UK Labour's aid strategy, Australia's budget, and John Bolton's return: this week in development

    John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s incoming national security advisor. Photo by: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA

    Australian aid groups worry about more budget cuts, Trump’s new national security advisor spells trouble for multilaterals, and Britain’s opposition party lays out its development vision. This week in development:

    The main opposition Labour Party in the United Kingdom released its strategy for international development on Monday. Proposing a dual focus on reducing inequality alongside the current U.K. aid mandate to reduce poverty, the strategy takes a hard line on the private sector, pledging to end all public-private partnerships and review engagement with for-profit development contractors. Labour also plans to crack down on the international tax system, with an eye toward mobilizing domestic resources in developing countries and reducing aid dependence. Finally, the strategy pledges to redirect more humanitarian funding toward crisis and disaster prevention, a move that sparked some controversy, as the number of active armed conflicts and climate-related disasters continues to rise. Labour’s strategy is expected to serve as the backbone of the U.K. aid strategy if Labour comes into power, either in another snap election or on May 5, 2022, when the next election is scheduled. Based on months of consultation with civil society and aid stakeholders, the strategy will continue to see some evolution in the following months as aid priorities shift, and Labour Shadow Secretary of State Kate Osamor told Devex Labour, “will not rule out other changes in how the U.K. spends ODA.”

    Development organizations in Australia are worried about rumors of additional cuts to the country’s foreign aid budget. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is said to be “modeling” a potential reduction of 10 percent — about 400 million Australian dollars — in funding, with cuts in assistance to Southeast Asian countries, or even entire development sectors, up for discussion. Australia’s aid leaders have so far maintained that the budget, planned for release on May 8, will uphold current foreign assistance spending levels. Some of DFAT’s implementing partners have heard otherwise, prompting a flurry of phone calls to Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator Claire Moore, who spoke to Devex about the uncertain situation. “There just seems to be too much on at the moment to make you in any way confident that this is not going to happen,” she said. The rumored cuts come on the heels of an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development review of Australia’s aid spending, which criticized the country’s depleting development budget. “The decline in aid flows, despite steady economic growth, has affected the scope of development and humanitarian programs, and we encourage Australia to find a way to reverse this trend,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, OECD’s Development Assistance Committee chair.

    United States delegates to the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women took a more “aggressive” stance on issues related to human rights, access to contraceptives and family planning, and climate change this year, according to attendees at the U.N.’s largest women’s rights gathering. “The U.S. government has put ideologues in charge of negotiating on its behalf and are trying to eliminate references to sexual rights and reproductive health, and to focus only on maternal health,” Shannon Kowalski, director of advocacy and policy at the International Women’s Health Coalition, told Devex. Negotiations at CSW lead to a set of conclusions and recommendations that advocates bring back to their countries and use to push for progress on women’s equality. This year’s negotiations focused on achieving gender equality and empowerment for rural women and girls.

    John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s incoming national security advisor, has a long history of antagonizing the U.N. and calling into question other pillars of the global development architecture. Bolton, known from his tenure as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush as an advocate for aggressive foreign policy — and for refusing to budge in diplomatic negotiations — has famously called for cutting U.S. contributions to the multilateral system. In 2016 he proposed privatizing all of the multilateral development banks, including the World Bank — but perhaps excluding “the one for Africa” — since he believes there is enough private capital to finance development projects. “The timing of Bolton’s pick could be particularly troubling at the World Bank, where negotiations for a capital infusion from the United States and other member countries are coming to a head,” wrote Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, in a blog post.

    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.