Facebook's hate speech problem, PEPFAR's local push, and Brexit's aid deals: This week in development

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Facebook promises to remove violence-inciting misinformation, Obama defends international cooperation, and the World Bank sees a boost in human capital lending. This week in development:

Facebook will remove misinformation that could incite violence from its website, company representatives said Wednesday as they faced growing criticism of their platform’s role in spreading dangerous rumors in Sri Lanka, India, and Myanmar that in some cases have led to killings. Facebook plans to partner with civil society organizations to identify what should be removed under the new rules, The New York Times reported, echoing plans Devex reported in May about Facebook’s changing approach to “high-risk areas.” The new rules come on the heels of Tuesday’s congressional testimony by representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary, which questioned the companies about content moderation. While public and congressional pressure has forced Facebook to examine its role in developing countries in recent months, the company was slow to take responsibility in some of the most alarming cases, according to people who sought to enlist Facebook’s help years ago in the fight against hate speech and violence-inciting rumors. This week Devex reported that the former U.S. ambassador to Myanmar was never able to get a meeting with someone from Facebook to discuss the role the company might play in helping to foster a better information environment in the country.

The U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator wants to see a dramatic increase in the proportion of funding going to local organizations in the countries where the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief operates. Deborah Birx, who leads PEPFAR, said Friday that she has directed agencies that administer the initiative’s funding to reach 40 percent “indigenous” funding in the next 18 months, and 70 percent in the next 30 months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already directs about 65 percent of its PEPFAR funding to national implementing organizations, according to a PEPFAR spokesperson, while less than 20 percent of PEPFAR funds that flow through the U.S. Agency for International Development reach these groups. “If we’re going to have a sustained program, it has to be completely indigenous. We know we have to get to 100 percent — and I don’t mean as [subcontractors]. I mean as [prime contractors],” Birx said.

As it prepares to exit the European Union next year, the British government is proposing the creation of a new development “accord” with the EU, suggesting a freer flow of funds and expertise through European Commission channels than the “case-by-case” arrangement offered in previous proposals. The new accord also presses for continued access to EU programs for U.K.-based aid organizations and companies, which deliver more than 20 percent of total ECHO-funded humanitarian aid. The commission recently called U.K. organizations’ future EU engagement into question by including “no-deal Brexit disclaimers” in its agreements, which suggest U.K.-based organizations and companies could be suddenly ejected from contracts if the U.K. and EU don’t reach a deal by the March 2019 deadline. U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt called the disclaimers “threats,” and “blatant discrimination” on Tuesday, adding that such actions put the welfare of vulnerable people who benefit from EU aid at risk. She pledged to “look into how the [U.K.] aid budget could be used to mitigate” the effects of the disclaimers on U.K. aid organizations.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama defended international cooperation during the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday. Obama’s speech touched on climate change, immigration, grassroots leadership, and shifting from “the charity mindset” to driving resources to “forgotten pockets of the world through investment and entrepreneurship.” Prior to his speech, the Obama Foundation met with 200 young activists and leaders, whose work Obama described as reasons to be hopeful in a world teetering between two competing visions of the future — one of them inclusive and cooperative, and the other dominated by “strongman politics.”

Kristalina Georgieva is the World Bank’s “happy CEO” who gets psyched up for big meetings by listening to the rock band Queen, according to an interview the Bulgarian development leader gave to CNBC’s “Life Hacks Live” in Singapore. "When I'm going for a really important day and I want my adrenaline to be running, when I'm approaching my office, I ask [my] Tesla to play 'We Will Rock You," Georgieva said. She also described her efforts to get more women into senior leadership positions at the bank — “People were saying: 'Kristalina, that cannot be done’” — and her delight at the additional lending resources available to the World Bank after its capital increase deal in April. On Thursday, the World Bank reported that its lending commitments to developing countries rose from $58.8 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $63.9 billion in 2018. “Human development” lending saw a particularly large increase, from 16 percent of bank lending in 2017 to 25.2 percent in 2018, according to a World Bank release. The World Bank’s “Human Capital Project” — which will launch a new “human capital index” at the institution’s annual meetings in October — has sought to increase demand for lending to health, education, and other social sectors.

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.