Devex Newswire: UK leadership rhetoric collides with reality of aid cuts

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The United Kingdom is hosting the first G-7 foreign ministers meeting since 2019 — and the government is under pressure to explain how it can cut funding for the same priorities it purports to lead on.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.K. foreign secretary Dominic Raab took questions from reporters, and the first question for Raab pointed to the seeming contradiction between the country’s rhetoric and its massive aid cuts.

• “You are cutting British foreign aid to Yemen, to Syria, to the United Nations Children Fund, the U.N. Population Fund, the U.N. AIDS fund, water, sanitation, hygiene, polio eradication, conflict resolution, humanitarian preparedness, and girls’ education,” noted the BBC’s James Landale. “How can Britain claim to show global leadership at the G-7 when it is cutting so much foreign aid?”

• Raab said that even with the cuts — a result of COVID-19, “the biggest contraction of our economy for 300 years,” and a soaring budget deficit — the U.K. is still spending £10 billion ($13.9 billion) on aid. He held up Britain’s doubling of international climate finance, its support for Gavi, and humanitarian assistance as examples of sustained leadership.

• “What we need to do is work with our partners in order to magnify and amplify those efforts.  And that’s what the G-7 is all about,” he said.

ICYMI: Here's what global civil society wants to see from the G-7

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

The U.K. is also presiding over the COP26 international climate change summit — planned for Glasgow in November. The government has taken a “hands-off approach” to setting the agenda for global climate action, Anca Gurzu reports for Devex — and some question whether that’s what the moment demands.

Devex Pro: Will the UK's passive COP26 strategy pay off?

AT THE TABLE

“You have my commitment and the commitment of President Biden, that we will spend the next four years empowering you … and using our seat at the table, the seat you earned for this agency, to elevate the humanity of our foreign policy.”

 — USAID Administrator Samantha Power, delivering welcome remarks after her swearing in ceremony

DOUBLE TAKE

A new USAID policy on countering violent extremism quietly removed references to the links between CVE and gang violence, Teresa Welsh reports. Former USAID Administrator Mark Green signed off on the policy during one of his final days in office, but it wasn’t publicly released until late last month.

The final version omitted explicit links between countering violent extremism and combating gang violence — with no explanation.

Read: USAID removes gang prevention reference from CVE policy

ASSETS AND LIABILITIES

"Business has been very difficult since COVID-19 came. There are fewer customers and lesser earnings. But I am not very desperate because I am getting financial support from our savings group," says Christine Awour, a hairstylist operating in Nairobi’s Mathare slum.

Many financial institutions responded to the economic impacts of COVID-19 by reducing their exposure to micro, small, and medium enterprises. Vendors in Kenya's slums have turned to credit unions and savings groups where they are able to obtain loans without collateral, David Njagi reports for Devex.

Read: Kenya's slum vendors rely on savings groups to survive COVID-19

Get the inside track on how business, social enterprise, and development finance leaders are tackling global challenges by signing up to our weekly Devex Invested newsletter.

LONG SHOTS

Gavi has signed an advance purchase agreement with Moderna to secure 500 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for COVAX, Jenny Lei Ravelo reports. Moderna’s vaccine was recently listed for emergency use by WHO, but most of the doses under this agreement won’t be available until 2022.

A temporary export ban on doses from the Serum Institute of India, which provides COVAX with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, has added to supply constraints. The head of SII has warned that India’s current vaccine shortage will likely last for months.

PARTING WAYS

Via Twitter.

On Monday, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they plan to divorce after 27 years of marriage. That has raised questions about the future of their jointly operated charitable foundation, though in a statement, the organization said no changes are planned to their current roles.

IN OTHER NEWS

After much criticism, U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday announced that the number of refugee admissions into the country will be raised from 15,000 to 62,500, with a plan to further raise the cap to 125,000 next year. [BBC]

A Gallup survey showed that 1 in 2 people with jobs — or some 1.6 billion — earned less during the pandemic, with those in low-income countries most affected. [Reuters]

Two refugee camps on the Greek island of Lesbos praised for their humane conditions will soon shut down, while their inhabitants will be sent to the crowded Moria camp. [EU Observer]

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.