In the face of a broken humanitarian system, one group wants more than “a fig-leaf of good intentions.” Malaysia’s corruption scandal calls development donations into question, and water scarcity threatens global economic growth. This week in development news:
Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, will not attend the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul later this month, the group announced Wednesday. MSF, which last year saw 75 hospitals it manages or supports bombed, issued a strongly worded vote of no confidence in the summit’s potential to deliver real solutions for a humanitarian system that is overstretched and in desperate need of reform. “We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response,” the group said in a release. The announcement comes despite the United Nations Security Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution this week to protect health care workers, hospitals and patients in warzones. MSF’s central concerns are that the summit will not put enough responsibility on states — as opposed to NGOs — to deliver results, and that since commitments are nonbinding, they will not amount to anything truly new.
In other humanitarian news, Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett is the United Nations refugee agency’s newest goodwill ambassador.
The Asian Development Bank held its 49th annual meetings in Frankfurt, Germany, this week, and took the opportunity of the bank’s 50th anniversary to tout partnership over competition. Asian Development Bank President Takehiko Nakao and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank chief Jin Liqun signed a landmark partnership deal that will make it possible for the two institutions, considered rivals by some, to offer project co-financing and joint technical assistance. Nakao seeks re-election to his post this year, and told Devex that he will not shy away from ushering in more reforms to the Manila-based financial institution.
The aid cuts everyone expected to see from Australia materialized this week — a $173 million reduction overall, with some budget lines faring better than others. Pakistan, Bhutan and some Pacific island states all saw significant cuts to their assistance allocations, while administration priority areas, such as innovation and gender equality, saw modest gains. “We have to remain hopeful that this will be the last cut and that our country can restore the proud bipartisan support for aid,” Paul O’Callaghan, CEO of Caritas Australia, told Devex.
Malaysia’s “1MDB” investment fund continued its downward spiral. The 1MDB, a development fund with more than $11 billion in debt, defaulted on multiple loan payments last week. The country dissolved the fund’s board on Wednesday, as investigations into the misallocation of funds continues. One of the players who appears tied to this corruption scandal, a 34-year-old financier named Jho Taek Low, has donated millions of dollars to development organizations, leading some to reconsider those partnerships.
The World Bank says climate change’s biggest impacts could be on global water supplies. A new report from the financial institution predicts that by 2050, inadequate supplies of water could drive down GDP in some countries by as much as 6 percent. Conversely, the report finds that with better water management strategies some regions could boost growth by 6 percent. The report carries three central recommendations for action: Better planning for water resource allocation; adoption of incentives to increase water efficiency, and; investments in infrastructure for more secure water supplies and availability.
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Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.
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