IDB meetings derailed, 'global gag rule' expanded, and the 'Nobel Prize' for teaching: this week in development

Global Teacher Prize Winner Peter Tabichi with Crown Prince of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sunny Varkey, founder at The Varkey Foundation. Photo by: GESF

A political standoff derails IDB meetings, the Trump administration expands its anti-abortion policies, and education’s “Nobel Prize” goes to a Kenyan teacher. This week in development:

The Trump administration announced an expansion of the Mexico City policy — also known as the “global gag rule.” The U.S. government will now withhold funding from any foreign organization that provides money to other organizations who provide abortions or offer legal advice or counseling about abortions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the change on Tuesday, describing it as an effort to prevent “backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy.” On Wednesday Pompeo trekked to Capitol Hill to defend the White House budget request, which, for the third straight year, seeks deep cuts to U.S. international affairs spending. U.S. lawmakers took the opportunity to weigh in on the global gag rule changes. While some Republicans voiced approval, Democrats decried the administration’s “ultra-obsession with abortion,” noting that the policy change would likely inhibit health organizations’ ability to provide comprehensive care, and pointing out that it could undermine the White House’s own priorities around women’s economic empowerment. The budget discussions largely repeated a pattern in recent years, with lawmakers rejecting the Trump administration’s proposals to cut funding, while Pompeo spoke about having to make difficult decisions. He tried to convince Congress the United States could achieve its overseas goals with billions less in funding. Once again, Congress isn’t buying it.

The Inter-American Development Bank’s annual meetings are the latest victim of a tense international standoff over Venezuela’s political future. On Saturday, just five days before the institution’s meetings were set to kick off in Chengdu, China, IDB announced that they would not be held as planned, and that it would be recommending a new location within 30 days. The shocking announcement came after China refused to grant an official visa to Ricardo Hausmann, Venezuelan representative to the multilateral development bank designated by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. The U.S. — whose engagement at IDB is led by World Bank presidential nominee and U.S. Treasury official David Malpass — threatened to pull out of the meetings if China did not allow Guaidó’s representative to participate. China had previously requested that the Venezuelan representative’s invitation be withdrawn in order to depoliticize the meetings, but IDB’s board gave Hausmann their approval last week. China still recognizes the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Peter Tabichi, a secondary school science and mathematics teacher from Nakuru, Kenya, was awarded the $1 million Global Teacher Prize at this year’s Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The award goes to a teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession and also seeks to raise the status of the global teaching profession. This is the first year it has gone to a teacher from a low-income country. Asked what makes a great teacher, Tabichi told Devex, “It’s about creativity and using efficient methods of teaching … You can use the little you have within the environment, [such as] local materials, to do great things.” The forum in Dubai also shone a spotlight on education technology, but some experts warned that high-tech solutions risk widening the global education gap, instead of narrowing it. “We have to be realistic about technology and contextualize it … It would be amazing if [we] were able to bring AI and tablets to rural Tanzania, but is it realistic?” said Doreen Kessy, chief business officer at Ubongo, which broadcasts educational cartoons, and other storytelling resources in local African languages via radio, television, and mobile phones.

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.