Policy Updates

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Dutch Development Minister looks back on Netherlands’ support for EU development cooperation

On May 27, 2020, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, presented an annual letter to Parliament on Dutch efforts regarding EU development cooperation.  

The letter outlines the priorities of the Dutch cabinet (which include sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), combatting climate change, and international corporate social responsibility) as well as some reflections on recent developments and achievements. 

Kaag reflected on the Netherlands’ advocacy for the inclusion of SRHR topics during negotiations on the European Union’s ‘Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument’ (NDICI) in 2019. The Netherlands also called upon other EU member states and the European Council to create an EU action plan on international corporate social business in November of 2019. 

The letter also notes the results of a large-scale study on the effectiveness of EU-development cooperation in the period of  2013-2018, solicited from the European Centre for Development Policy (ECDPM) and the Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitiek (DIE) by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study’s findings were generally positive and underlined the importance of the EU as a global actor for development cooperation. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch) 

Dutch Development Minister presents report on recent World Bank Group meeting, calls for World Bank to lead economic recovery efforts

On May 26, 2020, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, presented a report to Parliament on the World Bank Group’s April 17 Development Committee meeting. 
The Committee emphasized the importance of adopting a holistic, long-term strategy to protect the poorest and most vulnerable, which should be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals. The World Bank has reserved US$160 billion to implement this strategy over the next 15 months.
The Netherlands fully supports to this approach and, specifically, asked the World Bank to take a leading role in promoting the economic recovery of countries affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The Netherlands strongly advocated for an emphasis on sustainability, education, and the provision of essential health care and food relief to countries in need. 
The Dutch government also supported the call of the World Bank and the International Monitory Fund for a temporary suspension of debt service payments to bilateral creditors by the poorest countries.

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

OECD casts doubt on whether UK’s US$373 million for COVID-19 vaccine research can be counted as ODA

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which sets the international rules on what counts as official development assistance (ODA), not all funding for research for a COVID-19 vaccine will be counted as ODA. To qualify as ODA, funding for research and development related to COVID-19 will need to be assessed to determine whether it was spent with the economic development and welfare of low-income countries as the main objective. 

The UK has already committed £300 million (US$373 million) in ODA to supporting COVID-19 vaccine research, £250 (US$310 million) of which has been given to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). The OECD DAC has noted, that while core funding for CEPI will be counted as ODA in 2020 (given the institution’s focus on diseases that predominately impact low-income countries), all CEPI funding for COVID-19 vaccine research will need to be reported as earmarked funding for this purpose. It will subsequently be assessed to determine whether it meets ODA criteria. This is because the development of a COVID-19 vaccine theoretically benefits both donors and recipient countries alike. 

News article – Devex  

UK reschedules COP26 Climate Conference for November 2021

The UK has announced that COP26, the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, has been rescheduled to November 2021 as a result of COVID-19. The UK was originally set to host the event in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2020. It will now take place on November 1-12, 2021.  

Twitter – Alok Sharma  

German Development Ministry awards support to innovative digital solutions combatting COVID-19 in low-income countries in #SmartDevelopmentHack competition

As part of the global competition #SmartDevelopmentHack, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) awarded innovative digital projects offering solutions to combat COVID-19 in low-income countries. The jury granted awards to nine teams out of over 1,000 projects submitted from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Europe.

The winning projects will receive technical and methodological support from the BMZ as well as financial support for the final project concept. The exact overall funding amount is still to be determined.

Among the winners is the project "Drone and Data Aid" which uses drones to deliver essential medical supplies to remote areas in Rwanda and Malawi, as well as several projects spreading reliable information about the corona pandemic in local languages using simple mobile devices.

In addition to the Parliamentary State Secretary to the BMZ, Maria Flachsbarth, the jury included the Director-General for Development Cooperation at the European Commission, Koen Doens, the President of the Technical University of Munich, Professor Thomas Hofmann, and representatives of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Press release – BMZ (in German)

Dutch parliamentarian Wybren van Haga joins right-wing party Forum for Democracy

On May 22, 2020, independent Dutch parliamentarian Wybren van Haga announced that he would become a member of the right-wing Forum for Democracy (FvD) political party. Van Haga had been a representative of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) in the past, but he was expelled from the VVD in 2019 and kept his seat in the parliament as an independent. Van Haga’s change of direction has no direct immediate consequences for the current cabinet, given that FvD only has two seats in parliament. 

News article - NRC (in Dutch) 

German Development Minister calls for action on conditions in Moria refugee camp, increased funding for global development cooperation

In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung, German Development Minister Gerd Müller called for increased funding for global development cooperation. “We have to see development funds as an investment in our own future,” Müller stated. Müller gave the example of climate resilience: Africa developing strong renewable energy capabilities continentally would be a prerequisite for successfully combatting climate change globally. To this end, supporting African nations in building up sustainable economies would ultimately benefit Germany as well, he said.

Müller further stressed the importance of implementing the planned federal supply chain law, drafted together with Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil. According to Müller, 50% of the German textile trade does not comply with the standards of ‘Germany’s Partnership for Sustainable Textiles’ yet. "This shows that voluntariness has its limits," Müller said. "Markets need clear rules.”

Müller repeatedly called on the EU to improve the conditions within the refugee camp Moria, currently hosting 20,000 people though suited for just 3,000. “I say it again: Moria is an eyesore in the middle of Europe. Responsibility must not be pushed back and forth forever”, he said.

News article- Berliner Zeitung (in German)

German development ministry presents new strategy on multilateral engagement

In April of 2020, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) presented its new 'BMZ strategy for a strong European and multilateral development cooperation'. The strategy aims to promote and strengthen multilateralism to effectively implement global development goals. To this end, the BMZ underlines its commitment to strengthening multilateral organizations, especially promoting increased EU engagement. According to the BMZ, the EU should act more strongly as a driving force to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Additionally, the BMZ wants to take the opportunity during Germany’s EU Council Presidency to promote its focus areas (e.g. EU-Africa cooperation, sustainable supply chains, digitalization).

The strategy also commits to focus internationally on climate protection, fair trade, health, education, and sustainable development across the Africa continent. The plan will also more strongly align the BMZ’s multilateral engagement.

Report – BMZ (in German)

Dutch Development Minister highlights role of Gavi and WHO in global COVID-19 efforts

On May 11, 2020, the Dutch government published the full list of factual questions that the general committee for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation submitted to Minister Kaag, as well as her responses to those questions, many of which were linked to the role of the Netherlands in combatting COVID-19 globally.

To a question about vaccine development, Minister Kaag responded that the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will play a central role in providing universal access to a future COVID-19 vaccine, and that the Netherlands supports the leading role of the WHO in coordinating the research and development of a vaccine.

Other questions touched on the Dutch commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of COVID-19, the support that the Netherlands provides to the most vulnerable groups, and Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocations for COVID-19. 

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Italian Health Minister calls for COVID-19 vaccine to be recognized as global public good, made universally accessible

The Italian Minister of health, Roberto Speranza, committed at the World Health Assembly to working to ensure the future COVID-19 vaccine would be recognized as a global public good, accessible to all.

Speranza also confirmed Italy's support of the World Health Organisation (WHO), emphasizing that WHO must remain completely independent of any political or financial influence and it must be guided only by science.

Speech transcript - Il Messaggero (in English)

Proposal to add US$1.1 billion in international COVID-19 response funds to to ODA budget prompts heated discussion in Dutch Parliament

On May 11, 2020, the Advisory Council for International Issues (AIV)  published its advice to the Dutch cabinet on the international response needed for COVID-19. On May 18, AIV discussed this advice more thoroughly with representatives of the Dutch Parliament, including the specifics on how the recommendation of the €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) had been calculated and how it should be disbursed. 

This recommendation gave rise to strong disagreements within the Dutch Parliament. While some political parties, such as the Democrats 66 (D66) and the Christian Union (CU), have strongly advocated for an increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in light of the current crisis, the right-wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is strongly opposed to such an increase. The VVD is adamant that the coalition agreement arranged for ODA to be linked to Gross National Income (GNI) and is, thus, independent of the size of the Dutch Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

If the report gains support across the political spectrum and is approved by the Minister of Finance, the €1 billion will be added to the total Dutch ODA budget. 

News article - Telegraaf (in Dutch)

Press release - Parliament of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

Donor Tracker announces webinar on donor countries' response to COVID-19 crisis

Join us on Thursday, May 14 from 16:00-17:00 (CEST) for a webinar exploring donor countries' response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the last few months, the Donor Tracker team has been following the impacts of COVID-19 in a rapidly shifting global development landscape. In this webinar, our speakers, Raimund Zühr and Zoë Johnson will present some early insights into donor country responses, discuss the potential impact on ODA volumes and allocations, and explore how global development advocates can best respond.

Registration - Zoom

58 Ministers of Foreign Affairs issue call to protect sexual and reproductive health and rights access amid COVID-19 crisis

In a joint declaration, 58 Ministers of Foreign Affairs and governments, including all G7 countries except the US, seven African countries, and all EU members except Hungary, Malta, Poland, and Slovakia commit to fund and give access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) during the COVID-19 response. 

Specifically, the statement calls for:

  • Initiatives that prevent violence against women and girls;
  • Emergency and humanitarian responses to protect refugee, migrant, and internally displaced women and girls.
  • Universal health coverage to ensure women's and girls' sexual and reproductive health needs are met.

Signatories point out the impact of the health crisis on national and international supply chains of reproductive health commodities and commit to tackling this issue to support all women and girls of reproductive age.

The signatories also emphasize the importance of global coordination and collaboration between governments, private sector actors, civil society groups, and philanthropists to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. They specifically call on the UN, UNFPA and UN Women, WHO, the World Bank and IMF, and regional development banks, as well as the G7 and G20 to consider the continuation of health services for women and girls in their COVID-19 response. 


Editorial - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Dutch development minister and special COVID-19 envoy discuss Netherlands' international pandemic response in expert webinar

On May 7, 2020, the Dutch Institute for International Relations Clingendael and the Dutch NGO 'Cordaid' organized a webinar with the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, and the Dutch Special COVID-19 Envoy, Feike Sjibesma, to discuss the Netherlands' perspective on COVID-19 as a global health challenge.

The global impact of COVID-19 begs the question of whether the Netherlands should consider investing in health systems from a more global perspective in the future, said Kaag. Sjibesma noted that the production and the distribution of a vaccine will be a highly complex process, and called for a robust international cooperation effort to ensure equitable access to treatment. 

Event website - Institute Clingendael (in Dutch)

Full webinar recording - YouTube (in Dutch)

Italy launches 'Coalition for Food' initiative to combat COVID-19-related food insecurity

The Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Emanuela Del Re, in a call with the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Belinda Trevelyan, presented the Coalition for Food initiative.

The initiative aims to mitigate food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic. The multilateral action will ensure the sustainability and resilience of the agri-food sector during the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Press release - Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Canadian International Development Platform asseses potential effects of recession on ODA spending

The Canadian International Development Platform has released two new articles in a series exploring the prospective impacts of COVID-19 on financing for international development. These articles outline threats to ODA stemming from possible donor responses to the crisis, arguing that the risks to development spending are longer-term and non-linear.

The first article argues that while the "immediate donor response to COVID-19 may appear adaptive," the financial impacts of COVID-19 on development spending will persist long after the crisis has subsided. 

The second article provides a framework to assess portfolio risks and guide "collaborative scenario-building and shared risk assessments, especially across donors and NGOs, to forestall perverse feedback loops". 

Analysis 1 - Canadian International Development Platform 

Analysis 2 - Canadian International Development Platform 

2020 Global Vaccine Summit goes fully virtual

The UK government, host of the 2020 Global Vaccine Summit — the third donor pledging conference for Gavi, the International Vaccine Alliance — has announced that this year's event will take place entirely online as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Summit will provide an opportunity for the international community to pledge its support for Gavi’s five-year strategy (2021-2025) which is aimed at immunizing 300 million children and saving up to 8 million lives. Gavi, will also likely play an important role in providing equitable access to the eventual COVID-19 vaccine. The chair of the Gavi Board, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was recently named Special Envoy of a new UN-led COVID-19 vaccine task force.

Through this replenishment process, Gavi hopes to raise a minimum of US$7.4 billion in new funding. The UK is currently Gavi’s largest donor, providing around one-quarter of its total current funding.

The event is scheduled for June 3-4, 2020. A full agenda for the Summit will be announced shortly.

Press release – UK Government

News article – Gavi 

Norway reiterates call for global ceasefire

In a statement, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, renewed her support for a global ceasefire and stressed the need for greater focus on the needs of people over politics. Norway urged all actors involved in armed conflicts and situations of political crisis to work across divides and to ensure that economic sanctions do not impede humanitarian access or the provision of food, essential health supplies, and medical support.

The Minister encouraged all states to share information so that the global fight against the pandemic will not be affected by their respective sanctions while emphasizing the key role the UN plays in ensuring an effective, coordinated international response.

Press release – Norwegian Government

US opts out of global pledge to cooperate on COVID-19

As leading global health funders agreed at a virtul pledging event to work together to ensure global access for COVID-19 related vaccines and treatments, the United States opted to sit out.

The COV-Access Agreement, launched virtually by the World Health Organization (WHO), includes top bilateral donors and multilateral organizations, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.

The US, historically the world's largest global health bilateral donor, was conspicuously absent from the initiative organized by the United Kingdom. Instead, the US has frozen funding to the WHO pending a 60-90 day review, which some have suggested may become a permanent freeze. US health experts called the decision 'troubling' and predicted that such a move could be a 'tragedy' for those countries where the US once invested so many resources.

The agreement provides for an 'unprecedented level' of coordination and cooperation and came shortly before the virtual pledging conference on May 4, 2020, where organizers raised US$8.7 billion for vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments.

News article - Devex

EU and global partners launch ‘Coronavirus Global Response’ campaign

The EU, along with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and a group of global health actors, officially launched a global collaboration effort titled the ‘Coronavirus Global Response’. The collaboration is aimed at accelerating the development and production of and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The global health actors involved in this collaboration include the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, UNITAID, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Bank.

To raise funds for this global response, the European Commission is hosting a worldwide virtual pledging event on May 4, 2020, to reach a target of  US$8 billion to fill immediate funding gaps. The Commission will begin registering pledges from countries, international organizations, financial institutions, and foundations during the pledging event. Pledges can be general or earmarked. The EU will coordinate the process of collecting the funds, which will then be directed towards financing needs for diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines, as identified by WHO's Global Preparedness Monitoring Board 'GPMB'.

Press release - European Commission
Statement by President von der Leyen - European Commission
Q&A  - European Commission

Coronavirus Global Response - European Union
Call to action - WHO