The White House development summit and AIDS2016: This week in development news

Owen Ryan, executive director of the International AIDS Society, speaks at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. Photo by: Marcus Rose / International AIDS Society

Donors pledge over $2 billion to support Iraq’s liberated territories, while advocates wonder if they’ll secure enough funding to see an AIDS-free generation. This week in development news.

President Barack Obama delivered a personal, aspirational endorsement of development’s central role in U.S. foreign policy Wednesday, and he assured attendees of the White House Summit on Global Development — to nervous applause — that the U.S. government will remain the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid in the next administration. The president’s speech, which clocked in at 31 minutes, capped a day that felt like a victory lap for leaders and supporters of Obama’s major development initiatives, including Power Africa, Feed the Future, the Global Health Security Agenda, the Open Government Partnership, and others. Part of their confidence likely stemmed from the administration’s uncommon success in moving its development agenda through Congress and into law. Devex reported live from the White House summit, drawing reflections from top development agency officials, civil society leaders and advocates on the challenges presented by an uncertain political transition and the need to follow through on goals set but not yet achieved.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against people connected with Malaysia’s prime minister to seize more than $1 billion of assets, alleged to have been misappropriated from the country’s 1MDB development fund. This would be the largest asset seizure ever by the Justice Department’s anti-corruption unit, according to the Wall Street Journal, and it marks a dramatic turning point in a scandal that has created political turmoil in Malaysia. As Devex reported, one of the people believed to be central to the scandal is financier Jho Low, who, as chairman of the Jynwel Foundation, has contributed millions to development organizations, including the United Nations Foundation and Keep A Child Alive, the AIDS-fighting organization co-founded by pop star Alicia Keys. A donation to the humanitarian news agency IRIN allowed that organization to spin-off from the United Nations in 2015.

Donors have pledged more than $2 billion to Iraq for “humanitarian aid, de-mining, immediate stabilization, and longer-term recovery,” according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who briefed reporters attending the Iraq Pledging Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. The purpose of the pledges — made by the United States and foreign ministers of Canada, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, and the Netherlands — is to support the liberation of territory in Iraq from the Islamic State with funding to fill the void of public services, security and relief. “It is important to come in underneath the military liberation with the type of support for rebuilding, for health, for education, to be able to make sure that we’re not leaving the door open for a disgruntlement or the revisiting of Daesh that undoes the liberation itself,” Kerry said. He reported that 780,000 formerly displaced Iraqis have returned to their homes in recent months, while another 3.3 million remain displaced.

The 21st International AIDS Conference is underway this week in Durban, South Africa, where health professionals, country leaders and activists are comparing the ambitious goal of an AIDS-free generation with the policies and resources that have been mobilized to achieve it. Financing has not risen to meet the challenge, according to those at the center of the global effort. “What I’m seeing right now has scared me, if we continue to harbor the flattening and reduction of funding,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé told Devex in Durban. “We cannot lie to each other. I cannot see how Malawi, Zambia, even South Africa can get to 6 million people on treatment without any financial support.” As Bill Gates noted at the conference, “the largest generation in history is entering an age when they are most at risk of HIV.” Gates, delivering the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, also announced that his foundation will invest $5 billion in Africa over the next five years.

Michael Elliott, CEO of the ONE Campaign, died last week. Elliott had a long career in journalism, as an executive with Time, inc. and The Economist, among other outlets. In his remarks at the White House summit on Wednesday, President Obama referenced Elliott’s “age of miracles,” a term he coined to remind people of the gains in global health and poverty alleviation made in recent decades. Devex profiled Elliott earlier this year. He was 65 and had been living with cancer for two years.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    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.