IDB's president, SDG backsliding, and Trump's new anti-abortion rule: This week in development

A man explaining the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo by: Xizi Luo / CC BY-NC-ND

The Inter-American Development Bank breaks with precedent, the Gates foundation finds SDG backsliding, and the Trump administration proposes another expansion of its anti-abortion policy. This week in development:

The Inter-American Development Bank has its first ever American president, after the bank’s governors elected Mauricio Claver-Carone, currently a member of President Donald Trump’s administration, to lead the multilateral institution. Claver-Carone’s nomination and candidacy created some controversy, including a campaign by former Central American officials to delay the election due to COVID-19 and concerns about Claver-Carone’s policy priorities. Currently senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the White House National Security Council, Claver-Carone is known for holding hard-line positions on Venezuela and Cuba. Some experts on the region worry that he could try to steer IDB toward closer alignment with the Trump administration’s Latin America policy concerns, particularly stemming migration and countering socialist governments. “Venezuela … they have to deal with the communism, the socialism, the left. So that’s the problem. When they see Central America, they do not see different countries. They see migrants,” Leonardo Paz, analyst with the International Intelligence Unit at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Río de Janeiro, told Devex. Claver-Carone has committed to serving a single, five-year term, in contrast to outgoing IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno, who has led the institution for 15 years, and will step down on Oct. 1. Claver-Carone earned votes from 30 of IDB’s 48 governors, while 16 countries abstained, marking the institution’s first election that was non-unanimous.

A Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report shows the world is backsliding on efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. According to the foundation’s latest Goalkeepers report, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to cause vaccine coverage — which the billionaire philanthropists describe as “a good proxy for how health systems are functioning” — to drop to levels not seen since the 1990s. After the first three Goalkeepers reports showed steady progress on the ambitious SDG agenda, the latest edition finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 7% increase in extreme poverty, and pushed an additional 37 million people into extreme poverty — defined as income below $1.90 per day. The World Bank estimates that figure will increase to more than 100 million. Amidst the dire projections, the Gates report did note one silver lining. As governments around the world respond to the pandemic’s fallout with economic relief measures, the Gates foundation noted that “more than 130 governments have created or improved digital cash transfer programs.” That could be a sign that financial inclusion efforts could see a boost from the urgent challenge of supplementing lost incomes or keeping small businesses afloat, while maintaining social distance from those receiving the transfers.

The Trump administration has proposed to further expand a policy that prohibits foreign assistance funding to organizations that perform or provide information about abortion. The new rule, proposed for public comment on Monday, would extend the restrictions on funding to include contracts, in addition to the grants and cooperative agreements already affected by the administration’s Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance plan. That plan, unveiled in the first weeks of Trump’s tenure, expanded the Mexico City Policy — also known as the “global gag rule” — to cover roughly $7 billion in U.S. global health funding, up from about $600 million under its previous versions. The new rule could see that policy applied to the roughly 40% of global health funding that is delivered through contracts, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Multiple reports, including a second review released last month by the Department of State, have found disruptions in health service delivery as a result of the policy. The comment period for the new rule will be open for 60 days.

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.