Syria's hope, Zika's terror and Plan Colombia 2.0: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 04 February 2016

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (top right) addresses the donors conference entitled “Supporting Syria and the Region” in London, United Kingdom. Donor nations at the conference have pledged billions of dollars in aid for people affected by the conflict in Syria. Photo by: Eskinder Debebe / United Nations

The global development community faces emergencies on multiple fronts — and a challenge to rise to the occasion. This week in development news:

Zika is a global health emergency, according to the World Health Organization. The international body declared that the “strong association” between Zika virus infection and a “rise in congenital malformations” warrants the “emergency” label. The designation allows for a range of coordination and funding mechanisms to take effect, and many see the relatively quick decision motivated in part by criticism that the WHO did not act quickly enough in its response to Ebola. This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also confirmed that Zika can be transmitted sexually.

Pledges are rolling in to the Syria donors conference in London — $1.76 billion and $1.17 billion from Britain and Norway over the next four years, $2.57 billion from Germany by 2018 and $890 million from the U.S. in 2016. But it remains to be seen whether they’ll match the $7.73 billion funding appeal issued by United Nations agencies for 2016 to help address critical needs in a country where the price of bread has risen 900 percent. According to UNHCR’s Financial Tracking Service, the U.N. has so far received 1 percent of its requested funding. Devex reporter Molly Anders is on the scene in London. Follow her @MollyAnders_dev.

Boko Haram’s latest attack saw at least 65 killed and over 100 more injured when militants on motorcycles raided a village in northern Nigeria, opened fire on its residents and burned homes to the ground. Devex will report on efforts to counter violent extremism in a country reeling from low oil prices and seeking World Bank loans to stay afloat.

What comes next? U.S. assistance to Colombia will enter a new phase if and when the South American country brokers a peace agreement with the FARC militia group. Presidents Obama and Santos are meeting this week to hash out what the terms of cooperation might be, and more funding is expected. As Devex reported, human rights advocates are holding their breath, in hopes Plan Colombia 2.0 will look more like development and less like the fog of war.

A good week for “Power Africa.” The Electrify Africa Act, a bill that — in one form or another — has languished in the U.S. congress since 2013, passed in the House of Representatives this week after cruising through the Senate late last year. The bill helps ensure that President Obama’s Power Africa will have life beyond the current administration. Power Africa also released a new roadmap, which provides a status update and projection for the U.S. government’s effort to add 30,000 additional megawatts of power on the African continent.

Signed, sealed, and embroiled in controversy, I’m yours. The Trans-Pacific Partnership’s signing ceremony took place in New Zealand this week, another step in a complex process toward making the trade agreement international law. The TPP has wide implications for development cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, and as Devex reporter Naki Mendoza detailed, “a key sticking point of the marathon negotiations was the issue of intellectual property and data protection for biological drugs, and not everyone was pleased with the outcome.”

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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