Venezuela's first aid shipments, USAID's Palestinian layoffs, and the We-Fi summit: This week in development

Workers of Venezuelan Red Cross distribute humanitarian aid in a hospital in Caracas. Photo by: REUTERS / Manaure Quintero

USAID’s West Bank and Gaza mission braces for layoffs, Ivanka Trump joins lawmakers and World Bank leaders in Côte d’Ivoire, and the United Nations hosts a financing for development follow-up. This week in development:

The Red Cross has delivered the first in a series of planned humanitarian shipments to Venezuela, which it hopes will eventually reach 650,000 Venezuelans. The beginning of the aid effort marks both a turning point in President Nicolás Maduro’s willingness to accept outside humanitarian relief and a neutral alternative to the highly politicized aid showdown waged between the United States — on behalf of opposition leader Juan Guaidó — and the Maduro regime. U.S. efforts to distribute aid inside Venezuela have been forcefully blocked at the border. The aid shipments, which so far include medical equipment, “will be distributed in conformance with the fundamental principles of our movement, especially neutrality, impartiality and independence,” Mario Villarroel, president of the Venezuelan Red Cross, told the New York Times. “Don’t allow the politicization of this great achievement,” he said. The first aid shipments arrived shortly after Venezuela was described as the “most worsened country” on the annual fragile states index, becoming the 32nd most fragile country in the world.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is preparing to lay off most of its staff working at the West Bank and Gaza mission. The agency plans to reduce its Palestinian workforce from about 100 to only 14 under orders from the Trump administration, according to government documents reviewed by NPR. The move comes after the U.S. government cut millions of dollars of aid to Palestinians last year, and after an anti-terror financing bill that went into effect earlier this year forced additional development projects to shut down midstream. The staff reductions are seen as part of an ongoing effort by the administration to wind down an aid mission that aimed to help bring about “a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to USAID. Former U.S. officials have criticized the decision. "Even if you get big checks from the Gulf States, you will want development experts to help steer where that money goes. We won't have our own team of experts available. None of this makes any sense,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro told NPR.

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative West Africa Regional Summit brought together leaders from the World Bank, USAID, the U.S. Congress, and White House adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump in Côte d’Ivoire this week. The summit, connected with the World Bank financing facility known as We-Fi, focused on the need to change perceptions of women as risky borrowers and reduce the requirements for collateral, in order to boost financing for women entrepreneurs. It also provided an opportunity for development leaders to reaffirm their commitment to an issue that has managed to find traction with a Trump administration otherwise skeptical of global development efforts.

The Financing for Development forum at the U.N. headquarters this week was characterized by a sense of urgency and discussions of the need to act faster to mobilize the capital needed to finance the Sustainable Development Goals. From discussions about the need for integrated national financing frameworks, domestic resource mobilization, and cracking down on illicit financial flows, to how to engage institutional investors and measure impact, the meetings were a stocktaking exercise that found significant shortfalls. The meeting is seen as a key stepping stone to a summit on financing the SDGs that will be held during U.N. General Assembly meetings in September.

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.