Zika budget fights and UN transgender rights: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 19 May 2016

Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, new executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Photo by: Jan Golinski / UNFCCC

The United Nations has a new climate chief, U.N. member states block transgender groups from AIDS talks, and Yemen braces for an onslaught of locusts. This week in development news:

Roughly $600 million separates the U.S. House and Senate’s Zika virus funding plans, and both of them fall well short of the $1.9 billion requested by President Obama to combat the disease outbreak domestically and internationally. On Tuesday, the Senate advanced a $1.1 billion spending bill, and on Wednesday the House passed a bill to allocate $622.1 million for Zika, a figure the White House called "woefully inadequate,” threatening to veto a bill that does not deliver sufficient resources for research, development, and pandemic security. Now the House and Senate will have to find a funding amount they can both agree on before sending a bill to the president for his signature. Obama’s emergency funding request includes $335 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development. The administration has already transferred $589 million in remaining Ebola virus funding for use in combating Zika.

Women Deliver 2016 is underway in Copenhagen, Denmark this week, and Devex is on the scene keeping tabs on the “largest gathering on girls’ and women’s health and rights in the last decade.” The summit has already seen some major announcements, including Canadian International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau’s launch of the donor country’s public consultations on foreign aid, which Bibeau said should reinforce Canada’s commitment to putting women and girls at the center of its international assistance.

The World Economic Forum on Africa concluded last week in Kigali, Rwanda, with regional integration emerging as a dominant theme in many of the discussions about Africa’s economic future. “The continent’s current fragmentation and its inability to connect intracontinental markets remains one of the biggest inhibitors to inclusive and sustainable growth. A shocking 90 percent of Africa’s volume of trade occurs with countries outside of the continent,” Naki Mendoza wrote for Devex.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has a new Executive Secretary: Patricia Espinosa Cantellano of Mexico. Espinosa is tasked with translating the Paris climate agreement into country signatures and actions — and with reconvening UNFCCC signatories at the 22nd Conference of Parties in Morocco in November. Espinosa takes the UNFCCC reigns from Christiana Figueres, lauded for her role in producing a successful Paris outcome. Devex recently profiled the outgoing leader for Power with Purpose, a leadership recognition for the most influential women in development.

A group of U.N. General Assembly countries have blocked nearly two dozen organizations representing transgender people and drug users from participating in the U.N.’s 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS. Russia, Cameroon, Tanzania, and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation objected to the participation of 22 NGOs, effectively barring them from attending the June meeting in New York. Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, told the New York Times, “the list of excluded groups are many organizations that courageously and effectively speak to the needs of key population groups” and that ending AIDS will be impossible “without much closer involvement of key population groups in planning and delivering services.”

The World Food Programme has warned it is running out of money for food assistance to Yemen, where 14.4 million Yemenis out of a population of 26 million are considered “food insecure,” largely due to ongoing conflict between Houthi rebels and the government, backed by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia. To make matters worse, the country is bracing for an onslaught of locusts, swarms of flying insects that could pose a significant threat to the country’s farms. The ongoing civil war has thwarted Yemen’s locust control efforts, the Guardian reports.

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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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