Trump toys with Paris Agreement, Guterres gets a C+ from feminists, and May reshuffles her cabinet: This week in development

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo by: Mark Garten / U.N.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May reshuffles her cabinet, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres gets a passing grade on feminism, and researchers test hair samples for signs that support to Syria’s war victims is working. This week in development.

President Trump said Wednesday that the United States “could conceivably go back in” to the Paris Climate Agreement during a press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Trump said that he had “no problem” with the Paris Agreement, but does have a problem with “the agreement that the [Obama administration] signed, because as usual they made a bad deal.” It was unclear from his comments whether the “bad deal” Trump was referring to is America’s “nationally determined contribution,” which is the voluntary pledge each country makes to help achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals. Despite Trump’s claim on Wednesday that the Paris Agreement “put great penalties on us” and “would have taken away our competitive edge,” the international treaty holds no regulatory power over countries’ national energy and climate policies. The president’s suggestion that he could be open to reentering the climate accord ignores the fact that the United States has not yet formally withdrawn from them. Trump announced his intention to pull the country out of the treaty last year, but withdrawal is a four-year process that would take effect — at the earliest — the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

For the first time researchers have shown a link between a program that provides psychosocial support to adolescents affected by the Syrian war and biophysical reductions in stress hormones. Using hair samples taken from participants in a Mercy Corps program that operates in four cities in northern Jordan, near the Syrian border, the study revealed a 38 percent decrease in cortisol concentrations, which serve as a biomarker for stress. “We’ve shown that effective psychosocial interventions can have a physiological benefit, protecting the health and development of young people who live through war and forced displacement,” said Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of anthropology, health, and global affairs at Yale University, and the study’s co-author and principal investigator in a press statement.

Joint Minister for International Development and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Rory Stewart left his dual post at the U.K. Department for International Development and the FCO in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday. The aid community expressed shock and exasperation that Stewart — a former diplomat and army serviceman with first-hand experience delivering U.K. aid overseas — would consent to move away from his long-time wheelhouse. Stewart's replacement, Harriet Baldwin, arrives at DFID with a mainly defense background, as well as a record of advocating for greater use of U.K. aid to combat malnutrition worldwide. Stewart will move to a position at the U.K. Ministry of Justice.

Two major international relief organizations announced changes at the top this week. On Tuesday, the president of World Vision United States, Rich Stearns, told staff that he plans to retire. He will continue to lead the organization until an executive search firm identifies his successor. Stearns spoke to Devex shortly after his announcement, and described how he managed to help grow World Vision U.S. to achieve annual revenues of more than $1 billion. On Monday, CARE International announced that after its secretary general, Dr Wolfgang Jamann, was tapped to lead the International Civil Society Centre, the organization will be helmed by Interim Executive Director Laurie Lee, who has served CEO of CARE International UK since August 2014.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres gets a “C+” grade on feminist leadership at the international organization, according to a coalition of women’s rights organizations who reviewed the U.N. chief’s efforts over the first year of his tenure. The “Feminist U.N. Campaign” made clear that had they issued similar report cards for past U.N. secretary-generals, “they would have failed miserably,” according to Lyric Thompson, director of advocacy and policy at the International Center for Research on Women, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that released the report on behalf of the Feminist U.N. Campaign. “Guterres scored well on the things he said he would do. He appears to be a man of his word, but that is not the goal of the exercise. It’s to call out a culture of misogyny and patriarchy enshrined in the U.N. that does not serve the people,” Thompson said.

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.