UK aid localization and a 'fast track' for the HIV fight: This week in development news

A view of the General Assembly Hall as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (shown on screens) addresses the Assembly’s high-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS. Photo by: Rick Bajornas / United Nations

United Nations member states adopt “fast track” benchmarks to achieve an HIV and AIDS-free generation. British policymakers consider the role of for-profit contractors in delivering foreign assistance, and relief organizations look for pathways to Syria’s besieged cities. This week in development.

The U.K. parliament’s international development committee has convened to examine the role of for-profit contractors receiving and implementing U.K. taxpayer-funded overseas development assistance. The hearings are a result, in part, of a petition spearheaded by the British news outlet Daily Mail, which has waged a sustained campaign against aid contracting, questioning implementing organizations’ results, compensation and profit motive. While the parliamentary committee gave no indication it would try to limit development contracting, discussions did focus on whether foreign firms could be doing more to transfer ownership of aid projects to local organizations in partner countries.

The European Commission is asking European Union countries for $4 billion of development money to spend in Africa in order to address some of the root causes compelling people to migrate. The funds would mostly be used as risk guarantees, to spur private investment in African countries and leverage additional financing at a ratio of 10-to-1, according to EC officials. In a harsher turn, African countries that do not cooperate with the EU by accepting deported migrants could see their aid cut in sectors such as trade, education, climate change and agriculture, according to the Telegraph. EU leaders will meet for the European Council in Brussels on June 28 to discuss and refine the proposals.

Three U.N. secretary-general hopefuls engaged in a debate at London’s Barbican Theatre on Friday, where questions ranged from whether or not they are feminists, to how they’d hold peacekeepers accountable for abuse, to what each sees as the greatest threats facing humanity — which gives a sense of the U.N. chief’s difficult mandate. This secretary-general selection process is being touted as far more open and transparent than in the past, and many of the questions during the debate came from public submissions via social media.

Humanitarian groups and donor countries are trying to break through to besieged parts of Syria to deliver critical food aid to towns and cities the Assad regime has cut off from aid convoys. The U.S. is trying to convince Russia to take advantage of its “air assets” and permission from the Assad regime to fly in Syrian airspace to deliver air-dropped food to populations on the brink of starvation. Assad’s defiant vow on Wednesday to retake “every inch” of Syria and increase military pressure on the rebel opposition put a damper on the peace process and increased fears of additional bloodshed.

U.N. member states have adopted a political declaration that includes a set of time-bound targets to “fast-track” the global effort to combat HIV and AIDS over the next five years and “end the epidemic as a public health threat by 2030.” At the General Assembly in New York, representatives agreed to the UNAIDS program, which sets five-year benchmarks, including fewer than 500,000 people newly infected with HIV, fewer than 500,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses and eliminating HIV-related discrimination. The high-level meeting also saw fashion designed Kenneth Cole appointed UNAIDS international goodwill ambassador.

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About the author

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    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.