Trump's Central America shutdown, Rockefeller ends 100RC, and the food-conflict connection: This week in development

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a reduction of the country’s aid budget for fiscal year 2019-2020. Photo by: AAP Image / Andrew Taylor / via REUTERS

Trump's aid shutdown leaves partners scrambling in Central America, the Rockefeller Foundation cuts 100 Resilient Cities, and Australia’s aid budget underwhelms. This week in development:

The future of roughly half a billion dollars in U.S. development funding to Central America is in doubt after President Trump announced on Friday that he would cease assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Trump claims the three governments are not doing enough to prevent migrants and asylum-seekers from traveling to the U.S. border, while many development experts point out U.S. assistance is directly targeted at addressing the root causes of migration. A U.S. Agency for International Development official told Devex the cuts would impact approximately $450 million of fiscal year 2018 allocations and could also affect unspent funds from 2017. In all three countries, the largest portion of U.S. development assistance is directed to improving governance. Implementing organizations are suddenly faced with analyzing their programs to see which of them could be saved, and which would have to be scrapped in the event of a sudden and comprehensive U.S. government funding cut. “From an operational point of view, it would look like a tsunami went through and washed away quite a bit of everything that we’ve built ... together with USAID over the years,” one implementer representative told Devex.

The Rockefeller Foundation is ending its 100 Resilient Cities initiative, a high-profile climate change adaptation effort that included funding chief resilience officers in more than 80 metropolitan areas around the world, including Addis Ababa, Bangkok, and Cape Town. The initiative was launched on the Rockefeller Foundation’s centennial in 2013 by former president Judith Rodin, who made resilience a central theme of her tenure and authored a book about it in 2014. Rajiv Shah, who took the reigns at Rockefeller two years ago, previously pledged to continue supporting 100RC. On Monday, 86 of the initiative’s staffers were told their jobs would end on July 31. In place of 100RC, the foundation will open a new internal resilience office, include resilience activities in its domestic economic mobility programs, and fund a resilience program at the Washington, D.C.-based Atlantic Council, according to an update posted online.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a reduction of the country’s aid budget from AU$4.33 billion ($3.08 billion) in the current fiscal year to AU$4.04 in 2019-2020. While the cut was expected, it is still disappointing to Australian aid advocates who have criticized the government’s decision to set development spending on a path that will see it fall to 0.19 percent of gross national income in 2021-22, well below the OECD’s 0.7 percent benchmark. Even while the country is cutting its overall budget next year, assistance targeting the Pacific region will tick slightly upwards, with Papua New Guinea set to receive more than AU$512.3 million in Australian aid.

Conflict and insecurity remain the key drivers of global food insecurity, according to the "2019 Global Report on Food Crises" released jointly by the FAO, WFP, and European Union this week. “Some 74 million people — two-thirds — of those facing acute hunger were located in 21 countries,” according to the report. While overall acute food insecurity in 2018 decreased slightly to 113 million people across 53 countries — down from 124 million in 51 countries in 2017 — the report says there must be “simultaneous action across the humanitarian-development nexus to deliver a hunger-free world in the 21st century.” In order of severity, the worst food crises are currently in Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and northern Nigeria. The report attributes the “modest decrease” in hunger from 2017 to 2018 to changes in climate shocks, with populations in southern and eastern Africa, the Horn of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region experiencing fewer droughts, flooding, and temperature rises than in 2015-16.

About the author

  • 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.