Australia's upheaval, Trump's 'rescission' retreat, and Ebola's 'triple threat:' This week in development

Malcolm Turnbull, outgoing prime minister of Australia. Photo by: Dominique A. Pineiro / Department of Defense / CC BY

The White House abandons a controversial plan to take back aid funding, Ebola responders face a “triple threat,” and the United Nations alleges war crimes on multiple continents. This week in development:

The future of Australian foreign aid is in question after an abrupt political shakeup that has recast the country’s leadership and downgraded the development minister’s status. Facing challenges to his leadership, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stepped aside last Friday. The battle to succeed him saw Foreign Minister Julie Bishop — who has overseen a tumultuous period for Australian aid — defeated by former Treasurer Scott Morrison. Instead of pursuing the deputy minister position, Bishop resigned. Amidst the upheaval, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells also resigned, and her position was downgraded to assistant minister status, casting doubt on the role development will play with the country’s new leadership, Lisa Cornish reported for Devex. Bishop leaves behind a mixed legacy of global development leadership. On one hand, she presided over the largest cuts to Australian foreign aid in a generation. On the other hand, she is credited with bringing a focus on innovation and private sector engagement, and with recognizing Australia’s role as a “Pacific nation.” With experts waiting to see how Australia’s new leadership will approach global development, some early statements suggest a greater focus on security and national prosperity.

President Donald Trump’s White House abandoned a controversial plan to take back billions of dollars in foreign aid funding that had already been appropriated by the United States Congress. Rumors about an impending “rescission package” had been circulating in the U.S. development community for weeks, pushing aid lobbyists and supporters into a fight with Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney. The White House plan would have involved freezing a pot of foreign aid funding for a 45-day period. Because this maneuver was expected at the end of the fiscal year, it was unclear whether lawmakers would have been able to unfreeze the money before it expired. In addition to objecting to an apparent attempt to veto foreign assistance funds that Congress had already approved, lawmakers also objected to a seeming violation of their constitutional authority over the U.S. federal budget. Some aid leaders credited Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with helping to prevent the rescission from moving forward, while others cautioned that the White House’s decision should not be taken as a sign that the budget battles for U.S. foreign aid are over.

On three consecutive days, the United Nations shined a damning spotlight on three different countries, alleging war crimes in two of them and government “repression and retaliation” in the third. On Monday, a U.N. Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar concluded its year-long investigation with a report accusing the country’s security forces of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority, and calling for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of Myanmar’s army, and other top generals, to stand trial for war crimes in international court. The government of Myanmar has rejected the report and denied any wrongdoing. On Tuesday, a report mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded that parties to the ongoing conflict in Yemen “have perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, violations and crimes under international law.” The report drew special attention to Saudi and Emirati airstrikes that have killed civilians. On Wednesday, outgoing U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned the Nicaraguan government and paramilitary forces for torturing and killing protesters, and called for the U.N. to take action to hold the perpetrators accountable.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not stabilized, the World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday, pointing to the challenges of accessing the parts of the country where the outbreak overlaps with ongoing conflict. So far, 75 people have died from the latest Ebola outbreak, with 112 current suspected cases, according to the latest report from DRC’s ministry of health. In a statement on Wednesday, the Red Cross described the challenge as a “triple threat” of conflict, community resistance, and increasing cases. “In addition to the increased death toll and the spread of disease to inaccessible areas, we are experiencing fear and anger in some communities against Red Cross teams who come to bury the deceased in accordance with safe and dignified burial protocols,” said Balla Condé, head of emergency operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in a statement.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    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.