Devex Newswire: Biden’s feminist foreign aid to-do list

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Women’s health and rights campaigners think this could be the moment for a feminist transformation of America’s global engagement.

Advocates say U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has sent the right signals on gender equality and women’s empowerment — and taken important early steps to roll back Trump-era policies restricting sexual and reproductive health. Kelli Rogers reports for Devex that some see a window of opportunity for historic changes, and they want the White House to go even further.

• There are two big ticket policy items some believe could move forward: 1) a permanent repeal of the Mexico City Policy, or “global gag rule,” and 2) a full commitment to gender mainstreaming in Biden’s 2022 budget request. “It’s not building back better. This is building something new,” says Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity.
• Eyes are on the new White House Gender Policy Council, tasked with coordinating policy that impacts women and girls. Immediate priorities include improving access to sexual and reproductive health care services and combating gender-based violence.
• Latanya Mapp Frett, president and CEO at the Global Fund for Women, hopes Biden’s budget request will embrace a feminist foreign policy, and find ways to deliver funding to feminist organizations in the global south, rather than mostly through large international NGOs.
• Biden’s White House made history by sending the highest-ever representative to this year’s session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Vice President Kamala Harris — also a history maker as America’s first female VP — co-led the delegation with U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “The status of women is the status of democracy,” Harris told the intergovernmental body.

Read: Kelli’s report from the U.N.'s largest annual gathering on gender equality.

Devex Pro: Senior Reporter Lisa Cornish digs into new research on what drives a feminist foreign policy. 

BREATHING ROOM

Low- and middle-income countries are grappling with oxygen shortages, as COVID-19 has sent demand soaring. Half a million people in those countries require an estimated 1.1 million cylinders of oxygen per day. Lack of competition in the medical gas market has driven prices up, while around the world little funding from donors flows to oxygen purchases, says Robert Matiru, director of programs at UNITAID. The big picture is one where global supply and financing efforts to fight COVID-19 need to better connect with country-level programs, according to Chris Elias of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Senior Reporter Jenny Lei Ravelo covers from the latest meeting of ACT-A, the COVID Tools Accelerator.

LEAF TO YOUR OWN DEVICES

It could soon be possible for anyone to see when a single tree has been cut down in the world’s forests, Gareth Willmer reports for Devex.

• A partnership between Norway, Kongsberg Satellite Services, and its partners, Airbus and Planet aims to grant universal access to a forest monitoring database of satellite imagery with monthly updates and an archive dating back to 2015.
• The partnership is underway amidst a surge in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro — with an area of old-growth forest roughly the size of Israel felled last year.
• “We … hope that making it available to the general public will foster an awareness of forests and a good basis for discussion about stopping deforestation,” says Ellen Bruzelius Backer of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.

Read: Down to a tree: Amazon forest tracking moves to the next level.
This article is part of our Data for Development series.

TRANSFER OF POWER

Power Africa, USAID’s energy access initiative for the continent, has closed 124 transactions since it kicked off in 2013, adding up to more than 11,000 additional megawatts in the countries where it operates. As Biden inherits this Obama legacy item, the debate over how to electrify low-income countries — and whether fossil fuels should be in the mix — is heating up again.

Senior Reporter Adva Saldinger unpacks new recommendations for Power Africa’s team.

GROUND TRUTH

Via Twitter.

USAID was recently forced to deny Ethiopian news reports of an “investigation team” the agency allegedly deployed to the country’s Tigray region, which never happened. Meanwhile, a so-called “political analyst and former U.N. official” named “George Bolton” has been making pro-government statements on Twitter. Mr. Bolton also does not appear to exist.

IN THE NEWS

As the situation worsens in Myanmar, U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews calls for an emergency summit to form a unified international response to the crisis. [UN News]

The U.S. says it will provide $15 million to help inoculate Palestinians against COVID-19. [France 24]

Pfizer-BioNTech is the latest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer to begin testing its shot’s efficacy for children. [Deutsche Welle]

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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.