Boris Johnson appoints a new aid chief, Trump proposes another round of cuts, and locusts wreak havoc on East Africa. This week in development:
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed Anne-Marie Trevelyan to be secretary of state for international development Thursday, putting at least a temporary end to fears he would either abolish the Department for International Development or place it under the authority of his foreign secretary. Trevelyan, a member of Parliament for Berwick-Upon-Tweed and former minister for the armed forces, is a strongly pro-Brexit member of the Conservative Party. She will be DFID's sixth secretary of state in four years. Her appointment comes as Johnson’s administration looks to align foreign aid programs with a “mutual prosperity” agenda aimed at boosting Britain’s commercial ties. Johnson also tapped former DFID chief Alok Sharma to lead the U.K.’s preparations for the COP26 United Nations climate talks, set to take place this November in Glasgow, Scotland.
The White House released its budget request for fiscal year 2021 on Monday, proposing a cut of more than 20% to U.S. foreign aid programs and setting up another showdown with the U.S. Congress over spending levels. Many expect that lawmakers will broadly reject President Donald Trump’s plan — as they have for the last three years — though the budget request does send a few signals about how the administration is looking to shape global development policy. Amid the proposed cuts, aid experts found silver linings in a handful of specific line items. Against the backdrop of a proposed $3 billion cut to U.S. global health programs, the budget requests $290 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which matches what the organization had hoped it would receive ahead of its replenishment later this year. The proposal would also add $15 million to global health security spending — but suggests cutting funding to the World Health Organization by more than 50%.
The White House endorsed its own development efforts, such as the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, which has been championed by senior adviser Ivanka Trump and would see its funding doubled. The newly created U.S. International Development Finance Corporation would receive $730 million in funding. While the White House does not ultimately determine spending levels, the proposed cuts have caused disruption and uncertainty for U.S. development programs, with implementers saying they have seen programs canceled or curtailed in anticipation of cuts that might eventually materialize. The administration also reiterated its willingness to use processes such as budget rescissions to force cuts that the Congress refuses to make.
Massive swarms of locusts threaten to create a food security emergency in East Africa if they are not controlled before planting season begins. Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia are suffering from one of the worst locust outbreaks in recent history. The swarms have now moved into Uganda and Tanzania and threaten to spread to South Sudan, devastating vegetation on pasture land for livestock and crops in a region that is already dealing with food security issues. While it is currently between growing seasons, responders have limited time to bring the outbreak under control. The Food and Agriculture Organization, national governments, and other international partners are prioritizing spraying in the three worst-affected countries, but they have not seen adequate funding so far. “The decisions and the flow of funds we’ve seen have been quite modest. Certainly not commensurate — we think — with the scale of the potential crisis we are facing,” said Mark Lowcock, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, on Monday.