America's aid budget, Africa's trade agreement, and World Bank climate migration warnings: This week in development

A view of the opening session of the 18th Executive Council Meeting of the Extraordinary Summit on AfCFTA in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo by: African Union Commission

The U.S. Congress agrees to modest foreign aid budget cuts — instead of the drastic reductions proposed by the Trump administration — 40 African countries sign a historic trade pact, and South Sudan braces for an early lean season. This week in development:

More than 140 million people in three regions vulnerable to climate change could be forced to migrate by 2050 unless the world takes significant steps to limit emissions and invest in climate adaptation, according to a major new study by the World Bank. While some amount of migration due to climate change is likely inevitable, the report — which focused solely on migration within countries, not cross-border migration — found that international efforts to limit greenhouse emissions and prepare countries for likely changes could reduce climate-driven migration by 80 percent. “This does not have to be a crisis,” John Roome, senior director for climate change at the World Bank, told reporters on Monday. The report focused on three regions: South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. In the worst-case scenario, sub-Saharan Africa would see the most internal migration due to climate change, with 86 million people projected to leave their homes by mid-century. The report also projects that climate-driven “out-migration” will occur most dramatically in a set of “hotspots,” where the interaction between climate change and climate-sensitive livelihoods is likely to be most severe.

On Wednesday, the same day that U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green defended President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut U.S. foreign affairs spending by one-third, the U.S. Congress unveiled a budget agreement that is far more favorable to U.S. aid programs. While Trump’s latest budget request — for fiscal year 2019, starting on Oct. 1 — proposed $37.8 billion for U.S. foreign affairs programs, Congress has agreed to provide $54 billion for the 2018 fiscal year. The 2018 agreement, if signed into law, would reduce foreign aid spending by $3.4 billion, or about 6 percent, below the fiscal year 2017 levels. The budget, which has already been approved in the House and must now be voted on by the Senate and signed into law by the president, includes $7.6 billion for humanitarian assistance, $8.7 billion for global health programs, and would maintain or slightly increase funding to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the Peace Corps, among other agencies. The budget also aims to lift a restriction on U.S. financing for coal power projects in developing countries. U.S. contributions to the United Nations did not fare as well, with U.S. contributions to peacekeeping taking a hit. As expected, the agreement also zeroes out U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund.

More than 40 African countries have joined in a historic free trade agreement aimed at helping to overcome some of the barriers that have hindered commerce on the continent. Two of the continent’s largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, have so far declined to join the pact, raising doubts about its potential to transform Africa’s economic relations. Only 16 percent of Africa’s trade currently takes place on the continent, according to the African Union Commission. They project that if all African countries joined the trade agreement, that number could rise to more than 50 percent.

The latest Global Report on Food Crises found that in 2017, 124 million people faced acute food insecurity. While international assistance helped stave off famine, the report warns that unless protracted conflicts are resolved, “no significant improvement in food security can be expected globally.” Adnan Khan, the World Food Programme’s representative and country director in South Sudan, told Devex that South Sudan’s “lean season” could begin months earlier than usual in 2018 — as early as this month. While current projections do not foresee famine for South Sudan, food security has actually deteriorated since last year when a famine occurred, with severe food insecurity affecting 11 counties. “The projections do not indicate a famine in any single county, and that’s because we don’t find that kind of concentration in any one county. The fact that it has spread to 11 counties, and the fact that absolute number of people would be more … is extremely alarming,” Khan said.

About the author

  • 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.