G7's mixed reviews, World Bank's China questions, and Africa's outbreak strategy: This week in development

The G-7 logo and microphones. Photo by: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

World Bank education projects in China face scrutiny, African ministers adopt a health emergency strategy, and the White House shuts the door on rescission. This week in development:

World leaders at the G-7 summit of wealthy nations in Biarritz, France, received mixed reviews from the development community, which praised their political and financial support for some issues, while describing other commitments as “recycled.” The gathering saw major new pledges for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, including $609 million from the European Union, $1.1 billion from Germany, and $178 million from Italy, all of which represented increases of 15% or more over their previous three-year contributions. French President Emmanuel Macron, who hosted the gathering, earned accolades from Rwandan President Paul Kagame for inviting some African heads of state to participate in some meetings, and involving their staff in shaping the agenda. By most accounts, commitments to support development and security in the Sahel lacked specificity, while plans to promote gender equality — including the “Biarritz Partnership on Gender Equality” — drew mixed reviews.

The World Bank is facing questions about its support for education and training programs in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, where the Chinese government is accused of arbitrarily detaining over 1 million Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. The $50 million “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project” was approved in May 2015, but earlier this month members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China — a bipartisan group that examines human rights issues in China — sent a letter to World Bank President David Malpass asking him about the bank’s support. “Has the World Bank investigated the possible overlap between mass internment camps and the vocational schools named in the World Bank project,” lawmakers asked. On Tuesday, Foreign Policy reported that at least one World Bank employee has raised concerns internally about the bank’s support for educational and vocational schools in Xinjiang. Some of the biggest red flags included so-called schools purchasing tear gas launchers and other security equipment, unusually high project participation numbers, and supervision conducted entirely by Chinese nationals.

African health ministers adopted a 10-year plan to strengthen disease surveillance and response systems in an effort to mitigate the harm of public health threats such as Ebola and measles. They adopted the new “regional strategy for integrated disease surveillance and response” at a World Health Organization meeting in Congo-Brazzaville last week. The previous continent-wide outbreak management strategy was created in 1998, and hadn’t been updated since. “Over the last three or four years, most of the events that we are seeing in the African region have been either cross-border or happening around borders,” Dr. Ambrose Talisuna, regional adviser for health security in the WHO African Region, told Devex.

After weeks of mixed messages, the White House ultimately abandoned its plan to rescind billions of dollars of foreign aid funding that the U.S. Congress had already approved. The decision came after a meeting that included President Donald Trump, top U.S. Treasury officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the administration’s budget leaders, according to sources. While a full blown rescission package appears to be off the table, U.S. aid advocates are still watching closely to see whether funding that the administration had frozen for evaluation will start flowing again — and whether any specific programs will still see cuts. Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat from California, pledged to investigate the negative impact of the back and forth over funding on U.S. development programs. “I'm concerned about the impact the rescission exercise had on our programs and will continue to look into this in my role as Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of [the House Foreign Affairs Committee],” he wrote on Twitter.

About the author

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    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.