Trump waffles on climate change, while Zika gets reclassifed: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 24 November 2016

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. Photo by: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA

Donald Trump offers a glimmer of hope to those concerned about U.S. climate commitments, Zika virus gets reclassified from global health emergency to long-term threat, Colombia and FARC are closing in on a revised peace deal, and EU is taking steps to integrate SDGs into its foreign aid plans. This week in development news.

Donald Trump offered a glimmer of hope to those concerned about U.S. commitments to fighting climate change Tuesday when he told the New York Times he has “an open mind” about the Paris climate agreement — a deal the president-elect previously said he would pull out of. But a subsequent announcement from the Trump camp that he intends to end all NASA climate research put a damper on that cautious optimism. The U.S. space agency plays a big international role in global climate monitoring and Earth sciences research. Critics of the decision called it “extremely short sighted.” Another Trump foreign policy pick emerged this week with the nomination of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, an Indian-American, is Trump’s first female cabinet appointment. She has little foreign policy experience, but the president-elect praised her “deal-making” skills.

The World Health Organization reclassified the Zika virus from global health emergency to long-term threat. The move is meant to pave the way for an enduring response and research effort, not to suggest a downgraded risk from the mosquito-borne virus that has spread throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, causing birth defects in thousands of cases. “We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay, and WHO’s response is here to stay in a very robust manner,” Peter Salama, WHO’s director of emergencies, told the Guardian. Not everyone agreed with the decision, which could have funding implications for organizations combatting the virus or researching vaccines. “Are we going to see a resurgence in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere?” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times. “If they pull back on the emergency, they’d better be able to reinstate it. Why not wait a couple of months to see what happens?”

The Colombian government and the FARC rebel group are closing in on a revised peace deal, after the previous deal failed to garner enough public support in a national referendum to end the longest war in the Western Hemisphere. Several changes have been made in the revised deal — including a requirement that the FARC turn over its assets to be used as reparations for victims and provide information about any drug trafficking activities they engaged in. Critics, including former President Uribe, say the changes are “cosmetic,” but supporters on social media are urging President Juan Manuel Santos to move forward — with the hashtag #PresidenteJustDoIt, the BBC reported.

The European Union is taking steps to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals more fully into its foreign aid plans with three proposals to shape the future of EU development cooperation. The EU announced a replacement for the 10-year-old European Consensus on Development, a road map for integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into all EU development cooperation and a commitment to renew EU partnership with African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries in preparation for the end of the 2020 Cotonou Agreement, Devex London correspondent Molly Anders reported. Some of the plans met criticism from European NGOs, who challenged plans to jointly tackle development and security concerns and who called the EU’s commitment to the SDGs equivalent to “repainting the front door to impress the neighbors.”

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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