Brexit chaos, Tanzanian aid withdrawals, and the state of family planning: This week in development

A scene from the International Conference on Family Planning wraps up in Rwanda. Screenshot from: ICFP 2018 Recap video

The International Conference on Family Planning wraps up in Rwanda, the Trump administration celebrates the BUILD Act, and the World Bank and Denmark pull aid from Tanzania amid concerns over new policies. This week in development:

Negotiations about the U.K.'s departure from the European Union intensified this week, with a draft agreement two years in the making that now needs Parliament’s approval. While aid spending hasn’t topped the list of negotiation priorities, experts are watching closely to understand what the deal could mean for the U.K.’s future relationship with the European Union on aid. The U.K. is the continent’s second-largest aid donor overall, and the third-largest contributor to the EU aid budget, contributing about 15 percent of the EU’s aid budget, which is about 11 percent of the U.K.’s spending on aid. Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the government has appeared to support continued collaboration on EU aid work after it exits the bloc in March 2019 — but the draft Brexit agreement lacked clarity or details on how this would work. This week, Devex launched a series exploring the impact of Brexit on aid. Read the first two parts on what's at stake for aid in the negotiations and the fate of U.K. contributions post-Brexit, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.

The International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali, Rwanda, brought together more than 3,500 advocates to take stock of the state of family planning. Despite enthusiasm from more than 600 youth leaders in attendance, concerns about conservative policies in the U.S., Europe, and beyond that are curtailing sexual and reproductive rights worldwide were never far from sight. Conference-goers were also faced with the reality that the FP2020 target of reaching 120 million more women with contraception in the world’s poorest countries by 2020 will not be met. Today, more than 300 million women have access to modern family planning, but an estimated 214 million do not, and 25 million unsafe abortions take place every year. ICFP acknowledged a need for fresh thinking, but some participants expressed concern that not enough is happening to address the growing threat of populism. Major themes at the conference included how to convince governments that family planning provides a good return on investment; how to integrate family planning with other services; and a look at new products, services, and faces in the family planning space.

The World Bank has pulled plans for a $300 million educational loan to Tanzania amid concerns about the country's policy banning pregnant girls from going to school. Tanzania's policy of expelling pregnant students from schools started in the 1960s, but President John Magufuli has expanded the policy since he took office in 2015. In June, Magufuli announced that pregnant students would not be allowed to return to school after giving birth, and some schools imposed compulsory pregnancy tests on girls. Denmark has also decided to withhold about $10 million worth of aid, due to human rights abuses and “unacceptable homophobic comments” from Paul Makonda, the administrative chief of Dar Es Salaam, who ordered people in the city to report anyone suspected of being gay.  

“This is how government should work” was the theme of a celebratory meeting of lawmakers and administration officials at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, marking the passage of the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development Act. The roundtable celebrated the bill’s passage — complete with White House advisor Ivanka Trump giving the co-sponsors of the legislation signed copies and pens from her father — and discussed implementation of the bill and the creation of the new U.S. Development Finance Corporation. It was clear from the seating arrangements and billing that both USAID Administrator Mark Green and Overseas Private Investment Corp. CEO Ray Washburne were recognized for their important roles in the process moving forward. Ivanka Trump also used the opportunity to outline a White House initiative on global women’s empowerment that will launch in January.

About the author

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    Anne Paisley

    Anne Paisley is the Senior Manager of Editorial Planning and Production at Devex, where she oversees Devex’s newsletters, website, and editorial production team. Prior to joining Devex in 2015, Anne was the managing editor at the Center for American Progress. She has previously held positions at CNN, the U.S. Department of State, and Cambridge Associates. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and Asian studies from George Washington University, including a semester abroad at Peking University in Beijing.