UK aid cuts, Myanmar's crackdown, and 'ethnic cleansing' in Ethiopia: This week in development

Health, nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene supplies provided by UNICEF to a town in Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo by: Mulugeta Ayene / UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

A quick note before we begin: This will be the last edition of the Global Development Briefing, which is evolving into something new and exciting. Next week — one year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic — we are launching Devex CheckUp, a must-read newsletter on global health.

While we are saying goodbye to GDB — which I’ve loved writing every week for the last few years! — I will soon have more news to share about big plans for Devex Newswire, our daily take on the key stories in development. I encourage you to subscribe, and stay tuned!

— Michael

Now, here’s your week in global development:

The U.K. government is hinting it could move forward with aid-spending reduction plans without ever holding a vote on the subject. The latest signals come immediately after the government’s decision to cut funding for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis by more than half.

  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Minister James Cleverly told Parliament on Tuesday that “the government is well able to listen to the mood of the House [of Commons] without the need for legislation on this issue.”

  • Gary Forster, chief executive at Publish What You Fund, wrote to Devex that the government’s position marked a shift from a lack of transparency around how decisions about aid cuts are being made to a lack of transparency around “overarching legal, policy, and strategic decisions.”

  • Sarah Champion, member of Parliament and chair of the International Development Committee, wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday that she had been warned in January that “British ambassadors in developing countries were being asked to cut their aid budgets by 50 to 70%” but that U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied those figures. “Monday’s cut to aid for Yemen confirms my worst fears – that these figures are true and not even those in the most desperate humanitarian crises are safe,” she wrote.

World leaders are condemning a violent crackdown by Myanmar’s military junta against peaceful protesters calling for the restoration of the country’s democratically elected government.

  • United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is “deeply disturbed by the increase in deaths and serious injuries,” according to a statement from his spokesman, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the “abhorrent violence against the people of Burma.”

  • The World Bank has halted payments to projects in Myanmar on requests made after the Feb. 1 coup. “The Bank may also seek a refund of funds that it deems are not required at this time for the carrying out of project activities,” the bank reportedly said in a letter seen by Reuters.

  • The U.N. has become a new battleground in the fight between Myanmar’s military leaders and deposed civilian government. The junta attempted to replace the country’s representative to the international body Sunday, but on Thursday its proposed replacement quit, leaving the current U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, still in the role.

The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region amounts to “ethnic cleansing,” according to an internal U.S. government report obtained by The New York Times.

  • “Whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased,” the report reads, describing military actions aimed at “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.”

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development is deploying a disaster assistance response team to the country to lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response. Aid groups continue to criticize a lack of humanitarian access to large parts of the Tigray region.

  • The U.N. high commissioner for human rights has called for an investigation into possible war crimes, as more reports emerge of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, and targeting of civilians.

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.