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From the article:
The Trump administration is proposing slashing the budget for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by almost 24 percent, with particularly steep cuts to humanitarian aid, refugee assistance and global health programs.
The proposed 2020 budget would take three funds that collectively are funded by more than $9 billion and consolidate them into an International Humanitarian Assistance fund that would be allotted about $6 billion, a one-third drop. In addition, the administration proposes cutting global health programs from $8.7 billion this year to $6.3 billion next year, a cut of almost 28 percent.
The White House budget request reflects the priorities of the administration, which has not been successful at getting its proposals past a Congress in which foreign spending enjoys wide bipartisan support. The administration submitted even deeper drops in foreign spending during each of the previous two years, and Congress largely restored them.
Development aid groups have long recommended consolidating accounts to streamline responses to humanitarian disasters. Keeping them separate and narrowly focused can hold up assistance.
“Putting three accounts into a single account would be a good idea, if it’s not used to cover cuts in collective resources by a third,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Ethics Guidance for Preparedness, Research, and Response
Presenter: Dr. Carleigh Krubiner, Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development & Associate Faculty, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
Moderator: Joseph Ali - Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Summary: The Johns Hopkins Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program, the Addis Ababa University, and the University of Zambia invite you to join a one-hour research ethics webinar. Dr. Carleigh Krubiner will present on the ethics of including pregnant women's health needs in the research agenda for Zika and other public health emergencies. Dr. Krubiner will also discuss her work on the ethical guidance to ensure that the development and deployment of vaccines against emerging pathogens fairly include the interests of pregnant women and their offspring.
Click here to watch the webinar!
From the article:
Stranded in the remote deserts of Syria near the Jordanian border lies Rukban Camp — an unofficial tent city of over 40,000 displaced people who fled from war in Syria. What began as an informal settlement in 2014 evolved over time into a complex camp with no running water, regular food supplies or access to medical care.
“I can't explain to you how bad the situation is,” Rukban resident Muhammad A’kil, 27, told The World over a smuggled satellite phone that connects to the internet for about one hour every few days. A’kil, originally from Homs, Syria, has been in limbo at the camp for four years.
“Don’t call it Rukban Camp; it's a death camp,” A’kil said.
Rukban stands out as another bitter example of how delivering humanitarian aid can often get hampered by politics.
“When aid becomes a proxy for a political struggle, it's just much, much harder to get it to the communities who need it, because one side or the other will see it as a threat,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, former director of foreign disaster assistance programs for USAID in Syria during the Obama administration.
From the article:
India’s schooling system is notoriously unequal, with wealthy private schools offering horse-riding classes often sitting near crumbling public schools. But ask any Indian parent to pick between public schools run by the federal government and those managed by states, and you’ll likely hear this answer: “the so-called central schools, please.”
Welcome to an inconvenient truth about Indian democracy. Decentralization of power is, without a doubt, essential for deepening the roots of democracy. Indian elections, from the national level down to the villages, mean the world’s largest democracy is also among its most robust, and an example for other postcolonial nations. But what if education and health standards in some states are consistently much poorer than in most union territories (UTs) — seven federally governed regions spread out across India? In those cases, it’s time for the central government to step in.
Why are the UTs outperforming states in education and health?
First, the central government simply has more funds at its disposal than any state. And successive federal governments have focused those financial resources on building top-notch educational and health institutions in the major union territories, especially Delhi, Chandigarh and Puducherry, according to Rama Baru, a professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
Officials in charge of implementing policies in many states also typically face greater political interference than their counterparts managing federal education and health programs, experts say. Because states run programs using a combination of some of their own funds and the rest from the federal government, officials in states often receive conflicting instructions, complicating their work. “The UTs have a big advantage because there is just one set of instructions to be followed,” says Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.
But there are examples from the recent past, says Mukherjee, where the central government has taken greater control of key social programs without leaving state governments feeling threatened. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, India’s mega education-for-all initiative that has helped dramatically improve school attendance this century, the central government identified 121 particularly troubled districts across the country and pumped in additional money and resources — in exchange for greater control over policy implementation. The federal government has driven India’s HIV/AIDs prevention program. “We were clear that, given the sensitivities [condoms and sex are taboo subjects in many parts of the country], many states may not take it up,” recalls Mukherjee. And at the very least, says Tilak, state institutions should pick up the stricter governance and quality norms that have made their central counterparts tick.
India owes that to its citizens.
From the article:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador—When police finally found Joselyn Milena Abarca, her body had been cut up into seven pieces and dumped across San Salvador. The 26-year-old had been a psychology major in college and a rising star in her job. She recently bought a house and a car.
But her boyfriend, Rónald Urbina, treated her like a possession. She had to ask for permission to cut her hair; he had previously tried to suffocate her to death. Rónald was subsequently arrested and charged with murdering Joselyn. (He denies all charges.)
His increasingly violent and controlling behavior, however, was allowed to fester for the 10 years they were together without any legal repercussions. That’s sadly common in a country that often dismisses crimes against women. Homicides of women in El Salvador have more than doubled since 2013 to 468 in 2017, according to the Institute of Forensic Medicine. The violence is destabilizing the country and is considered a major push factor in driving up migration to the United States. Women currently make up 27 percent of all migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics.
But while Salvadoran women’s rights advocates are trying to curb the violence and tackle the misogyny, the United States is undercutting those very efforts. The Trump administration is pulling funding from programs that support women in El Salvador and focusing funding and energy on a border wall to keep them and others out. Women seeking asylum based on domestic violence claims are now being rejected. In 2018, the United States committed only $600,000 to anti-violence programs, which was 1 percent of its aid budget to El Salvador.
Activists say one thing is clear: Slashing foreign assistance is detrimental to the work being done. “The U.S. should increase aid to the region for community-based programs that have a track record of successfully reducing crime and violence,” said Cindy Huang, the co-director of the Center for Global Development’s program on migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy. “Unlike billions for a wall, aid is a smart and cost-effective investment that will improve the security of Central Americans and the broader region.”
Some nonprofits use U.S. funding to do work specifically intended to keep people from migrating. Glasswing International’s Club for Returnees, funded through private donations and USAID, works with young women who have returned from Mexico or the United States. The organization provides trauma support, financial assistance, and referral care support. “We’ve seen real transformations take place,” de Sola said. “These women and girls are already resilient. They’re surviving every day—we just develop their skills. The more you provide them with opportunity to thrive in this context, the better they do.” Glasswing also runs clubs to equip young girls with the skills they need to navigate the daily risks they face. After one year of involvement in these clubs, nine in 10 girls could recognize signs of gender-based violence, including behaviors previously normalized, like pushing and yelling, and knew how to report it.
While there is no quick answer to El Salvador’s problem with violence against women, the United States can make a big difference by supporting anti-violence programs, Huang said, both through development assistance and diplomatic outreach. “So many threats today are transnational, from gangs to human trafficking,” she said. “They require collaboration and joint investment with other government, civil society, and private sector partners. Unfortunately, the Trump administration and other governments are dismissing lessons from the past.”
Efforts to improve violence in El Salvador won’t just help victims, but survivors, too. Joselyn’s mother, Yesenia Juárez, is still grieving her daughter’s death, but she is also spending her time creating a foundation. Set up in memory of Joselyn, the aim is to help prevent further female homicides. From schools to public institutions, she wants to ensure help is available and accessible to any Salvadoran women who need it. “I need to talk about this pain,” she said. “I have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
From the article:
WASHINGTON — At the start of the conflict in Yemen, which has now devolved into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, U.S. officials worked behind closed doors to convince Saudi Arabia’s leaders not to target humanitarian and civilian sites for airstrikes.
Those efforts largely failed due to a lack of high-level political will within the Saudi government, according to two former U.S. officials who testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
The U.S. Agency for International Development was also involved in the process — particularly in terms of identifying areas and sites that the Saudis should not target with their airstrikes.
USAID put together a list of humanitarian sites such as NGO offices and warehouses — “things that, if you looked at them from the air, you might not be aware it’s a humanitarian facility. Whereas we assume you would know what a school looks like, what a hospital looks like, and so on, and not hit those things,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who directed USAID’s office of foreign disaster assistance during the Obama administration.
“What we found was that the Saudis tended to treat anything not on the no-strike list as fair game. So then we expanded the list, and we began naming specific categories of sites, including specific road routes that were critical to the humanitarian effort,” Konyndyk said.
In 2018, Saudi airstrikes targeted and destroyed bridges along the main road from the port of Hodeida to Yemen’s capital city, Sanaa. That road served as the principal transport route for humanitarian and commercial food shipments into the country.
“They struck that despite us having specifically told them through that process not to,” Konyndyk said.
Radhya Al-Mutawakel, a Yemeni human rights activist who leads the organization Mwatana for Human Rights, pointed out that when Saudi attacks produce mass civilian casualties, there is often not even a military target nearby that might explain the collateral damage.
“People themselves were asking why we were targeted,” Al-Mutawakel said. “That’s why it’s not a matter of training, it’s a matter of accountability. They don’t care. If they care, they can just make it much better,” she said.
The United States, as a key ally of Saudi Arabia and major arms supplier to the country, has both culpability and leverage in a conflict that has left 80 percent of Yemen’s population in need of humanitarian assistance, Konyndyk told lawmakers.
Applying that leverage will require more concerted effort at the highest levels of government.
“When the Saudis are doing something we don’t want them to do … asking them nicely while continuing to sell them arms has not yielded much progress,” Konyndyk said. “The only times we have seen progress has been when, at a very high level up to and including, at times, the president himself, when they put that request forward and make clear that it will have consequences for the U.S. bilateral relationship if it is ignored, then we see movement.”
From the article:
China has one of the biggest global development footprints in the world. The only country with bigger official international finance flows is the United States.
Still, Washington spent over four times more than Beijing on Official Development Assistance. The lion’s share of China’s official money flows falls under Other Official Finance and is mostly spent on loans for projects in infrastructure, energy, and communications.
These projects are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s main vehicle for spurring development both at home and abroad. Through infrastructure investments, Beijing aims to better connect China to other parts in the world and to increase trade along the road. Five years after President Xi Jinping announced his plans for the BRI, China has spent about $25 billion on related infrastructure projects.
But to what extent do recipient countries profit from these Chinese investments? At least eight countries are at particular risk of debt distress because of project lending associated with China’s BRI, the Center for Global Development (CGD) reported in March 2018. Critics fear that China is using the loans to create dependency and gain political influence.
The China Model of Lending
Chinese money fills a gap in international infrastructure funding. So why is it causing debt and debate? For one thing, most BRI funding is based on state-to-state structures. This can create challenges for sovereign debt, with possible implications for bilateral ties.
Usually, loans are guided by standards determined by multilateral institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or multilateral mechanisms like the Paris Club. But China is not a member of the Paris Club, so it doesn’t need to inform members on its credit activities and it doesn’t have to follow any standards.
“Without a guiding multilateral or other framework to define China’s approach to debt sustainability problems, we only have anecdotal evidence of ad hoc actions taken by China as the basis for characterizing the country’s policy approach,” the CDG report concludes.
Instead of universal standards, “China generally follows local laws when it lends for development projects,” Scott Morris explains. Morris is one of the authors of the CDG report on debt among BRI countries. “This can mean high standards when local laws are strong and very low standards when laws are weak.”
The difference with loans from institutions like the World Bank, is that these institutions assess local laws and will impose their own protections if local laws are too weak. China leaves this responsibility with partner-governments and “follows whatever local laws say,” Morris says.
“China is also not as sensitive to debt sustainability issues, such as that lending terms are not strictly aligned with the country’s debt risks,” he adds. To what extend recipient countries benefit from Beijing’s loans therefore strongly depends on their own standards.
Price for Beijing
The debt problems among the BRI countries also come at a price for China. Between 2000 and 2014, Beijing spent $13 billion on actions relating to debt. With debt rescheduling it mitigates risks by extending the terms on loans.
China also carries significant risk itself when lenders default on their loans, according to Morris. Although “debt is essential for infrastructure investment,” Morris says, “large amounts of debt carry significant risks and need to be carefully managed by lenders and borrowers.”
Most importantly, the international critique is also creating a “huge problem in China,” Rudyak says. “The Chinese general public is highly critical of Chinese aid and Chinese loans.” China is not getting its money back and the country is being criticized by the international community. So why, an increasing number of Chinese ask, doesn’t Beijing spend this money on the poor at home?
Intentions and Politics
The Bretton Woods institutions “are a mirror of post-1945 and the world has changed,” Rudyak says. “But now of course the problem with the reform is that many of the countries that want to have a bigger say are not liberal democracies.”
Morris and his co-authors argue that Beijing should multilateralize the BRI in order to streamline China’s increasing efforts in international development funding and minimize debt problems. “China has valued its engagement with the multilateral institutions and as a result it’s an influential relationship. I think these institutions stand the greatest chance of convincing and helping China to improve its project and lending standards,” according to Morris.
China’s recent step to open a joint Capacity Development Center with the IMF, to train experts on policy and economics so countries can better decide whether to take up loans, is therefore an encouraging move.
From the article:
While the public debate surrounding Brexit and its impact has underestandably focused on Europe and the UK, Britain leaving the European Union (EU) could also have a major impact on distant developing nations. Some experts say that 1.7 million people living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as the result of Brexit.
The alarming figure comes from a report by the German Development Institute (GDI). The think tank says that a no-deal “hard Brexit”—and a return to World Trade Organisation tariffs—would mean that 49 vulnerable states will no longer have access to the UK market through an Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement that allows least-developed countries (LDCs) to export to the EU tariff-free. Cambodia—which relies on the UK for 7.7% of its exports—is expected to be the hardest hit.
Not everyone agrees with the findings of the report. Hannah Timmis, a research assistant for the Center for Global Development, notes that GDI assumes that LDCs would lose all preferential access to the UK market following a no-deal Brexit, with the UK applying most-favoured-nation tariffs on LDC imports. “This seems rather unlikely,” says Timmis. “The government has said that it intends to replicate the EU’s EBA scheme, which provides duty and quota-free access for LDCs, before Brexit.”
Even so, Timmis does predict damage. She also agrees that Cambodia will be worst hit, followed closely by Bangladesh, which is highly dependent on UK exports via its textiles sector which could face tariff increases of 12% if the UK applied EU most-favored nation rates following no-deal. She adds: “I argue that under the most likely no-deal outcome, countries benefitting from EU free trade agreements would suffer some loss of access to the UK, while those benefitting from unilateral preference schemes, like EBA, would enjoy trade continuity.”
Timmis argues that the process for replicating EBA would be straightforward because it is a unilateral preference scheme—which requires no negotiation with third countries—and because the 2018 Cross-Border Trade Act allows the government to introduce unilateral preferences without the active approval of parliament.