MacArthur Foundation's $100 million ideas and the Global Fund's future: This week in development news

A farmer holds up a sweet potato in Mozambique, bred as part of the HarvestPlus Reaching End Users orange-fleshed sweet potato project. HarvestPlus is one of the eight semifinalists of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. Photo: HarvestPlus / CC BY-NC

President Trump takes aim at extractive industry transparency rules, and the Global Fund’s director search zeroes in on three contenders. This week in development news.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is looking for a new director, and the board’s nominating committee on Monday announced three candidates vying to succeed Mark Dybul, whose four-year term ends May 31. Helen Clark, the former United Nations Development Programme chief; Muhammad Ali Pate, Nigeria’s former health minister; and Subhanu Saxena, former CEO of the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, will all compete in the selection process, which is scheduled during a board retreat on Feb. 27-28. One of the Global Fund director’s primary responsibilities is to lead the funding replenishment, which occurs in three-year cycles. Last year Dybul led the fund to a nearly $13 billion replenishment — including $4.3 billion from the United States — the highest commitment total since the fund’s creation in 2002. All three director candidates raise some concerns about how the Global Fund would relate to the Trump administration under their leadership, according to The New York Times.

Gayle Smith, former administrator of USAID under President Barack Obama, landed a new job less than a month after stepping down from her government role. Smith will lead the ONE Campaign, the 7 million member poverty-fighting advocacy organization co-founded by rockstar philanthropist Bono. She succeeds Michael Elliott, who died in July 2016, and interim CEO Adrian Lovett. ONE is known for being well-connected on Capitol Hill — it played a big role in pushing the Electrify Africa Act through congress — and will now see its bipartisan coalition put to the test as the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers look to cut budgets and challenge U.S. contributions to international organizations.

Oxfam America announced Thursday that Abby Maxman, the deputy secretary general of CARE International, will be the organization’s new president and CEO starting in June. Maxman will succeed Ray Offenheiser, who is stepping down from his role after more than 20 years to become the inaugural director of the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development.

President Trump signed a law Tuesday that removed a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would have required publicly traded oil and mining companies to disclose the payments they make to foreign governments. Proponents of the rule say they are losing an important tool for resource-rich communities to hold their governments accountable in their dealings with the extractives industry — and to ensure governments are using proceeds from extractives deals in responsible ways. And they argue that critics who said the rule put American companies at a disadvantage relative to foreign competitors ignore the fact that many countries have now implemented “publish what you pay” regulations. The U.S. rule had not even gone into effect by the time Trump signed its repeal — companies had until September 2018 to be in compliance.

The MacArthur Foundation announced on Wednesday the eight semifinalists for its 100&Change competition, which will award $100 million for a winning proposal to solve a single social problem. The eight semifinalists — drawn from a pool of 1,900 applicants — propose to tackle challenges ranging from educating displaced children, to river blindness, to getting children out of orphanages. The competing organizations include global development mainstays such as Catholic Relief Services and the Carter Center, as well as less familiar names such as Internet Archive, the nonprofit digital library that proposed to digitize 4 million books for wider availability. The foundation’s board will select finalists in September, who will then present their solutions at a live event at the end of the year, before the winner is announced.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nation’s rural development agency, has a new president: Togo's former Prime Minister Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo. Houngbo emerged from a pool of seven candidates and will take over leadership of IFAD in April. His tenure begins as developing countries seek greater investment in rural agriculture, and as climate change exerts increasing pressure on rural livelihoods. “We have to keep our ambition and at the same time be realistic and pragmatic,” Houngbo stated in a press statement sent to Devex. “We have to demonstrate that every dollar invested will have the highest value for money."

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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.