The World Bank's new strategy and Europe's election questions: This week in development news

By Devex Editor 20 April 2017

A view of the seminar on Emerging Markets: Resilience in a New World at the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. Photo by: Ryan Rayburn / IMF / CC BY-NC-ND

In Washington, D.C., development professionals and policymakers talk strategy at the World Bank Spring Meetings while leaders in philanthropy convene for the Global Philanthropy Forum. Meanwhile, elections approach for both France and the U.K., and food insecurity crises continue to deteriorate in four separate countries.

World Bank Spring Meetings are taking place amid a global backlash against foreign aid and multilateral organizations. But the World Bank is using this week to communicate a more comprehensive strategy that could set it up for a new era of relevance to help fragile and emerging economies create jobs, stem migration, combat climate change, and address terrorism. Today at a press conference, World Bank President Jim Kim spoke about the need to rethink climate finance, reported cuts to the U.K. aid budget, and World Bank cooperation with China. The meetings continue through Sunday and will focus on how new business opportunities can be created as the bank faces populist backlashes and cuts from its biggest stakeholder, the U.S. Catch up on our coverage here and stay tuned to our live reporting on Facebook and Twitter.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap election for June 8, nearly three years before the scheduled general election in 2020. May’s Conservative government currently holds a strong lead in the public polls, so the move is interpreted less as an electoral contest and more likely reflects May’s hope to strengthen her party’s backing for a “hard Brexit,” outline her plans for securing trade deals after the U.K.’s exit from the EU and put her own mark on the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments. On Wednesday May dodged a question in Parliament about whether or not she plans to remain committed to spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid, sparking concern among aid groups that the prime minister could open the door in the next government to repealing the mandate, possibly in favor of increasing joint aid and security spending overseas while cutting development or humanitarian assistance.

Food insecurity crises continue to deteriorate in four separate countries — Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria and South Sudan, where an actual famine has been declared — as the U.N. has cautioned that they have not received enough funding to respond to the complex humanitarian emergencies. So far, the U.N. has brought in approximately 20 percent of the necessary $4.4 billion it wanted by the end of March to help assist 25 million people in urgent need. While some international NGOs questioned the approach of linking the four distinct crises in the same funding appeal, other emerging threats to civilians in all of the conflict-laden countries are becoming increasingly apparent. In Yemen, the use of unauthorized landmines by the Houthi-Saleh rebels was noted by Human Rights Watch as a threat to draw out the country’s ongoing war. And a senior U.N. official warned that displaced women and girls in South Sudan, where more than 7.5 million require humanitarian assistance, are facing heightened risk of sexual assault.

On Sunday France heads to the polls for the first round in presidential elections that could have a dramatic impact on development policy in France and the European Union, as well as the broader multilateral order. Four of the top five candidates have committed to increasing French development assistance to meet the 0.7 percent target, albeit on differing timelines. They also differ on what issues or geographies they would choose to focus on and how they would deliver aid — be it through more grants, multilateral engagement or bilateral funds to governments. At stake is also whether French aid may be tied or conditional on the return of migrants. Devex looked at where the candidates stand and where development policy will go based on the election results.

International organizations committed to prioritize neglected tropical diseases at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland — with more than half a billion dollars worth of new support pledged in recent days — amid claims that at least one disease is nearing eradication. The World Health Organization also launched a report claiming “unprecedented” progress on tackling the group of 18 parasitic infections, with 60 percent of those in need receiving treatment for at least one NTD. These diseases affect an estimated 1.6 billion people, including 500 million children, and kill about 170,000 people annually. In 2015, the WHO estimated that $750 million a year was needed to tackle NTDs up to 2020 — about double the amount of annual funding at the time. A range of financial and other commitments, including hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding from the British and Belgian governments and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, were made or confirmed at the Global Partners Meeting on Wednesday, which kicked off the NTD Summit. Key challenges for the summit, which runs through Saturday, include the availability of affordable drugs and timely diagnostics, particularly in the absence of robust health systems, and continued out-of-pocket expenditure by patients.

Leaders in philanthropy gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to discuss the future of a sector contending with dramatic global shifts and an era of deteriorating trust in institutions. It was fitting then that this year’s theme was trust. The Rockefeller Foundation’s new President Rajiv Shah talked about the need for philanthropic organizations to help build public trust, partner better together and take big risks on change. Colombia’s Ambassador to the United States Juan Carlos Pinzón spoke about his country’s journey toward peace and what it needs now. And one panel delved into justice and conflict — from the work of the International Rescue Committee to the new initiative The Sentry, which looks to delve into the finances of the conflict value chain.

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