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Leaked draft EU research work programs for 2023-2024 includes focus on pandemic preparedness

Leaked draft work programs for Horizon Europe, the EU’s research program, for 2023-2024 include a strong focus on pandemic preparedness for the program’s health cluster. 

The program includes calls for proposals related to the new European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), including medical devices, protective equipment, diagnostics devices, understanding vaccine induced-immunity, and viruses with epidemic potential.

The five themes for the health cluster include: 

  1. Staying healthy in a rapidly changing society (includes topics on aging, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and children and adolescent health); 
  2. Living and working in a health-promoting environment (includes the impact of climate change and environmental pollution); 
  3. Tackling disease and reducing disease burden (includes non-communicable diseases, pandemic preparedness, rare diseases, and antimicrobial resistance, as well as HERA-specific topics); 
  4. Ensuring access to innovative, sustainable, and high-quality health care (includes access to care, health care workforce, environmentally sustainable health care systems); and 
  5. Unlocking the full potential of new tools, technologies, and digital solutions for a healthy society (includes data, modeling and simulations, bio-printing, and digital health technologies).

The work program includes an action to provide a grant awarded without a call for proposals to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative (CEPI) although it does not mention the award amount. 

Another action will allow the mobilization of research funds to respond in the event of a public health emergency. The grants will be awarded without a call for proposals should circumstances call for it.

News article - Science|Business

Canada announces US$15 million to support green entrepreneurship in Ghana

Canada’s Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, announced CA$18 million (US$15 million) in funding for two projects in Ghana that will support local entrepreneurs in developing innovative, green solutions.

The first project, through Ashesi University and the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre, will strengthen Ghana’s response to climate change by supporting 240 small and medium-scale entrepreneurs to develop profitable local solutions to addressing climate change. Half of the entrepreneurs supported will be women. 

The second project supports the Centre of Excellence for the Circular Economy project with the UN Industrial Development Organization. The funding will increase the adoption of circular economy practices and technologies, with a focus on women and youth small-scale entrepreneurs.

Twitter - Harjit Sajjan

Twitter - Canada in Ghana

Former Foreign Minister criticizes Australia’s overseas development assistance levels

Gareth Evans, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1988 - 1996, recently criticized Australia’s dismal approach to overseas development, and particularly its approach to disbursement of official development assistance (ODA).

Evans indicated that Australia’s decline in providing ODA is worse than any other high-income country. Australia's ODA/ gross national income (GNI) ratio fell from 0.65% to 0.2% over the past 50 years, sending Australia close to the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) ranking of 25 donors despite previously being in the top ten.

Evans acknowledged the commonly held public belief that Australia spends too much on development assistance, which is commonly based on misconceptions - people greatly overestimated the proportion of government expenditure provided.

He considered Australians to be personally generous in response to overseas needs and indicated that Australia could easily afford to be a better international citizen by increasing its ODA levels.

Report  – The Lowy Institute

Canada announces US$50 million to support critical nutrition, health services in Yemen

On March 16, 2022, Canada’s Minister of International Development, Harjit Sajjan, announced CA$63 million (US$50 million) in funding to support conflict-affected people in Yemen.

The funding is intended to support life-saving nutrition, health care, clean water, and sanitation. In accordance with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy, the funding will focus especially on the urgent needs of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The support will be provided through UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other non-governmental organizations.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada

German government releases 2022 draft budget; ODA remains at 0.7% GNI

On March 16, 2022, the German government adopted the second government draft for the 2022 federal budget, worth €457.6 billion (US$517.2 billion). This marks an increase of 14.6% compared to the first draft by the former government (in place before the federal elections in September of 2021), but a decrease of 20.1% compared to the federal budget in 2021.

The German government plans to invest around €23 billion (US$26 billion) in official development assistance (ODA) and maintain the 0.7% ODA/GNI commitment. Germany will be able to meet the commitment mainly through additional funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) to fight COVID-19 globally as well as spending related to the Ukraine crisis.

Despite the commitment to 0.7% ODA/GNI, the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (BMZ’s) budget is set to stand at €10.8 billion (US$12.2 billion), which marks a €1.6 billion (US$1.8 billion, or 13%) drop from 2021 levels. However, in addition to its core budget, BMZ has €784 million (US$886 million) from the budget plan for ‘general financial management' at its disposal, to be used for ACT-A-designated expenditures. Together, BMZ’s spending in 2022 is planned to stand at €11.6 billion (US$13.1 billion).

Last week, a group of eight German NGOs called on the German government not to neglect the fight against poverty and hunger in face of an increased focus on defense, and to spend 0.7% of Germany's GNI on ODA. They welcomed that the 0.7% commitment will be met according to the budget draft, but critized the cuts in the BMZ budget.

The first reading of the budget draft in the German parliament will take place at the end of March of 2022. The second and third reading, as well as the finalization and approval of the budget, is expected to occur between the end of May and the beginning of June of 2022.

Federal Budget 2022, second draft - Federal Ministry of Finance (in German)

News article - Handelsblatt (in German)

News article - Evangelische.de (in German)

Post-election agenda proposed for Australia’s development assistance program

Former Parliamentary Library researcher Cameron Hill put forward an agenda for updating Australia’s international assistance and development program following the expected federal election in May of 2022. The article was published by the Lowy Institute, Australia’s leading foreign policy think tank.

The author states that there is no current overseas development policy beyond the COVID-19 response and an independent review of the development program’s effectiveness has not occurred in more than 10 years.

The author suggests that the new policy should cover all types of assistance including loans, grants, and blended finance. Humanitarian funding would also need to be reassessed, taking into account Australia’s expected burden share in global responses to new disasters and conflicts.

Hill also called for Australia to increase assistance to South and West Asia; development assistance to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan significantly declined over 10 years. 

The current Liberal-National Party coalition government capped the Australian development cooperation program at A$4 billion annually (US$2.9 billion) but provided a temporary increase to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. By comparison, the opposition Australian Labor Party set a nominal target 0.5% official development assistance (ODA)/gross national income (GNI) ratio, but without a target year or process for achieving the goal; the current ratio stands at 0.21%.

In addition to increasing ODA levels, the author emphasized that an incoming government needed to restore development expertise and development management ability of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade following reductions in specialist development roles and the abolition of the development program's evaluation group, the Office of Development Effectiveness.

Report – The Inquirer

While 73% of Dutch citizens want more for support low-income countries for COVID-19 response, government falls short of ACT-A fair share

 

A recent opinion poll, conducted by the development organisations ONE and Cordaid, shows that 73% of Dutch citizens are in favor of increased Dutch support to low-income countries to assist them with COVID-19 response. Desire for support increased by 10% compared to last year.

Despite public opinion, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Schreinemacher is not planning to contribute the Netherlands' fair share to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Access to COVID-19 Tools - Accelerator (ACT-A) this year. This decision became evident during the parliamentary committee debate on March 10, 2022. The Dutch government only fulfilled 35% of its fair share last year, and this year, Dutch contributions are only 20% of the total €345 million ($US377 million). The Dutch Labour Party intends to file a motion to increase Dutch ACT-A contributions and has requested a follow up debate in the parliament on the ACT-A. 

Press Release - Cordaid (In Dutch)

Press release - Parliament website (in Dutch)

Spanish government to increase cooperation with development NGOs

On March 14, 2022, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEC) and the development NGO umbrella organization 'La Coordinadora' signed a partnership agreement to regulate the civil society's involvement in the implementation of Spain's development policy.

With this new partnership agreement, MAEC and 'La Coordinadora' seek to strengthen collaborations on strategic goals, procedures, and division of labor, ensuring harmonization. According to Spanish NGOs, the agreement will also serve to increase interactions with the government as well as to clarify the role that civil society groups should have in promoting sustainable development. 

Press release – La Coordinadora

Press release – MAEC

Germany to co-host 2022 Gavi COVAX AMC Summit

On March 11, 2022, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance announced that Germany will co-host this year’s Gavi COVAX AMC Summit on April 8, 2022. The summit will aim to raise US$5.2 billion in funding for COVAX, including US$3.8 billion in funding from sovereign and private donors for low-and middle-income countries that receive support from the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

The virtual event, titled '2022 Gavi COVAX AMC Summit: Break COVID Now' will be co-chaired by the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, and Gavi Board Chair, José Manuel Barroso.

On March 1, 2022, Germany announced that it will contribute its fair share of US$1.2 billion to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) in 2022. Of that, €350 million (US$396 million) will go to the Gavi COVAX AMC, which is one of ACT-A’s pillars.

Press release – Gavi

French NGOs assess Macron's global health track record ahead of elections, criticize funding schemes

Ahead of the French presidential elections due to take place on April 10 and 24, 2022, French Health NGOs in the 'Global Health Collective', which includes Doctors of the World, Oxfam France, Global Health Advocates, and Action Against Hunger, assessed French President Macron's global health policies during his five-year term.

NGOs welcomed the planned increase of French development assistance to reach the 0.7% official development assistance (ODA)/ gross national income (GNI) target by 2025 but regretted that France did not commit additional resources to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic when it was most needed.

They also criticized that only 6.6% of French ODA was allocated to global health in 2019 versus 10% in 2014, a small ratio compared to other comparable donors (15.0% for the UK, 18.6% for Canada).

NGOs also welcomed the prioritization of universal health coverage (UHC), health system strengthening, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and maternal and child health in France's development policy and as illustrated in the new development program law adopted in August of 2021.

They acknowledged France's contribution to the Global Fund against Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which increased 20% from the last replenishment cycle, France's contribution to Unitaid, to which France is the largest donor, and Gavi, to which France is the sixth-largest donor.

NGOs reacted positively to France's role in raising awareness on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poorest countries and in promoting vaccine donations through COVAX but criticized a lack of transparency in the French Development Agency's (AFD) "Health in Common" initiative; financial support for the initiative was mainly composed of loans when grants were the most needed.  

Lastly, NGOs criticized France for not providing its fair-share to the multilateral effort to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic; France contributed just 22% of its 'fair-share' to ACT-A (Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator), the WHO-led initiative. In addition, France failed to support the adoption of a waiver on COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and did not commit to a technology transfer of mRNA vaccines to the African continent.

Report - Collectif Santé Mondiale

Japan announces US$200 million in assistance for Ukraine; 60,000 private donors raise additional US$17 million

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan will provide Ukraine with US$100 million in humanitarian assistance in addition to at least US$100 million in loans that had been previously announced.

The emergency humanitarian assistance will be used to provide health and medical care, food, and protection to the people of Ukraine and neighboring countries. The assistance will be divided and delivered through the following Japanese and international organizations:

  • US$26 million for shelter, non-food items, and protection through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); 
  • US$15 million for health and medical care, non-food items, water and habitat, and protection through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); 
  • US$14 million for child protection, health and medical care, WASH, and education through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); 
  • US$14 million for food and logistics through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP);
  • US$12 million for shelter, non-food items, and health and medical care through the International Organization for Migration (IOM);
  • US$5 million for inter-agency coordination and the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF) through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA); and,
  • US$14 million for health and medical care, food, non-food items, WASH, shelter, and protection through Japan Platform. 

In addition to the government’s assistance, a campaign launched by the Ukrainian Embassy in Japan raised over US$17 million in private funds donated by more than 60,000 people. In a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Korsunsky said that the funds would be used for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts.

Press release – Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

News article – The Japan Times

News article – The Asahi Shimbun

Japan releases 2021 White Paper on Development Cooperation, highlights 4.3% increase in assistance from 2020

Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, presented the 2021 White Paper on Development Cooperation, which summarizes Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) efforts. The report highlighted a 4.3% increase in Japan's ODA from the previous year, due in part to Japan’s overseas response to the COVID-19 pandemic; Japan's ODA totaled US$16.3 billion. 

The 2021 White Paper contained a special feature on Japan’s global health efforts. It discussed the fight against COVID-19 and Japan’s contributions to the COVAX Facility. The feature also highlighted the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit, which was held in December of 2021.

Japan is the fourth-largest donor state on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) behind the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan (in Japanese) 

News article – The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (in Japanese)

MEPs call for increased EU ambition on gender equality in foreign policy

An overwhelming majority of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a report in plenary calling for the EU to increase its ambition and support for gender equality in EU external action. 

The report called for the EU member states to spend 20% of their official development assistance (ODA) for projects with gender equality as a principal objective and for 85% of EU ODA to go to programs with gender equality as one of the main objectives. The latter target reflects goals in the EU's Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in External Action 2021–2025 (Gender Action Plan III, or GAP III). However, current EU spending on gender equality in external action is only at 35%.

MEPs expressed concern about a current backlash against women’s rights and gender equality and called for the EU to be a global champion for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), as well as ensuring universal access across EU member states. 

The report also emphasized the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on women and girls. MEPs called for EU member states to convene a new configuration of the Council of the EU for ministers responsible for gender equality to ensure gender equality objectives are mainstreamed across all EU policy areas.

Press release - European Parliament

Blog post - Center for Global Development

Congress passes massive spending bill, includes funds for US foreign assistance, but drops global COVID-19 relief

Well into the 2022 fiscal year, US Congress finally passed an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of FY2022. The bill, which totals US$1.5 trillion, includes US$64.9 billion for the FY2022 International Affairs Budget, of which US$58 billion is for regular funding and US$6.9 billion is for emergency funding for Ukraine.  

The regular budget increased 1% over the previous fiscal year and was regarded as a disappointment by development advocates who had argued for more funding for global health, democracy, pandemic preparedness, COVID-19 response, and climate.

The omnibus spending package was originally going to include US$5 billion in emergency COVID-19 global funding, but the provision was stripped at the last minute due to disagreement about how to offset domestic COVID-19 funding with other spending reductions. There is now a bill to fund this initiative separately, but it is unclear whether there is sufficient support to pass the bill - which is critical to President Biden's plan to scale up its Global Vax initiative.  

Development advocates were extremely critical of the decision to pull out the US$5 billion from the omnibus bill, with the head of one leading coalition calling the move "outrageous" and a "self-inflicted" wound. Attention has now turned to the FY2023 budget, which the Biden administration is likely to release in the coming weeks.

News article - Devex

News article - Devex

South Korea elects new president, plans to make nation bio-health powerhouse; gender equality at stake

Yoon Suk-yeol from the main opposition, People Power Party, was elected as the 20th president of South Korea on March 9, 2022. His presidency will officially start on May 10, 2022, and his term will last five years. Suk-yeol aims to open the era of Korean bio-health and make South Korea a vaccine-medicine powerhouse, by committing to "fairness and common sense".

The new government will fully support global health R&D to establish a global vaccine hub and expand R&D in bio-digital and advanced medical care. Suk-yeol will also set up a “Presidential Committee on Pharmaceutical Bio-Innovation” directly under the Prime Minister, which will coordinate and foster support for the pharmaceutical and bio industries.

However, many are concerned about the president-elect's gender equality agenda. The former conservative prosecutor self-declares as an anti-feminist and called for the abolition of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. He has blamed the low birth rate in South Korea on feminism and capitalized on young men's fears about feminism and modest women's rights gains to win votes in the election. He has also stated that he does not believe that gender-based systemic and structural discrimination exists in South Korea. 

News article - Maekyung (in Korean)

News article - TIME

Japan signs US$22 million grant agreement with Nepal to improve access to clean water

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a ¥2.5 billion (US$22 million) grant agreement with Nepal to improve access to clean, safe water in Biratnagar City.

The three-year project is expected to upgrade and expand the city’s water supply system and ensure access to safe and clean water for residents.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Italy announces additional US$28 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine

Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Marina Serni approved a €25 million (US$28 million) contribution for humanitarian response in Ukraine via resolution in response to appeals by the UN and the International Red Cross due to worsening conditions in-country. The funds will allow multilateral bodies to assist the most vulnerable people still in Ukraine or those fleeing to neighboring countries including through support to CSOs.

Italian funds will support the activities of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRSS).

This new contribution followed an initial Italian Government grant of US$124 million (€110 million) to support Ukraine via the general budget in addition to donations of goods for the first reception of Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries.

Press release – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Australia makes $72 million pledge to CEPI

The Australian government has committed to providing A$100 million (US$72 million) over 5 years to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). 

The new funding was announced at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit in London. ACFID, the Australian Council for International Development representing overseas development NGOs, welcomed the government’s commitment.  

A major campaign was conducted by Australian NGOs, coordinated by Micah. Leaders of key NGOs, ACFID, and community leaders co-signed a letter to the Australian Prime Minister calling for a A$100 million commitment. They argued greater Australian government investment was needed in dealing with vaccine inequity and improving preparedness for future pandemics.

Before this new commitment, Australia had only provided A$17 million (US$12 million) to CEPI since its creation in 2017. 

The Government has not yet advised where the contribution to CEPI will be drawn from. Most of the funds are likely to be sourced from within Australia’s overseas development assistance budget.

News article - ACFID

Italy integrates biodiversity, ecosystems protections into Constitution

Sustainable development has been integrated into the Italian Constitution. The Italian Parliament and Senate voted to incorporate protection of the environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems in the interest of future generations into Article 9 of the Italian Constitution; the article also integrates animal protection into the Constitution.

In addition, Article 41 now states that private economic initiative cannot be carried out in contrast with social utility or in such a way as to cause damage to security, freedom, human dignity, health, and the environment. The new provision determines the programs and appropriate controls available so that public and private economic activity can be directed and coordinated for social and environmental purposes.

Press release - The Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS) website (in Italian) 

Italy announces US$22 million pledge to CEPI

At the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) Replenishment in March of 2022, Italian Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Marina Sereni announced a €20 million (US$22 million) pledge to CEPI. 

Italy contributed €15 million (US$17 million) to CEPI's last replenishment. This increased pledge shows solid political support for Italy for global health and pandemic preparedness.

Tweet - Cooperazione Italiana

Press release – CEPI