Brexit fallout, World Bank elections, and a deadly day in Nairobi: This week in development

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Development organizations mourn staff and leaders in Nairobi, Oxfam’s executives welcome a highly critical report, and the World Bank presidential race heats up. This week in development:

When U.K. lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday night, they also rejected the provisions it contained that were intended to prevent severe disruption to the country’s aid programs and commitments. Without a deal, which would have established a two-year adjustment period and pledges to honor existing U.K. commitments to European development funding, the risks are now higher that Britain — and British development NGOs — will face a “cliff-edge Brexit,” Sophie Edwards reports for Devex. Some experts remain confident the U.K. will continue funding European development priorities, since these are still in the country’s own interest. Others see a path for future development cooperation with the European Union, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. “There are manifold ways in which there can be development cooperation in the future, but long-term thinking is needed… [and] it needs to be done in consultation with developing countries,” said Emmanuel de Groof from the European Center for Development Policy Management, a Netherlands-based think tank.

The race to succeed Jim Kim at the World Bank is heating up. Devex learned that a shifting slate of candidates are now actively campaigning for the job, while questions remain about how U.S. President Donald Trump will approach the election process. According to some experts, who Trump chooses to nominate for the role could mean the difference between America maintaining its grip on the institution’s leadership spot, and a new era of competitive elections and global candidates. The bank’s board intends to name Kim’s successor in time for the World Bank Spring Meetings in April.

An independent commission appointed by Oxfam International to examine the charity’s policies for safeguarding against abuse and harassment has highlighted staff reports of elitism, racism, sexism, “colonial behavior,” and “patriarchy,” and pointed to a culture of “bullying.” The Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change at Oxfam — an “independent group of international experts from business, government and civil society” — published their interim report on Wednesday. The inquiry was sparked by allegations of abuse by senior staff in Haiti in 2011. Oxfam welcomed the report, writing in a press release, “this level of detailed scrutiny is exactly what is required at a crucial moment in our history.”

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has ordered an internal inquiry into allegations of “systematic racial discrimination” outlined in a series of anonymous emails sent to top managers at the global health body, according to an Associated Press report on Thursday.

Twenty-one people were killed in an attack on a hotel and office complex in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday. Among those killed in the attack, which was carried out by Shabab militants, were employees of global development NGOs. Abdalla Dahir and Feisal Ahmed worked for London-based Adam Smith International, and were leading a project designed to combat terrorism and bring peace to Somalia. Luke Potter was the Africa programs director of the U.K.-based Gatsby Charitable Foundation. Jason Spindler was CEO of the U.S.-based strategy and investment firm I-DEV International. In the wake of the attack, development organizations said they will continue to “sharpen” security protocols and provide counseling to those affected by the incident. Others suggested the attack underscores that efforts to neutralize threats from terror in the region have not been effective.

The World Economic Forum's annual meetings kick off next week in Davos, Switzerland, with a focus on the governance structures needed for an era of technological change — which WEF has dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Leaders from around the world — minus some high-profile names that have backed out, including Donald Trump, Theresa May, and French President Emmanuel Macron — will head to the glitzy ski town, where a number of public-private partnerships and development initiatives have been hatched. WEF’s agenda will highlight the geopolitical transition currently underway, climate change, and global inequality, with technological disruption as a theme that underpins these phenomena. Devex will also dig into issues around food systems, global health financing, humanitarian response, and disability inclusion, and keep our ear to the ground for conversations about the next World Bank president. Sign up for our briefings, and follow Raj Kumar, Catherine Cheney, and Sophie Edwards for updates from Davos, or to share your tips or reactions as world leaders climb the “magic mountain” once again.

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.