The development sector prepares for G-7, the U.K. commits to greener ODA, and Australia’s former foreign minister faces a backlash over a new role in aid. This week in development:
As France prepares to host the G-7 in Biarritz from August 24-26, the government held a consultation with civil society in Paris on Tuesday — though some NGOs told Devex the meeting, which had been delayed from earlier in the year, came too late to have real impact. Still, they were there, hoping to present their proposals to President Emmanuel Macron. Until Macron got stuck in Brussels and was replaced by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who jokingly apologized to the crowd — “I know that you were expecting better.” More details emerged about a French plan to get G-7 states to help local banks generate $3 billion in loans for female entrepreneurs in Africa. And there was widespread agreement that multilateral development banks need to do more to align with the SDGs. On Thursday and Friday, development and education ministers from G-7 countries are set to meet their counterparts from the Sahel to further shape the agenda in Biarritz. A French official told Devex Macron is trying to show “that the G-7 is effective and that multilateralism is a method that still works, and that if things don’t work then you need to fix them and not break them.”
The U.K. government has committed to align all its aid spending with the Paris Agreement on climate change, to support the transition to lower greenhouse gas emissions. With this, it joins a number of multilateral development banks that have already made the commitment. In a press release, the government said it would need to include considering the greenest ways to build infrastructure, using “the best materials and design to manage the impacts of climate change that people are already feeling.” The announcement, made by Prime Minister Theresa May at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, came alongside a legal commitment for the U.K. to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a bid to co-host the U.N. climate conference, COP26, in 2020. On Wednesday, international development secretary Rory Stewart repeated his mantra that the U.K. intends to put climate at the heart of its overseas aid and that it would dedicate over £190 million ($239 million) directly to climate-related issues as part of an initial package. Stewart, who took over the role in May, has been clear about his commitment to climate action, but may not be in government much longer as the U.K. faces another change of leadership at the end of the month.
On Monday, development firm Palladium announced the appointment of former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop to its board of directors. Bishop will be joining a board of six, including former chief operating officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development, Alonzo Fulgham, in her first nonexecutive directorship role in the private sector since leaving politics. But the announcement was met with controversy. Palladium is a major supplier for the Australian aid program and there are concerns the appointment could breach ministerial standards, which prevent current and former ministers from gaining personal advantage through information they had access to. Under Bishop, who was in office until 2018, the aid budget was sent on a downward spiral, with cuts that will see it fall to 0.19% of gross national income by 2021-22. She also oversaw the merger of AusAid into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Combined with public service cuts, the aid program saw an exodus of development expertise and an increased reliance on external partners for delivery — with organizations including Palladium becoming more central. The appointment is being reviewed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to determine if standards were breached. It could result in Bishop resigning from the board, or Palladium being restricted in its ability to do business with the Australian aid program.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria received another boost on Friday, as the U.K. government committed £1.4 billion to support it over the next three years — a 16% increase on the previous cycle. It is the latest in a string of countries to increase its contribution to the Global Fund — including Japan, Portugal, and Ireland — in a strong show of support for the multilateral health partnership, which is seeking $14 billion for its sixth replenishment. But major donors including the U.S., usually responsible for a third of its budget, and the EU, its sixth largest donor, are yet to make a decision on funding. The U.K. commitment comes with a £200 million match fund to encourage the private sector to invest in the fight against malaria, and a performance agreement attached to some of the money.
Update, July 5: This article was updated to clarify details about the G7 plan for African entrepreneurs.