Facebook's responsibility in Myanmar, Cameroon's chaos, and $1B for the GFF: This week in development

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Facebook receives a roadmap to tackle hate speech before Myanmar’s next elections, students in Cameroon face the brunt of political conflict, and Rwanda joins Alibaba’s global marketplace. This week in development:

Donors committed $1 billion to the Global Financing Facility during a replenishment conference in Norway this week. That falls short of the $2 billion target set by the GFF, which uses relatively small amounts of grant funding to help countries develop health investment plans and leverage public and private investments for maternal and child health and nutrition. GFF Director Dr. Mariam Claeson struck an upbeat tone in the wake of the new commitments, describing them as an “important milestone” for the facility’s fundraising target for the next five years. As concerns have mounted about rising debt levels in many developing countries, some GFF representatives faced questions about how the facility will work to ensure that encouraging countries to borrow more for health doesn’t drive them into unsustainable debt. Some civil society groups stressed that as it works to build a sustainable financing mechanism for maternal and child health, the GFF should also work with countries on “pro-poor tax reform.”

An independent report commissioned by Facebook lays out a range of actions the online giant could take in Myanmar to help prevent its network from creating an “enabling environment” for human rights abuses. The report concludes that Facebook has not done enough to mitigate these risks in the past, and that “Facebook has become a useful platform for those seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm.” The report, produced by BSR, also cautions that the 2020 elections in Myanmar will “present substantially increased human rights risk,” and that Facebook should take a range of steps now to implement its “community standards” more effectively.

More than 70 children kidnapped from a boarding school in Cameroon were freed Tuesday, though it remains unclear if all additional hostages are also free. The abduction, which took place in Cameroon’s northwest Anglophone region, overshadowed President Paul Biya’s seventh inauguration, which officially extended his 36-year rule earlier this week. It also shines a spotlight on divisions between anglophone secessionists, who claim they are marginalized, and the French-speaking government. Biya warned separatists to “lay down their arms or face the full force of the law” during his inauguration speech. According to media reports, more than 400 civilians have been killed and more than 300,000 have fled violence.

Rwanda became the first African nation to join Alibaba’s landmark electronic World Trade Platform, or eWTP, in a move that could provide small businesses with the infrastructure, mobile payment options, and logistics required to trade electronically and sell local products — such as coffee and handcrafts — on Alibaba’s global online marketplace. Alibaba will support Rwanda’s economic development by working with the Rwanda Development Board to provide capacity-building skills and assist businesses in connecting with the 500 million Chinese consumers that use Alibaba’s online marketplaces. Alibaba will also encourage tourism to Rwanda on its Fliggy travel platform. The eWTP platform conceived by Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma provides sellers with advantages such as customs clearance and tariff reductions to increase accessibility for small business owners. Now, with hubs in China, Malaysia, and Rwanda, Ma described eWTP as an “electronic Silk Road to connect every country and give businesses the ability to sell anywhere in the world.”

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.