The World Bank's fossil fuel pledge, a deadly attack in DRC, and pleas for pressure on Syria: This week in development

The United Nations flag at half-mast at the U.N. headquarters in New York in honor of the U.N. peacekeepers who lost their lives while serving with the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo by: Mark Garten / U.N.

A deadly attack on peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Bank’s fossil fuel pledge, and UNICEF’s digital technology concerns. This week in development.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced this week that his institution will no longer finance upstream oil and gas projects after 2019. Kim unveiled the new policy at the One Planet climate summit in Paris, which the French government hosted to signal commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement two years after it was forged — and in the wake of the Trump administration’s opposition to that pact. The bank’s new policy is aimed at aligning the institution’s lending practices with the Paris Agreement’s goals, Kim said, and it was widely lauded by environmental and energy access advocates who want to see the World Bank help lead a global economic pivot away from fossil fuel-based energy. The Trump administration does not share that goal, and Kim’s announcement sets up a potential showdown between the World Bank and the United States, its largest shareholder. Earlier this year the Trump administration issued new guidance through the Treasury Department, encouraging multilateral development banks to consider coal power projects in developing countries. Last month, at the international climate talks in Bonn, Germany, Trump administration officials and energy industry representatives joined forces to denounce the “anti-fossil bias” that they perceive among development finance institutions.

With the One Planet summit underway, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Commission announced that they will spend $600 million on research to help smallholder farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The growth of digital technology offers young people many new educational opportunities, but it also presents safety risks, and exposes access gaps, the United Nations Children’s Fund shared this week in its annual State of the World’s Children report. Youth — aged 15 to 24 — are the most connected age group, with 71 percent online worldwide, meaning one in three internet users is a child. But one-third of the world’s youth — or 346 million — are not online, pointing to the inequities that the internet may be exacerbating. The report argues that governments and the private sector should keep up with the pace of change, with policies and efforts to provide all children with affordable access to online resources and digital literacy, while also protecting their online identities and safeguarding them from abuse, cyberbullying, and exploitation. This marks the first time that UNICEF has addressed digital technology in its annual state of the world report.

An attack on U.N. peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo left at least 14 dead and 53 wounded. Secretary-General António Guterres called this the worst attack in the organization’s recent history. The peacekeepers, who were from Tanzania, were tasked with protecting civilians in the province of North Kivu when an armed militia group called the Allied Democratic Forces mounted the attack that also killed five members of the DRC’s armed forces. The DRC is currently experiencing the largest displacement crisis in Africa and the U.N. has only received $390 million of its $812 million funding target for 2017.

In a plea to governments to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, U.K. Department for International Development Minister Alistair Burt warned that regime forces in East Ghouta, Syria, are making “aid a weapon of war by restricting humanitarian access to the besieged population,” putting more than 400,000 Syrians at risk of starvation. Reports from UNICEF added that in the past three months the ostensible “de-escalation zone” has seen the worst shelling and most humanitarian need than any other time in the seven-year conflict. Turkey, Russia, and Iran, along with forces fighting on behalf of the Assad regime agreed to a ceasefire in the region in September, with Turkey, Russia, and Iran acting as guarantors on the ground. Yet, regime forces closed all commercial entry points into East Ghouta on Oct. 3, and continue to reject even deliveries of food and medical aid that had already received clearance.

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.