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Sweden announces cash grant program to Sudan worth US$25 million; funds to be distributed to individuals through mobile network

In light of the increasing number of Sudanese people in need of humanitarian support during the COVID-19 crisis, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) has decided to provide the Sudanese population with SEK 218 million (US$25 million) in cash grants to be disbursed via the country’s mobile phone network.

The Swedish support will be implemented through the World Bank’s Sudan Family Support Program, in collaboration with the Sudan’s Ministry of Finance and multi-ministerial Digital Transformation Agency. A cash grant of US$5 per person per month will be disbursed, covering 80 percent of the Sudanese population of 41 million people. The support could play a significant role in the stabilization of Sudan's fragile economy, while constituting a clear declaration of support for Sudan's democratic transition by the international community.

Sida's Director-General Carin Jämtin underlined the importance of cash support, "even if it is limited, paid directly to the person via a mobile phone," because it allows people to have more control of their finances and deciding what they need. According to Jämtin, this type of development assistance is becoming more common "because it is cost-effective. It reduces the number of intermediaries but also the risk of corruption, which is very important."

Sida’s support for the Sudan Family Support Program is complemented by an additional SEK 7 million (US$1 million) from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs Environment. Total funding available for the program is about US$2.0 billion through 15 additional development partners, including Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the UK.

Sudan is one of Sida’s partner countries, and in 2019, Sweden increased its official development assistance for Sudan by SEK 400 million (US$46 million) in support of the country’s transition to democracy.

Press release – Sida (in Swedish)

Germany pledges US$229 million at GAFSP’s 2020-2025 replenishment kick-off to tackle hunger

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) raised nearly US$315 million at its 2020-2025 replenishment kick-off on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Germany contributed €200 million (US$229 million) to GAFSP’s overall replenishment target of US$1.5 billion over five years.

Further pledges were announced by Australia, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Norway, and Spain. With the approximately US$315 million raised, GAFSP could reach its annual replenishment goal for 2020.

GAFSP is a financing instrument hosted by the World Bank, aimed at mobilizing funding to improve food and nutrition security and to eventually reach SDG2 – the Sustainable Development Goal for a world without hunger. Since 2010, GAFSP has channeled US$1.6 billion to tackle malnutrition, hunger, and poverty in more than 45 low-income countries.

News article – Devex

Press release – GAFSP

Australia commits US$7 million as part of pledge to replenish Global Agriculture and Food Security Program

Australia has committed A$10 million (US$7 million) as part of the first replenishment period for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). Other donors to contribute to the replenishment were Germany, Norway, and Spain as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In total, US$300 million in contributions was announced.

Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, emphasized Australia’s long-standing role as a supporter of the GAFSP because the organization has a proven track record in assisting smallholder farmers and could play an important role in reducing hunger during the COVID-19 crisis.

News article - ReliefWeb

Dutch Health Minister answers parliamentary questions about "secret" COVID-19 vaccine deals, legal protection

Dutch Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge answered parliamentary questions regarding the liability of vaccine developers and secrecy surrounding recent COVID-19 vaccine deals.

De Jonge defended the stance that, while the Dutch government and the European Commission strive to be as transparent as possible, vaccine deals should ultimately remain secret in order not to influence other vaccine negotiations, and to protect companies' sensitive pricing information.

Under the current agreements, European member states are financially responsible for claims arising from side effects not known at the time of authorization of the vaccine.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

France allocates additional US$11 million to Unitaid COVID-19 response

France pledged US$11 million to Unitaid as part of the Therapeutics Partnership (which is co-led by Unitaid and Wellcome Trust), as well as a part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative co-coordinated by the World Health Organization.

France's financial support will support Unitaid's and Wellcome Trust's work, which aims to "develop, manufacture and distribute treatments for all stages of the disease; to prevent, suppress, treat and support recovery from COVID-19". The Therapeutics Partnership indicated that it is observing 1,700 trials and has identified several candidates, including antivirals and monoclonal antibodies. 

Press release - Unitaid

Media reports suggest Australia will announce significant new assistance program in Southeast Asia

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Diplomat magazine suggested that the Australian government was finalizing a package of development assistance for Southeast Asia. This would focus on five countries along the Mekong River including Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

Based on sources inside the government, part of the assistance would address the water access challenges due to new Chinese dams on the upper Mekong River, and over four years this might involve hundreds of millions of dollars.

Australia had dramatically cut development assistance to Southeast Asia over the past five years but is now likely to reverse some of those cuts through this new program. The final scale and nature of the assistance are yet to be determined.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald

News article - The Diplomat

Australia commits US$219 million for COVID-19 recovery to Pacific; op-ed argues total development assistance should be increased

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne indicated that the Australian government is committed to providing COVID-19 vaccines to partners in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Timor-Leste, which is important to promote economic recovery and regional stability. The government therefore established a A$305 million (US$219 million) COVID-19 recovery fund as a component of its Pacific Step-Up, outside the development assistance program budget.

Stephen Howes of the Australian National University argued that the major reductions to sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, among others, in the 2020 budget were not significant enough to meet Australia’s need for increased allocations to the Pacific. The A$4.0 billion budget (US$2.9 billion) also had to provide for A$80 million (US$57 million) in multilateral commitments including vaccine-related funding.

Howes indicated that the government's additional allocation for the Pacific was an acknowledgment that an increase was needed in Australia’s overall development assistance budget after five years of cuts.

Press release - Minister for Foreign Affairs

Op-ed - Fiji Times

Evaluation of Norwegian development assistance shows global health as priority; US$8 million aimed at COVID-19 projects

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) evaluated the use of Norwegian development assistance funding during the first six months of 2020. The evaluation showed that NOK700 million (US$8 million) was aimed at COVID-19-related projects and that increased efforts on global health and vaccines are the dominating priority.

Norad and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have also made it easier for the recipients of funding to be flexible and re-allocate it to COVID-19-related projects. Most of the funding was allocated through international multilateral organizations. 

The mapping of funds is an initial mapping for future evaluations, including for long-term projects, future projects, and ongoing COVID-19-related projects. 

Press release - Norad (in Norwegian)

Report - Norad

OECD commends Japan’s contribution to sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, but urges whole-of-government approach, transparent procedures for poverty reduction

In a new peer review of Japan, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) reviewed Japan’s cooperation efforts. The DAC commended Japan’s commitment to sustainable development, respecting partner countries' ownership and mutual benefit, and disaster risk reduction. However, the report suggested that Japan should promote whole-of-government country policies, reduce tied development assistance, streamline systems and procedures, utilize conflict analysis, and improve strategic evaluation.

The review states that Japan increased official development assistance (ODA) by 40.70% to US$14.2 billion in 2018, approximately 0.28% of its gross national income (GNI). The preliminary figures for 2019 show that Japan’s ODA/GNI ratio is 0.29%, which falls below the UN target for ODA/GNI of 0.70%. Increasing Japan’s ODA could strengthen Japan’s leadership and commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Japan’s share of ODA to low-income countries rose from 23% in 2014 to 31% in 2018. While this increase is commendable, Japan does not have a clear integrated approach to ensure that its policies benefit even the most vulnerable. Moreover, the review found that the share of untied bilateral ODA decreased from 74.60% in 2016 to 67.20% in 2018 and that Japan should work to untie development assistance. Additionally, interagency coordination can be improved to address future clashes between Japan's domestic policies and sustainable development objectives. 

Report - Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Press release - Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Japanese)

Canada recognizes International Day of the Girl, moving forward on National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marked the International Day of the Girl by giving a statement on the importance of gender equality to achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals and the threat that the COVID-19 crisis places on progress toward these goals. 

Trudeau reaffirmed Canada's commitment to the empowerment of women and girls both domestically by supporting women and children facing domestic violence and developing a National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, and internationally through investments that align with the Feminist International Assistance Policy. 

News release - Prime Minister of Canada 

Norwegian government calls for stronger collective action on women's and girls' rights

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Minister of International Development Dag Inge Ulstein, and Minister of Culture and Equality Abid Q. Raja published a joint speech on the International Day of the Girl Child in which they focused on the setback for women's and girls' rights during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The ministers emphasized that education for girls is an important intersectional area for Norwegian development assistance and called for a stronger international collective action to achieve gender equality and to prevent the consequences of the ongoing pandemic. 

Some other areas they listed as important to address are the following:

  • Preventing conjugal slavery (forced and child marriage) and female genital mutilation (FGM);
  • Strengthening efforts to stop gender-based violence (GBV) and increase access to sexual and reproductive health services; 
  • Decreasing infant mortality and maternal mortality; and 
  • Protecting children’s vaccination programs (Norway is working hard to combat this with its leading position in global health and increased funding to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance). 

Press release - Norwegian government (in Norwegian)

UK and Kenya to host Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment in 2021; GPE announces US$5.0 billion funding target

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the UK will co-host, along with Kenya, the fourth Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment in 2021. The meeting will take place in the UK in mid-2021, which will coincide with the UK’s presidency of the G7 next year.  

Since the GPE was created in 2002, it has helped to ensure that 160 million more children went to school and has contributed to doubling girls’ enrollment. The GPE recently announced its target of US$5.0 billion in funding over the next five years.

The Kenyan government has put education at the center of its national development plans and has made significant progress in achieving universal primary education and pursuing gender equality in schooling. The UK’s development assistance also has a strong focus on ensuring girls' education. The UK has helped around 16 million children, over half of which were girls, get a good education. Johnson also recently appointed a Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, Baroness Suggs.

News article - The Telegraph 

News article - Relief Web

Press release - UK government

Japan-funded LEAP finances Vietnam’s largest solar power plant

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a US$9 million loan to finance Vietnam’s largest solar power plant through the 'Leading Asia's Private Infrastructure Fund' (LEAP) funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In cooperation with The B.Grimm Power Public Company Limited (Thai independent power producer) and Vietnam's Truong Thanh Viet Nam Group Joint Stock Company, the ADB will support the construction of a 257-megawatt solar power project in Phu Yen Province. This solar powerplant is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 123,000 tons per year, which will reduce dependence on coal and diesel fuels and promote the use of clean domestic energy resources. 

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

Updated 'Pacific Aid Map' shows declining health expenditure before COVID-19

The Lowy Institute based in Sydney issued the third update of its 'Pacific Aid Map'. Health expenditure data indicated that Pacific island countries provide some 82% of their health costs from domestic budgets. Out-of-pocket private contributions accounted for only 8%.

Overall health assistance from donors had been a slow decline since 2012, except for a major Asian Development Bank loan to Papua New Guinea (PNG). This decline was expected to continue, with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance's vaccine support ending for PNG in 2021 and the Solomon Islands in 2022. Assistance from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria had also been falling over the last five years.

Report - The Lowy Institute

European Commission signs third purchasing deal for future COVID-19 vaccines with Johnson & Johnson

The European Commission (EC) signed a contract with Janssen Pharmaceutica NV (a Johnson & Johnson company) to purchase future potential COVID-19 vaccines. Should the vaccine prove effective, the deal includes 200 million doses of Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s vaccine candidate, as well as the option to purchase 200 million more.

It also includes the potential to donate doses to lower- and middle-income countries or to redirect to other European countries. Janssen Pharmaceutica NV’s vaccine candidate is currently in large-scale phase III clinical trials.

This is the third contract that the EC has signed with a pharmaceutical company; the previous ones were with Sanofi-GSK and AstraZeneca.

Press release - European Commission

After passing US House, COVID-19 global response bill joins queue of relief packages mired in Capitol Hill turmoil

On October 2, 2020, the US House of Representatives passed an updated HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) to provide supplemental assistance related to COVID-19 and which contained US$9.0 billion for the international response. Since then, US President Donald Trump has issued contradictory statements on the status of the stimulus package negotiations.

After leaving the hospital, where he was being treated for COVID-19, Trump ended all talks on COVID-19 funding until after the election. Since then, he has called for piecemeal relief, which would not address the international response. Should this position prevail, it will have significant adverse effects on the COVID-19 global response, including on work to develop and distribute a vaccine and on other pandemic-related threats such as increased poverty and hunger.

News article - Foreign Policy 

Canada launches center for prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse in development sector

Cooperation Canada, a coalition of Canadian international cooperation organizations, has announced the official launch of Dinga, a center to help Canadian international development and humanitarian organizations improve their PSEA (prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse) policies to protect program participants, especially women and girls.

Digna offers training and resources that rely on "inclusive, intersectional, human-rights based approaches that promote gender equality" and "tackle power imbalances". 

The idea for Dinga emerged in 2018 from Cooperation Canada's Steering Committee on the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct, and its development started in the spring of 2019. 

Press release - Cooperation Canada

UK development assistance budget cuts threaten survival of development NGOs

Bond, the UK network for international development NGOs, has launched its latest survey exploring the impact on its members of the COVID-19 crisis and UK development assistance cuts.

The survey reveals a grim picture of falling incomes, staff cuts, and threats to the survival of many NGOs in the near future. Some of the figures in the survey include the following:

  • Only half of Bond's members think they will be operating in two years, with 48% raising grave concerns about their ability to continue to exist in two years. 24% expect to close within the next 12 months. Small and medium-sized organizations are most at risk.
  • Most of the NGOs surveyed (65%) also expect their income to fall in 2021-22, and a quarter of all (25%) organizations surveyed are anticipating significant falls in their income of over 20% in 2021-22.
  • Over 46% of organizations surveyed have already made or are about to make staff reductions as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. 21% of NGOs had to make more than 10% of their workforce redundant.

News article - Bond

Spain to extend debt moratorium for Sahel region until 2021

Spanish Secretary of State for International Cooperation, Ángeles Moreno, participated at the virtual high-level meeting ‘The Economic Challenges from the Security Crisis in the Sahel’ organized by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on October 8, 2020.

Moreno announced that Spain will extend the debt moratorium to the Sahel region until 2021 to help countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad effectively manage the current security crisis and address the negative effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Moreno emphasized the intimate links between security, sustainable development, and humanitarian assistance.  

Press release – La Moncloa (in Spanish)

European Commission signs contract for 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Janssen Pharmaceuticals for EU; Netherlands plans to purchase 7 million doses

In a letter to the Dutch parliament, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge confirmed the European Commission's completion of a contract with Janssen Pharmaceuticals which guarantees the delivery of 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union (EU) member states. The Netherlands plans to purchase at least 7 million doses of the vaccine from Janssen Pharmaceuticals when it is available.

The contract sets out legal conditions regarding EU member states reselling doses of the vaccine to other countries in the EU or donating doses to vulnerable countries.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

News article - NOS (in Dutch)