Mosul reconstruction, budget hearings, and family planning: This week in development news

C.K. Mishra, India’s additional secretary in the ministry of health and family welfare, speaks at the Family Planning Summit in London. Photo by: Family Planning 2020

Mosul’s “liberation” from Islamic State control sets the stage for a long and uncertain reconstruction, U.S. Congress puts aid budgets back on a path to normalcy, and family planning gets a boost in London. This week in development.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in war-ravaged Mosul on Sunday to celebrate the city’s return to Iraqi control after a deadly nine-month military campaign to drive out Islamic State fighters. The city now faces an uncertain — and costly — path to reconstruction. The United Nations has appealed for $985 million to finance immediate humanitarian needs, while the Iraqi government is formulating a reconstruction strategy that could cost $100 billion, an effort it compares to the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe. On Wednesday the New York Times’ editorial board criticized the Trump administration’s failure to articulate a post-liberation plan for Mosul and other cities like it. “[Trump’s] proposal to greatly reduce the State Department aid budget would limit what America could do. Iraqis bear the primary responsibility for stabilizing their country, but they cannot do it without help,” the board wrote. Others pointed out that a necessary step is for Iraq to enact economic reforms to build confidence among international donors that they can support small and medium enterprises in the country without losing their investments to graft and corruption.

Tuesday’s Family Planning Summit in London raised more than $2.5 billion from donors and the private sector, but experts and observers continue to eye the remaining shortfall created by President Donald Trump’s plans to defund family planning programs and the United Nations Population Fund. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — as well as the governments of the United Kingdom, Norway and India, among others — offered significant new funds, alongside first-time family planning donors, Chad, South Sudan, Haiti and Canada. The 500-person summit also sought to tackle stubborn barriers in supply chains through new partnerships with the private sector, such as telecom company Vodafone, as well as a new $80 million bridge-funding mechanism to speed up the procurement of medications and devices.

The U.S. Congress’ budget process is in full swing — and lawmakers have so far chosen largely to ignore the harsh cuts to U.S. foreign assistance proposed by the Trump administration. The House of Representatives released a 2018 budget bill that calls for a significant reduction in foreign aid from fiscal year 2017 levels, but not nearly as dramatic as Trump’s plan, which would eliminate entire agencies and accounts. The Senate has yet to release its bill, and aid advocates are hoping it will offset some of the cuts proposed by the House. However, U.S. aid reform and reorganization remains a wide open question, and a number of think tanks and advocacy groups are seizing on the opportunity to submit their own proposals for a more effective U.S. foreign assistance architecture. The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network released their plan this week; it calls for consolidating a number of aid programs into a new “Global Development Agency.” Another proposal is expected from the Center for Strategic and International Studies later this month. Amid the budget discussions, Mark Green took another step toward becoming the next U.S. Agency for International Development administrator this week, with his nomination passing through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with unanimous support.

World Leaders representing the G-20 nations gathered in Hamburg, Germany, last weekend, where a high-profile disagreement about climate change overshadowed a range of more amicable development commitments. The Trump administration’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement led to a 19-1 split, with the United States standing as the only country among the world’s 20 major economies not to agree that the climate accords are “irreversible.” Germany used the occasion of the meeting to generate additional support for its “Compact with Africa,” which aims to spur private investment in the continent through collaboration with international financial institutions. The gathering also highlighted pandemic preparedness as an area of major concern — including for new World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who linked global health security issues to his emphasis of the need for universal health care.

The pop superstar Madonna presided over the opening of a pediatric surgery center in Malawi, which was funded by her charity, Raising Malawi. "The Mercy James Center remains not only a world-class intensive care hospital, but also a superior learning environment to train the next generation of Malawian health care workers," Madonna said at the ceremony. The hospital is named for her adopted daughter, Mercy James.

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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.