A refugee 'breakthrough' and Green Climate Fund's next steps: This week in development news

Panelists at The Green Climate Fund: “Looking Beyond Paris” COP21 side event. This week, the GCF received its first payment from the U.S. government and has also accredited a number of major institutions which can manage GCF funds and pay for climate change adaptation projects. Photo by: Ministerio del Ambiente / CC BY-NC-ND

A potential breakthrough for Syrian refugees, the Green Climate Fund gets a boost — and some big new partners — and the new United States development chief breaks her silence. This week in development news.

One in, one out. Some are calling it a “breakthrough” — others, a potential violation of international law. The “one in, one out” deal for Syrian refugees is raising both big hopes and big questions. Under the agreement, brokered by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and European Union leaders, for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, a Syrian asylum-seeker in Turkey would be resettled in Europe. The EU would also lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens this summer and expedite a $3.6 billion pledge to assist Turkey with the resettlement. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is asking whether the deal adheres to the 1951 convention on refugees. This week Devex continued #AcrossBorders, our effort to reshape the global conversation around migrants and refugees.

Power with purpose. On March 8 the world celebrated International Women’s Day, and the development community took stock of progress made and goals still unrealized in the fight to achieve gender equality everywhere. The day highlighted, among other things, the ongoing push to see a woman at the helm of the United Nations for the first time. Devex launched Power with Purpose, a leadership recognition for the most powerful women in the global development community.

A big week for the Green Climate Fund. The U.S. government drew praise from nongovernmental organizations when it delivered its first payment to the GCF Monday. The $500 million payment is the first installment of the U.S. government’s overall pledge of $3 billion over the next four years. The Fund’s board also met this week and accredited a number of major institutions, which can now manage GCF funds and pay for climate change adaptation projects. The International Finance Corporation, the European Investment Bank, and the African Development Bank all completed the notoriously arduous accreditation process. So did two large international banks, HSBC and Credit Agricole. The board’s decision to accredit big banks has provoked the ire of some civil society groups, who fear partnering with financial institutions with fossil fuel portfolios — instead of with developing country institutions — betrays the spirit of the GCF’s original mandate. Others welcome the influx of financial expertise and potential to leverage more money.

“Exceptional shortfall in aggregate food production/supplies” is United Nations speak for a startling number of countries currently in need of food assistance. Thirty-four countries, 27 of them in Africa, currently require external food aid due to conflict, El Niño-associated droughts, and other food system disruptions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s most recent Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. The U.S. Agency for International Development last week deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia to help the East African nation stave off famine. The DART deployment was more proactive than usual and is intended to “protect development gains” in anticipation of worsening weather conditions.

The beginning and the end. Three months into her tenure as USAID administrator, Gayle Smith delivered her first policy speech Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Smith highlighted efforts to “lock in” Obama administration development initiatives before his presidency ends in 10 months. The new USAID chief, formerly a National Security Council senior director, also championed a broader role for USAID in foreign policy decisionmaking. Her comments recalled speculation at the time of her nomination that Smith, a close advisor to President Obama, might be well-positioned to elevate the authority of the USAID chief with respect to other senior officials and cabinet members.

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About the author

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    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.