There has been a steady flow of compelling development news stories in 2016. Behind the scenes of most of these stories, policymakers and development leaders are mulling critical, nuts and bolts funding decisions that impact the way development gets done.
Tracking where the finite amount of development funds are going and how they are being spent is no easy task so Devex has tried to step in and step up, focusing our development funding coverage on a range of important issues, including procurement trends of the world’s major bilateral donors, analysis of the most high-profile development challenges — such as climate change and the refugee crisis — and the new and promising sources of development finance that are changing the environment as we know it.
Here are the development funding themes that attracted the highest interest from our community and stories that were most widely read and shared in 2016.
US foreign aid strategy
It doesn’t feel like one year ago, when President Barack Obama gave his final State of the Union address where he linked global development issues to U.S. leadership and national security and praised “development workers” for confronting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
A few weeks later, Obama released his 2017 budget request, making good on his State of the Union commitment to ask Congress for money to bring about the end of malaria with a 30 percent increase over last year’s level and moving the U.S. government further toward its pledge of $3 billion over four years with a $750 million request for contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
At the White House Summit on Global Development around the middle of the year, the president said development must remain a fundamental pillar of American foreign policy, and he reminded a room full of "do-gooders" that it takes a long time to achieve difficult things. With President-elect Donald Trump soon entering the White House with a Republican-controlled Congress, the global development community is questioning what happens now.
US Agency for International Development
USAID is the world’s biggest bilateral donor and relies on a diverse group of partners around the world to accomplish its mission.
Devex yearly analyses of top USAID partners for 2015 were once again among our most widely read funding articles.
We discovered that USAID grant spending increased by 9 percent and contract spending increased by 26 percent from 2014 to 2015, while the percentage of USAID funds to women-owned contractors dropped to 4.8 percent in 2015 from 6.4 percent in 2014.
Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade
In 2016, Devex Australia correspondent Lisa Cornish reported that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was issuing larger and fewer international development contracts, illustrating a greater reliance on the private sector to deliver aid programs after a series of budget cuts, organizational and leadership changes, and an overall lack of predictability.
Despite declines in the percentage of Australian official development assistance channeled to private sector partners, contract amounts were larger in 2014-2015 than in the previous year, while six foreign companies broke into the top 15 DFAT private contractors.
UK Department for International Development
The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom raised many questions over the country’s future commitment to foreign aid and resulted in major leadership changes. More recently, Devex London correspondent Molly Anders reported that the Parliament is set to increase the cap for the U.K. government's investment in its development finance institution from 1.5 billion pounds to 6 billion pounds, and the money will most likely come from the U.K.'s current portfolio of aid programs.
Climate and food security
The election of Trump as U.S. president added an unwelcome element of uncertainty into climate negotiations that were only finally starting to yield concrete global progress. Even before the critical U.S. elections, there was some evidence that donor countries were facing difficulty fulfilling financial commitments and achieving the $100 billion a year global climate action target.
In order to inform the debate, Devex correspondent Fatima Arkin analyzed the largest multilateral and bilateral international climate funds that will help mobilize the money needed to confront climate change.
As the world grapples with rapid population growth, climate change and other serious threats to food security, the international development community is pushing for radical change across the global food and agriculture system to facilitate greater productivity, but earlier in the year we laid out some evidence that donor investments in agriculture research are leveling off, raising questions over whether or not international donors are doing enough to support long-term food security as they grapple with other competing priorities.
The rising instance of conflicts and natural disasters in recent years has driven up the need for humanitarian aid, but never before have provisions been so inadequate. Early in the year, Devex reported on the U.N.’s three interdependent challenges to sufficient humanitarian financing and what needs to be done to overcome them, namely: reduce the needs, deepen and broaden the resource base for humanitarian action and improve delivery and efficiency.
Devex reporters also descended on the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, to report on a relief system not only in need of more money, but also fundamentally in need of retooling, although nontraditional donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are pledging to help fill the humanitarian finance gap through WASH and cash transfers interventions.
Alternative development finance
The Gates Foundation, the biggest private foundation in the world and early pioneer of innovative finance models, increased its grant funding for the third consecutive year by awarding approximately $3.8 billion in grants in 2015.
Devex discovered that 14 of the top 20 awardees specialize in the health sector, four work in agriculture, and two focus on education, while five are based outside the U.S. Moving south from Seattle to Silicon Valley, this year Devex West Coast correspondent Catherine Cheney also looked at how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan might spend their $3 billion commitment to cure, manage, or end all disease. Meanwhile, Devex correspondent Adva Saldinger examined the viability and future of development impact bonds, while we also assessed trends affecting impact investing and remittances.