEs) more opportunities to venture into the global market since 65% of the industry and energy-related ODA budget was implemented by SMEs in 2020. Support for feasibility studies will also be provided, should these firms apply for follow-up ODA projects.

The Prime Minister’s Office will publish a more detailed roadmap on Green New Deal ODA within the first half of 2021.

News article – KOIT News (in Korean)

Former US Ambassador to UN announced as new USAID Administrator

US President-elect Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Samantha Power to head the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Power, who served in the Obama administration on both the National Security Council (NSC) and as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, will also have a seat on the NSC, a signal of the elevated power that USAID will have within the new administration.  

Biden, in announcing her nomination, stated that "she will work with our partners to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, lift up vulnerable communities, fight for the value of every human being, and advance American ideals and interests around the globe."

Power, who will need to be confirmed by the US Senate, will take on an agency that had been severely weakened by the Trump administration both in terms of funding cuts and controversial appointees. 

News report - NBC News

Former Italian Agriculture Minister appointed as new Deputy Director-General at Italy's Food and Agricultural Organization

Maurizio Martina, the former Italian Minister of Agriculture, Secretary of the leading center-left party (Partito Democratico), and Member of Parliament, has been appointed as Special Advisor and Deputy Director-General at Italy's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). Martina led the organization of the 2015 World Expo in Milan, the theme of which was "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life".

Martina has expressed great enthusiasm for the importance of a multilateral approach to development, which Martina plans to apply while working on the G20 agenda, the next UN Food Systems Summit, and the Food Coalition launched by Italy in partnership with FAO a few months ago. 

News article - Corriere della Sera

Dutch parliament submits motion on fair worldwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

During a plenary debate about the COVID-19 crisis, Gert-Jan Segers, leader of the Netherlands' Christian Union party, and Lilianne Ploumen, leader of the Labour Party, submitted a motion concerning a national campaign for inclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

Segers and Ploumen argued that, in addition to working with the COVAX Facility (a global mechanism for the procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines), the government must work with relief organizations to set up a national campaign that increases global solidarity by offering everyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine in the Netherlands the opportunity to contribute to making COVID-19 vaccines available worldwide.

The motion will be brought to a vote in parliament on January 19, 2021.

Press release – Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Canada introduces measures to combat human rights abuses in China

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne, and Canada's Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade, Mary Ng, have implemented measures to address human rights abuses by China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

These measures respond to "evidence and reports of human rights violations in the People’s Republic of China involving members of the Uyghur ethnic minority and other minorities within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region". Specifically, Canada seeks to address forced labor.

Canada has worked with international partners to develop the following seven-step strategy to help "defend the rights of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities":

  1. Prohibit imports produced by forced labor;
  2. Implement a Xinjiang Integrity Declaration for Canadian companies;
  3. Start a business advisory on the issue;
  4. Provide advice to Canadian businesses;
  5. Institute export controls;
  6. Increase education on Responsible Business Conduct in the region; and
  7. Commission a study on forced labor and supply chain risks.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

EU finishes talks on COVID-19 vaccine deal with French biotech company, Valneva

The European Commission has finished exploratory talks with the French biotechnology company, Valneva, on a COVID-19 vaccine deal that would enable EU countries to purchase 30 million doses, with 30 million more optioned.  

The Commission has already struck vaccine deals on behalf of EU member states with six other companies: AstraZenecaSanofi-GSKJanssen Pharmaceutica NV (Johnson & Johnson), BioNTech-Pfizer, CureVac, and Moderna, in addition to having recently concluded talks with Novavax.

As with the other deals, member states will be able to donate Valneva vaccines to lower- and middle-income countries or re-direct them to other European countries.

Press release - European Commission

Japanese NGOs publish policy recommendations on intellectual property rights, cooperation for pharmaceuticals and medical technology

A network of Japanese NGOs jointly published policy recommendations on relaxing intellectual property rights and promoting cooperation on pharmaceutical and medical technology to overcome COVID-19.

While clinical trials, funding, and support are provided by high- and low-income countries, high-income countries are monopolizing vaccines, leaving low-income countries behind. To address this issue, the NGOs recommend the Japanese government:

  1. Support or not oppose South Africa's and India’s proposal to the World Health Organization to ensure fair and rapid access of medicines and technology for COVID-19;
  2. Support initiatives, such as the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), to share intellectual property rights and promote access to technology (as well as accelerate the development of new technology by removing barriers and encouraging cooperation) for the prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19;
  3. Expand contributions on international partnerships, such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), to create a framework for achieving equal access to technology; and
  4. Promote dialogue between Japan and civil society to ensure fair and open access to medicines and medical technology.

Press release - Share (in Japanese)

Letter - Share

Japanese Prime Minister and Bill Gates emphasize importance of vaccines, universal healthcare coverage

In a January 12, 2021 call, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discussed universal healthcare coverage, the Tokyo Nutritional Summit, and the importance of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Suga and Gates agreed on the importance of distributing COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries and that a successful vaccination campaign will be crucial before the opening of the Tokyo Summer Games. The success of the 2021 Olympics would send a strong message of unity and optimism to the rest of the world, said Gates, a year after COVID-19 has ravaged the globe.

Suga also highlighted the importance of universal healthcare coverage from the perspective of human security, a topic about which Gates has long been passionate.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

News article – Japan Broadcasting Corporation (in Japanese)

News article – The Sankei News (in Japanese)

Dutch NGO umbrella organization publishes electoral manifesto overview

In the run-up to the March 2021 parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, Partos, the Dutch NGO umbrella organization, published an overview of Dutch manifestos in the context of development cooperation.

The overview included a graph showing which parties support an official development assistance (ODA) budget of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI), whether these parties plan to strengthen civil society, and how coherent their development policies are.

The Party for the Animals (PvdD) has the most ambitious ODA commitment. PvdD wants to spend at least 1% of GNI on ODA.

Partos mentioned that while 10 years ago, 60% of voters in the Netherlands wanted to cut the government budget for development cooperation, only 34% of voters currently want to cut this budget.

Japan provides US$69 million to improve rice irrigation facilities in Senegal

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced plans to provide ¥7.2 billion (US$69 million) to the Republic of Senegal through the Project for Irrigated Rice Production to improve the productivity of irrigated rice and ensure food security in Senegal.

This project aims to rehabilitate and expand irrigation fields in the Senegal River Valley, strengthen management systems, and increase the procurement of agricultural machinery, which will contribute to SDG 2, the Sustainable Development Goal for Zero Hunger.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Japan provides US$275 million for COVID-19 response in India

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided US$275 million to India for the COVID-19 Crisis Response Support Loan for Social Protection.

The loan aims to contribute to India’s measures to support "poor and vulnerable communities" and develop policies promoting social protection in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

At One Planet Summit, German Chancellor Merkel calls for action to protect biodiversity “not whenever, but now”

On January 12, 2021, at the online One Planet Summit to discuss the environment and climate change, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for an accelerated international effort to protect biodiversity and natural habitats, “not whenever, but now.”

Merkel announced that Germany would join the 'High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People', initiated by France and Costa Rica, committing to protecting 30% of land and sea habitats by 2030 to halt the accelerating loss of species and to preserve vital ecosystems.

Merkel also urged the global community to take active steps against deforestation. The protection of the world’s forests is not only vital for biodiversity and climate protection but also global health, she said. Referring to the concept of One Health, she stressed that “human beings can only do well on a healthy planet with healthy flora and fauna.”

The One Planet Summit was launched by France, the United Nations, and the World Bank, to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate. This year’s one-day online summit was the fourth convention, after summits in Paris in 2017, New York in 2018, and Nairobi in 2019. Around 30 heads of state and international organizations attended the online summit to discuss the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as fighting climate change.

Press release – Federal Chancellery (in German)

News article – Deutsche Welle

USAID's new gender policy faces criticism from Capitol Hill Democrats

After the US Agency for International Development (USAID) released its new gender policy, three US Representatives called on the incoming Biden administration to reject the policy and undertake a consultative process to implement a meaningful gender equality approach. 

The Representatives portrayed the policy as one that would reverse decades of progress and criticized not only the policy's substance but also the process by which it was adopted.

Report - USAID

Press release - Representative Meeks, Lee, and Meng

Canada commits US$43 million to Land Degradation Neutrality Fund

Canada's Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, has announced that Canada will contribute CA$55 million (US$43 million) to the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund. The Fund, created by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, supports "sustainable land management and land restoration" in low-income countries.

Canada's commitment to Land Degradation Neutrality Fund is a part of Canada's overall CA$2.7 billion (US$2.1 billion) climate finance commitment. 

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

France announces 50% increase in funding to IFAD during One Planet Summit

During the One Planet Summit on Biodiversity, held virtually on January 11, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will increase its funding to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) by 50%.

France’s previous contribution to IFAD during its last replenishment cycle amounted to US$71 million.

The pledge will contribute to IFAD’s 12th replenishment, which aims to fund projects for rural people (including small-scale farmers, rural women, youth, indigenous peoples) to support food security and agricultural projects.

News article - Global citizen

Report - IFAD

South Korean government announces new plan to improve concessional loan process post-COVID-19

South Korea's Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) announced how its concessional loan process will change post-COVID-19.

Finance Minister Nam-ki Hong stated that in light of global and domestic economic performances in 2020 and global economic outlooks for 2021, South Korea’s concessional loan program, the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) will commit to the following:

  • Diversifying development finance by increasing official development assistance (ODA) budget and fortifying public-private partnerships;
  • Increasing investments in the green and digital sector, increasing the corresponding budget from US$5 million in 2020 to US$8 million in 2021 and US$1.4 billion by 2025;
  • Increasing the concessional loan budget for healthcare up to US$1.0 billion by 2025;
  • Strengthening partnership with multilateral development banks (MDBs) to address the financing gap that partner countries face while increasing co-financing scale with MDBs such as the African Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank;
  • Raising the share of EDCF’s untied assistance which was around 46.4% in the last five years to over 60% by 2025; and
  • Pursuing more effective management of the EDCF.

Concerning the climate crisis, MOEF announced that South Korea will hold the P4G Summit (Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030) in Seoul in May 2021 and continue to cooperate with the Green Climate Fund whose headquarters is located in South Korea.

Press release – Ministry of Economy and Finance

France launches 'PREZODE', new international initiative to prevent future pandemics

At the One Planet Summit for biodiversity on January 11, 2021, in Paris, France, the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs launched PREZODE (PREventing ZOonotic Diseases Emergence), a new initiative to prevent future pandemics.

The initiative aims to identify and prevent emerging zoonotic risks (diseases passed from animals to humans) and pandemics within the framework of a One Health approach, which considers how human health, animal welfare, and the environment are interconnected. According to participants of the initiative, the five pillars of PREZODE are:

  1. Zoonotic risk analysis;
  2. Zoonotic risk reduction;
  3. Early detection and evaluation of socio-economic impacts;
  4. Development of an international zoonotic risk monitoring system; and
  5. Stakeholder engagement and joint development of regional health and biodiversity networks.

Participants in this initiative will mobilize different research centers from France, Germany, and the Netherlands, such as the:

    Press release - CIRAD

    Dutch government donates additional US$29 million for COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries

    The Netherlands is spending an additional €25 million (US$30 million) for the purchase and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. This was decided by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (FTDC), Sigrid Kaag, in response to an urgent request made by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    According to the WHO, US$5.0 billion in funding is needed to ensure 1.3 billion doses of vaccines for 92 countries. The Dutch contribution of €25 million (US$30 million), paid through the development cooperation budget, will allow for the purchase of approximately five million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

    Press release – Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

    Two former heads of intelligence call for increased foreign assistance from Australia

    In a podcast series launched by the Australian Council for International Development, Richard Maude and Alan Gyngell have called for Australia to increase its foreign assistance budget. Both men were previously heads of Australia's intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments.

    Maude, now in the role of Executive Director of the Asia Society Australia, indicated that Australia’s step up in the Pacific had come at the expense of areas in the Indo-Pacific region. Gyngell emphasized the need to update Australia’s foreign policy and put more emphasis on soft power compared to the amount of attention going to intelligence agencies and defense.

    News article - Brisbane Times