The BUILD Act, Indonesia's early warning gap, and EU negotiations: This week in development

A view of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Photo by: MotionStudios

The European Union negotiates a new deal for poverty reduction, Indonesia asks what went wrong with early warning, and health responders grapple with dual outbreaks in Africa. This week in development:

With the passage of the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development, or BUILD Act, in the Senate on Wednesday, the U.S. gained a new development finance institution. Development experts called it the biggest change in U.S. development policy in 15 years. The new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will combine the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Development Credit Authority, add new development finance capabilities — including equity authority — and have a higher lending limit than its predecessor. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week, and then the hard work of setting up a new agency will begin, such as putting in place the right policies and frameworks, and ensuring smooth operations at OPIC and DCA until the new agency is officially open for business.

More than 1,500 people died after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, triggering deadly tsunamis and raising questions about the country’s early warning systems, as well as its response capabilities. According to the New York Times, text message warnings were never delivered, because the island’s cell towers were disabled during the earthquake. The 22 open-water buoys that should have registered changes in water level had not been operational since 2012, and beaches in the affected areas did not have warning sirens.

Health emergencies in Africa are challenging responders, with an Ebola outbreak killing 102 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a cholera outbreak killing 49 people in Zimbabwe. The Ebola virus disease outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces has continued for more than a month, with health workers struggling to get a grasp on the caseload due to instability and ongoing conflict in the region. This week saw the first Ebola cases ever to arrive at a point of entry in Uganda. Since the onset of the outbreak, 45 patients have recovered from the disease and been discharged and re-integrated into their communities, and more than 1,400 contacts remain under surveillance. In Zimbabwe, poor sewage infrastructure and sanitation are being blamed for a cholera outbreak in the nation’s capital, Harare. According to the latest WHO figures, 7,148 cases have been reported since the outbreak began on Sept. 1. An oral cholera vaccination campaign began earlier this week to support other containment efforts, such as banning street food vending and large group gatherings.

Political negotiations on a new partnership agreement between the European Union and 79 African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries kicked off in New York last Friday. Expect the EU to push for more commitments designed to stem illegal migration, an issue that Hungary took up last summer, delaying the signing of the EU’s negotiating mandate. The EU’s increasing focus on Africa has led many to suggest the ACP model is outdated and should be replaced by closer collaboration with the African Union. But Koen Doens, deputy director of the European Commission’s development arm, DEVCO, told a panel in Brussels last week: “There is no choice to be made for Europe between a relation with the ACP or a relation with the Africa Union … It’s perfectly possible to continue and develop what we already have, which is a strategic partnership between the EU and the African Union, and at the same time to pursue, to modernize, to change, the relationship we have with the 79 ACP countries. This is all the more important because … in these days, multilateralism, multilateral governance, is under pressure.” A deal needs to be reached before the existing Cotonou Agreement expires in Feb. 2020.

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.