175 steps closer to climate action: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 28 April 2016

A wide view of the General Assembly at the opening of the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo by: Mark Garten / United Nations

A historic agreement leads to a record-breaking signing ceremony. A tragedy in Bangladesh, and a renewed call for action to end a deadly disease. This week in development news:

175 countries signed the Paris climate agreement on Friday — Earth Day. The mass signing ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York served as a big show of support for climate action, and it set a new record for the number of countries to sign an agreement on the first day possible. Those countries that haven’t signed the agreement yet can still do so in the next year. Signing is the second of three steps to bring the climate agreement into effect. The last is that 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions have to ratify the agreement before the parts of the Paris agreement that are legally binding actually become so.

A United States Agency for International Development employee and LGBT activist was brutally murdered in Bangladesh on Monday. Xulhaz Mannan was the editor of Roopbaan, the country's only LGBT magazine. He was also a project management assistant in USAID’s Democracy and Governance office and a founding member of the U.S. Embassy Diversity Committee. In a statement, USAID Administrator Gayle Smith wrote: “A dedicated and courageous advocate for human rights, Xulhaz sought to shape a society that was more diverse and inclusive. He believed in the people of Bangladesh, and he strove to make the world a better place for everyone.” A friend of Mannan’s was also killed in the attack.

Anxiety about Australia’s foreign aid budget appears well founded. As a proportion of national income, funding is set to drop to its lowest level ever. About $224 million will be cut from the country’s assistance coffers in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, bringing the total aid program budget to $3.8 billion. As Devex has reported, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has continued to emphasize the role of the private sector in international development. The new aid paradigm, launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in June 2014, stressed that the aid program would be “underpinned” by private sector support.

Monday was World Malaria Day and global health experts and advocates took the opportunity to take stock of the effort to eradicate one of the world’s deadliest diseases. Despite enormous gains against the disease in recent decades, malaria still kills close to half a million people every year; and growing resistance to front-line drugs threatens current treatment and control practices. Donors, health organizations, researchers, and technology developers are all engaged in finding solutions that can outpace this adaptable killer — and the U.S. president has their back.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration is cracking down harder on Western nongovernmental organizations with a new law that requires them to find an official Chinese sponsor and register with the police. The law is consistent with Xi’s effort “to impose greater control and limit Western influences on Chinese society,” according to The New York Times. “Certain types of nongovernmental organizations — like groups that work with Chinese human rights activists or lawyers — will have little chance of finding an official partner or registering with the police,” the Times reported.

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.

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