Stalled climate talks, Trump's new Africa strategy, and the Global Migration Compact: This week in development

A scene from the closing press conference on Global Compact for Migration held in Marrakech, Morocco. Photo by: Darem Bouchentouf / U.N.

As COP24 climate negotiations come to a close, observers remain skeptical that negotiators will resolve disagreements in time to produce an agreed rulebook before Friday night. Meanwhile, the U.S. announces "Prosper Africa" and a new USAID private sector engagement policy, while OECD-DAC members fail to reach a consensus on private sector instruments. This week in development:

International climate negotiators are entering the final stretch of a tense, two-week effort to finalize the rules that will guide implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. A few of the key issues at stake at the COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland, are ambition, finance, and transparency. After an International Panel on Climate Change report found that the differences between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming are very significant, vulnerable countries have been pushing hard for all countries to revise their nationally determined contributions with stronger commitments. Existing country-specific plans fall well short of what is required to limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees. That will require financial and technical assistance for many developing countries, and they are looking to developed countries to signal that financing will be provided — which has proven a difficult promise to extract when some major powers, particularly the United States, are turning away from climate cooperation. On Thursday, most observers were skeptical that negotiators would resolve their disagreements in time to produce an agreed rulebook text before Friday night. But there have been some positive signals, including the World Bank’s new climate targets, pledging to double its climate financing between 2021-2025.

The Trump administration announced a new Africa policy on Thursday. At an event in Washington, D.C., John Bolton, White House national security advisor, outlined three core U.S. interests in the region: advancing trade and commercial ties, countering violent extremism and conflict, and no longer providing “indiscriminate” assistance. He said U.S. engagement and aid would be more strategic and focused and that the administration would prioritize investments in certain countries or objectives. In order to improve U.S. trade relationships, the administration will negotiate bilateral trade agreements and launch a new initiative called Prosper Africa, although few details are available about what it will do specifically. Bolton said the Africa policy was prioritized because prosperity and independence of African countries are in the U.S. interest, particularly with Russia and China’s expanding influence. Bolton also criticized U.N. peacekeeping missions and said they must be reformed or risk losing U.S. support. “From now on, the United States will not tolerate this long-standing pattern of aid without effect, assistance without accountability, and relief without reform,” Bolton said. “Instead, we are pursuing a new path, one that we hope finally gets results."

The world’s top donors failed to agree to a set of permanent rules on how to count aid money spent through private channels as official development assistance. Instead, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee — which includes 30 of the world’s richest countries that collectively account for about 80 percent of global aid spending — agreed to a set of five provisional reporting arrangements, which will be reviewed in 2021 unless permanent rules are agreed in the meantime. The DAC’s work to develop private sector instrument rules, which started in 2014, was intended to incentivize donors to use ODA funds to crowd-in additional private finance for development. But civil society groups have warned that without strict rules, ODA could be used to subsidize private sector investments and lead to a decrease in overall aid effectiveness. “This risks undermining the very concept of ODA itself. We are likely to see a shift with more ODA being spent to mobilize the private sector … more subsidies to the private sector and ... less aid money going to the public and social sectors,” Samantha Attridge, senior research fellow, the Overseas Development Institute, told Devex.

The U.S. Agency for International Development launched a new private sector engagement policy this week designed to change the culture and operations of the organization as it works to help countries develop. “Private enterprise is perhaps the most powerful force for lifting lives out of poverty, strengthening communities, and building self-reliance,” USAID Administrator Mark Green wrote in a message to staff. The policy says that USAID commits to engaging with the private sector early and often, incentivizing engagement throughout planning and programming processes, expanding the use of different tools and approaches for engagement, and building a body of evidence to drive how it operates. Earlier this week, USAID also released the agency’s first Acquisition and Assistance Strategy, outlining changes to design and procurement systems promoting innovative methods of collaboration and making it easier to work with the agency, according to the strategy.

At a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, 164 of the 193 U.N. members adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. Negotiations to create the compact began two years ago in response to unprecedented levels of global migration, with the goal of creating a more orderly migration system and sharing responsibility for refugees. It was mostly uncontroversial at the time — but the Trump administration withdrew in 2017, saying the compact would “undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders.” This paved the way for Australia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, and other central and eastern European states to reject the pact — and more recently, Brazil’s incoming right-wing government announced it would leave the pact in January. The migration pact covers all types of migrants, while refugees are covered by a separate compact, which the U.N. General Assembly is expected to endorse this month. The compact — which does not have the status of a treaty and is a nonbinding agreement — establishes 23 objectives, including fighting human trafficking, tackling discrimination against migrants, and collecting more data.

About the author

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    Anne Paisley

    Anne Paisley is the Senior Manager of Editorial Planning and Production at Devex, where she oversees Devex’s newsletters, website, and editorial production team. Prior to joining Devex in 2015, Anne was the managing editor at the Center for American Progress. She has previously held positions at CNN, the U.S. Department of State, and Cambridge Associates. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and Asian studies from George Washington University, including a semester abroad at Peking University in Beijing.