Policy Updates

Each week, Donor Tracker's team of country-based experts bring you the most important policy and funding news across issue areas in the form of Policy Updates.

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UK, US freeze UNRWA funding to Gaza

January 27, 2024 | UK, US, Nutrition, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, Family Planning, WASH & Sanitation, Education | Share this update

On January 27, 2024, it was announced that the UK has joined the US and other nations in freezing its funding for the UNRWA for Palestinians in the Near East in light of allegations that 12 UNRWA staff took part in the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas on Israel.

The UK government noted that while it remains committed to getting vital humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, it was temporarily pausing future funding while the allegations are reviewed. The UK was the third-largest donor to UNRWA in 2020, but its funding fell sharply in 2021 and 2022. No recorded funding was delivered in 2023.

Assistance workers and Palestinian advocates have stated that freezing funding could have dire impact on humanitarian relief to Gaza.

News article - The Guardian

UK launches new White Paper on International Development

November 20, 2023 | UK, Education, Gender Equality, Agricultural R&D, Nutritious Food Systems, WASH & Sanitation, Climate | Share this update

On November 20, 2023, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak launched a new White Paper on International Development, the first since 2009, which set out a progressive, whole-of-government approach to accelerate the delivery of the SDGs over the next seven years.

The White Paper provided a return to focusing UK development on the goal of eradicating poverty, which experts noted was largely neglected by previous strategies. It presented two further key goals: tackling climate change and biodiversity loss. The paper called for a new approach to partnerships based on country ownership, accountability, and transparency.

Though experts noted that the paper seemed to signal that the UK has recommitted to international development, it did not make new major financial commitments. The focus of the paper was on mobilizing resources beyond ODA for development, including the City of London’s private finance and expertise, stretching multilateral finance, and tackling trade, tax and illicit flows, as well as outlining policy priorities.

A return to delivering 0.7% ODA/GNI when fiscally feasible was mentioned briefly in the paper. Neither the Foreign Secretary nor the Minister for Development mentioned 0.7% ODA/GNI as a goal in their respective prefaces.

Six key themes from the paper included:

  • Mobilizing international finance (public and private) for climate and development with a focus that includes the City of London, pension funds, and investors;
  • Reforming the international system, with a strong focus on debt relief, trade, tax, and illicit flows, areas where the UK has in the past had strong expertise;
  • Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss and enabling sustainable economic growth;
  • Ensuring opportunities for all, including gender and broader equality and rights, global health, education, water, and social protection;
  • Tackling conflict, disasters, and food insecurity through preparedness and resilience. The only new financial commitment in the document reserved GBP1 billion (US$1.2 billion) in the budget for humanitarian spending each year, in line with current spending, and established a GBP150 million (US$179 million) disaster fund; and
  • Harnessing innovation and technology. R&D remains core to the UK offer on development, with a resurgence in interest in digital transformation and a strong interest in harnessing AI for development.

One of the most significant commitments was the aim to spend 50% of UK bilateral ODA in LDCs, prioritizing ODA resources to LICs. In 2021, the UK only provided 19.1% of resources to LDCs and has never exceeded 33% since 2013. A commitment to 50% is seen by experts as a monumental change in bilateral allocations. The White Paper also committed the BII to invest half of its resources in so-called poor and fragile states by 2030.

The 2024 UK election sets a narrow timeframe for the current Conservative government to implement the goals laid out by the paper. The progressive and broad framing, however, indicated to experts that the paper may not necessarily be jettisoned by a potential Labor government.

Development NGOs in the UK have been broadly welcoming of the document, but have criticized the government for ODA cuts and called for a return to 0.7% ODA/GNI.

Report - UK government Press release - ONE

Canada, UK announce US$51 million AI partnership in Africa

November 2, 2023 | UK, Canada, Education, Climate, Global Health | Share this update

On November 2, 2023, Canada’s International Development Research Centre announced at the UK AI Safety Summit in London that it is partnering with the UK FCDO to launch a new phase of the AI for Development program, with an initial focus on Africa.

The new CAD70 million (US$51 million) partnership is intended to leverage the capacity of AI to reduce inequalities, strengthen health, education, and food systems, as well as adapt to climate change.

News article - International Development Research Centre

UK pledges US$46 million to AI-powed development partnership in Africa

November 1, 2023 | UK, Education, Agriculture, Gender Equality, Nutritious Food Systems, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, Family Planning, Agricultural R&D, WASH & Sanitation, Climate, Global health R&D, Global Health | Share this update

On November 1, 2023, the UK government announced that it will provide GBP38 million (US$46 million) to a new GBP80 million (US$96 million) global initiative to speed up the use of AI to support international development.

The announcement was made at the inaugural AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, UK. The initiative, which is also being supported by Canada, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the US, and partners in Africa, aims to utilize AI to combat inequality and boost prosperity, primarily in Africa. It will focus on building the capacity of and supporting African AI expertise to address long-standing development challenges.

The UK’s funding will come from a new phase of the UK AI for Development Programme. The following goals were listed as priorities until 2028:

  • Funding post-graduate training and fellowships in AI in African universities;
  • Investing in innovators building models with data that accurately represent the African continent;
  • Fostering responsible AI governance to help African countries mitigate the risks of AI; and
  • Enhancing the Sub-Saharan African voice on how to use AI to further the UN SDGs.
Press release - UK government

UK Conservative Party remains quiet on development goals

October 4, 2023 | UK, Global Health, Gender Equality, Education, Climate | Share this update

Between October 1-4, 2023, the UK Conservative Party held a party conference which failed to feature international development on the main agenda.

UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly made no mention of development, which falls under his portfolio after the merge of DFID into the FCO in 2020. Cleverly focused entirely on foreign affairs in his lengthy speech. There was also no mention of a return to 0.7% ODA/GNI when fiscally appropriate, despite it being part of Conservative party policy.

UK Minister for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell spoke at a conference on development and hinted at the new White Paper on International Development. Mitchell stated that the paper would include a focus on cracking down on illicit funds stolen from Africa. He noted that GBP88 billion (US$105 billion) disappeared last year, dwarfing ODA flows to the continent, with 40% of these funds funneled through the City of London and the UK’s overseas territories. Mitchell also noted that the paper would explore how to tap into US$60 trillion of pension funds to address sustainable development.

A number of international development NGOs held events at the fringes of the conference, including CAFOD and Global Prosperity. One event focused on the impact of climate change on humanitarian emergencies. Global Prosperity held an event with the Global Partnership for Education on the importance of girls' education in UK foreign policy. Malaria No More held an event exploring how British-backed science is leading the campaign to end malaria.

News article - DEVEX

UK announces up to US$596 million for health R&D

September 21, 2023 | UK, Global health R&D, Global Health, Education, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health | Share this update

From September 20 to 22, 2023, the UK announced up to GBP498.5 million (US$596 million) for global health initiatives at the High-Level meetings on health at the 78th UN General Assembly.

The package included:

  • Up to GBP295 million (US$353 million) for health research and development partnerships. These partnerships included: the creation of a new research center focused on the most dangerous infectious diseases; funding to support the development of accessible and affordable new vaccines, drugs, medical devices, and diagnostics; and funding to reduce maternal, neonatal, and child mortality in low- and middle-income countries. The funding includes GBP80 million (US$9 5.9 million) already committed to CEPI;
  • GBP5 million (US$6 million) of additional funding for the TB Alliance for 2023 to 2024;
  • Up to GBP103.5 million (US$124 million) for the UKVN Project to support critical research combating infectious diseases and epidemics; and
  • GBP95 million (US$113 million) for the Tackling Deadly Diseases in Africa Program II, which aims to partner with Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UK also welcomed the TB declaration agreed at the High-Level meetings and called for a renewed push to deliver UHC with a focus on delivering primary healthcare, combating financial hardship hindering healthcare access, and strengthening the global health workforce.

Press release - UK government Press release - UK government

UK announces MDB financing guarantees

September 19, 2023 | UK, Education, Climate, Gender Equality | Share this update

On September 19, 2023, UK Foreign Minister James Cleverly called for a more inclusive international financial system and announced a series of new UK financial guarantees to unlock further funding from MDBs at the 78th UN General Assembly.

The guarantees included:

  • US$300 million to IFCAP: The UK estimates that this will unlock a further US$1.2 to US$1.8 billion in climate financing over the next 5 years. IFCAP is a multi-donor financing partnership facility set up by the ADB, with the goal of scaling up finance for action against climate change in Asia and the Pacific; and
  • GBP180 million (US$215 million) in support to the IFFE: GBP95 million (US$113 million) will be provided as grants and paid-in capital, as well as GBP85 million (US$101 million) in contingent guarantees. The UK hopes this will unlock up to US$1 billion in affordable education finance.

The UK also announced GBP17 million (US$20 million) to improve tax systems in developing countries to help ensure countries have more sustainable public finances and to close tax loopholes. The UK estimated that this could raise an additional US$260 billion in financing.

Finally, the UK also announced that it will join and provide additional disaster risk financing support for the Caribbean, a region particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The Foreign Secretary is slated to announce that the UK will join CCRIF SPC to establish an affordable insurance scheme to increase the resilience of vital WASH services and provide additional support for the Caribbean.

Press release - UK government

UK releases 2022 ODA statistics

September 14, 2023 | UK, Nutrition, Education, Agriculture, Gender Equality, Climate, Global health R&D, Global Health | Share this update

On September 14, 2023, the UK government released its final statistics on UK ODA spending for 2022.

The figures showed that the UK spent GBP13 billion (US$15 billion), or 0.51% of its GNI, on ODA. In 2022, the data showed an increase in current prices of GBP1 billion (US$2 billion) from 2021 levels.

The UK spent GBP4 million (US$4 million), or 28.8%, on in-donor refugee costs. BOND criticized the UK for spending such a large share of its ODA budget in-donor refugee costs and noted that this increase came at the expense of funding for vulnerable partner countries.

Other key statistics included:

  • UK bilateral and multilateral spending: UK bilateral ODA spending increased in 2022 and stood at GBP10 million (US$12 million), or 75.3% of total UK ODA. Much of the 33% increase in bilateral funding was allocated to in-donor refugee costs. Core multilateral funding accounted for GBP3 million (US$4 million), or 24.7% of total UK ODA. This is the lowest share of multilateral ODA in recent years. The UK met its commitment made in its 2022 International Development Strategy to deliver 75% of its ODA bilaterally;
  • Distribution of ODA across government departments: The FCDO was accountable for just 59.7% of ODA in 2022, down from 71.6%, and was driven primarily by in-donor refugee costs. The FCDO spent GBP7.6 million (US$9.1 million) on ODA in 2022, compared with GBP8.2 million (US$9.8 million) in 2021. In contrast, the UK Home Office, spent GBP2 million (US$3 million) of ODA in 2022, a 130.2% increase compared to 2021;
  • Regional spending: Africa remained the largest recipient of UK region-specific bilateral ODA in 2022, accounting for 42.2% of ODA. However, bilateral ODA to Africa decreased by 28.2%, from GBP1.7 million (US$2 million) in 2021 to GBP1.2 million (US$1.5 million) in 2022. This is the lowest level of ODA to Africa in recent years;
  • Top three recipients of UK bilateral ODA: The top three recipients of UK bilateral country-specific ODA were Afghanistan (GBP352 million (US$421 million)), Ukraine (GBP342 million (US$409 million)) and Nigeria (GBP110 million (US$131 million));
  • Top five bilateral ODA sectors: The largest amount of bilateral ODA was focused on the sectors ‘Refugees in Donor Countries’ (GBP4 million (US$4 million)), ‘Humanitarian (GBP1 million (US$1 million)) and ‘Health’ (GBP976 million (US$1.2 billion));
  • Top five recipient of UK multilateral ODA: The EU remained the largest recipient from the UK, though the volume of funding decreased. The second-largest recipient of UK multilateral ODA was the Global Fund, followed by the World Bank’s IDA, the ADF and the GCF; and
  • Pandemic funding: In 2022, approximately GBP270 million (US$323 million) of UK bilateral ODA was spent on activities which specifically addressed the COVID-19 pandemic. FCDO accounted for 96% of pandemic ODA. This included the UK’s donation of excess vaccine doses, both directly and through COVAX, estimated at GBP228 million (US$273 million).

The report noted that these figures have not been subject to international verification by the OECD.

Report - UK government

UK on course to meet private sector finance mobilization goals

September 7, 2023 | UK, Nutrition, Education, Agriculture, Gender Equality, Climate, Global health R&D, Global Health | Share this update

On September 7, 2023, the CDG published a report examining the UK’s non- ODA development finance, which found that the UK is on track to meet its pledge to mobilize GBP8 million (US$9.6 billion) in private finance three years ahead of its 2025 target.

The study reviewed seven main finance tools, including the UK’s use of export finance and capital increases to the BII. It found that the UK has increased the amount of mobilized private finance from approximately GBP3 billion (US$4.3 billion) in 2018 to GBP5 billion (US$6 billion) in 2021. Private financing is projected to reach GBP10 billion (US$12 billion) in 2022, exceeding the target set by former Foreign Minister Liz Truss of mobilizing GBP8 billion (US$9.6 billion) by 2025.

The report highlighted the UK’s use of guarantees to increase lending by MDBs, noting it as an innovative approach that mobilized GBP5 billion (US$6 billion) for climate objectives, support to Ukraine, and other initiatives. This approach utilizes MDBs' preferred creditor status and ability to raise money from private investors at a rate much more favorable than other UK instruments.

The report noted the need for transparency around the UK’s use of guarantees, and urged the UK to follow Sweden’s model of delivering an annual guarantee report.

Report - Centre for Global Development News article - DEVEX

ICAI evaluates UK illegal immigration law's impact on ODA allocation

September 6, 2023 | UK, Nutrition, Education, Agriculture, Gender Equality, Climate, Global health R&D, Global Health | Share this update

On September 6, 2023, the UK’s aid watchdog ICAI released an update on the implications of the UK’s new Illegal Immigration Act, finding that the act would impact the UK’s ability to report its spending on irregular asylum-seekers as ODA.

The act was introduced to Parliament on March 7, 2023, and received Royal Assent, though it has not come into force. The act denied individuals arriving in the UK through irregular or illegal routes the ability to apply for asylum. It gave the UK the right to return individuals to their home country or a third country where their asylum claim could be assessed.

ICAI found that denying access to an asylum application entails that these individuals are not considered refugees under UK law, therefore, funds expended on them cannot be classified as in-donor refugee costs.

In 2022, the UK spent GBP3.7 billion (US$4.4 billion) of its ODA budget on in-donor refugee costs. The Home Office was responsible for GBP2.9 billion (US$3.5 billion) of these funds.

ICAI created three scenarios for 2024 to evaluate at the impact of ODA spending on in-donor refugee costs.

  • Scenario 1 assumes the act is fully implemented, and the government does not create any new safe and legal routes. In-donor refugee costs would fall to just GBP222 million (US$266 million) in 2024;
  • Scenario 2 assumes the act is fully implemented, and the government sets up new safe and legal routes by expanding the UK Resettlement Scheme to take an additional 20,000 refugees per year. In-donor refugee costs would fall sharply to GBP394 million (US$472 million) in 2024; and
  • Scenario 3 assumes that the act is only partially implemented, applied only to some people arriving via illegal routes. In-donor refugee costs would remain high, standing at GBP1.8 billion (US$2.2 billion) in 2024, though this would still be below 2022 levels.

ICAI noted that the act would not affect people seeking protection through safe and legal routes via UK schemes such as its nationality-based schemes for Hong Kong and Ukraine and the more limited schemes for Afghanistan and Syria. Around 60% of the 500,000 people who have received some form of protection in the UK since 2015 arrived through safe and legal routes from Ukraine and Hong Kong. ICAI also noted, however, that the number of individuals coming from these two countries to the UK has significantly decreased in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2023 and is likely to continue to decrease in the future.

An explanatory note accompanying the act mentioned the Prime Minister’s promise to create more safe and legal routes for people seeking asylum in the UK. ICAI noted that the Prime Minister also stated that more safe and legal routes will only be implemented once the government has achieved sufficient control of UK borders.

ICAI has not sought legal advice or input on the act. The report was intended to inform MPs about the potential ramifications of the act on ODA spending lines. The Home Office is undertaking its own review, which is slated to be released later in 2023.

Report - ICAI

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