Weekly Round-Up

 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the second UN Conference on Land Locked Developing Countries in Vienna this week. Photo courtesy of the Austrian Foreign Ministry flickr account used under a creative commons license.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the second UN Conference on Land Locked Developing Countries in Vienna this week. Photo courtesy of the Austrian Foreign Ministry flickr account used under a creative commons license.

Asia Pacific

  • India continues to block the implementation of the 2013 World Trade Organization trade-facilitation agreement, refusing to push forward with the deal until the WTO guarantees protection of India’s massive state food purchases. It is now doubtful that a compromise can be reached before the G20 summit next week. Critics see India’s food stockpiling measures as amounting to harmful subsidies, artificially encouraging farmers to grow more food which may eventually be dumped on world markets.
  • One year after the Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, there is renewed attention on the affected areas. The UN estimates that 475,000 people are still living in unsafe or inadequate temporary shelters, some in areas considered dangerous. According to the mayor of hard-hit Tacloban, the city has only received about $5.5 million in aid from Manila despite international pledges of $1.6 billion for rebuilding in the Philippines.
  • The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will formally launch its Development Innovation Hub in early 2015 as part of Australia’s new foreign aid paradigm. The project has been in the works since being unveiled in June of this year. Australia has allocated $122.2 million in funding to encourage innovative new ways to deliver aid programs, which may open the door for private sector partners to be more active in the planning and design phase of projects.

Africa

  • In response to the armed coup in Burkina Faso, Canadian Minister of International Development Christian Paradis announced that Canada will immediately suspend development assistance to Burkina Faso. International observers, including the African Union, have condemned the coup and are calling for a transition to civilian authority.
  • Moody’s Investors Service cut South Africa’s foreign debt rating on Thursday from Baa1 to Baa2, moving the country’s rating in line with countries like Brazil and Russia. The rating was revised down on concerns about labor instability and power shortages.
  • IFC launched a $450 million initiative to spur private sector trade and investment in Ebola-Affected countries. The initiative will include $250 million in rapid-response projects, and at least $200 million in investment projects to spur post-epidemic recovery.

Latin America

  • Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Luis Alberto Moreno, signed four agreements this week to promote savings, women’s entrepreneurial activity, and the work of socially-focused enterprises that provide basic services. The agreements were signed at the Inter-American Forum on Microenterprise (Foromic), a conference of Latin American and Caribbean countries on issues related to microfinance and micro- and small enterprises.
  • Mexico rejected a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract that had been won by a Chinese-led consortium following a bidding process in which it was the sole bidder. Mexican lawmakers accused the government of unfairly favoring the group. The contract rejection comes at an inopportune time, as Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is set to make a state visit to China next week.

Europe

  • Danish NGOs may face sizable aid cuts as the government of Denmark proposed a $420 million cut to the foreign aid budget. The proposal comes in the wake of a massive influx of asylum seekers in Denmark, leading the government to propose redirecting some of the foreign aid budget towards feeding and housing refugees in Denmark.
  • On Monday, donors committed $64 million for a new EBRD led fund to support Ukraine’s efforts to reform the economy and improve its business climate. The new EBRD-Ukraine Stabilization and Sustainable Growth Multi-Donor Account (MDA) received grants from Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and the U.S., though Denmark, Japan, and Norway are considering contributions as well.
  • The Russian Central Bank spent $30 billion last month in an attempt to prop up the rouble, but the rouble took an even deeper dive Friday as concerns mount over Russia’s ability to weather falling oil prices. As conflict remains frozen in the Donbass, building economic pressure may be the best hope for prompting a negotiated solution.

Middle East

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a global campaign on Tuesday aimed at increasing efforts to end statelessness. The ongoing conflict in Syria is one of the largest sources of stateless persons in recent years, as the UNHCR estimates some 51,000 Syrian refugee children were born abroad since 2011, with 70 percent of them not registered at birth.
  • Members of Lebanon’s Parliament voted on Wednesday to extend their terms in office by more than two and a half years. The lawmakers cited a volatile security situation as justification for their term-extensions. Human rights activists as well as Lebanese citizens and foreign diplomats criticized the move for harming democracy in the country.

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • The Republican Party took control of both chambers of Congress following the November 4 U.S. elections. In the House of Representatives, members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations were re-elected and are expected to remain in their current positions. However, in the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee for State and Foreign Operations will both see leadership changes.
  • The Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) took place in Vienna, Austria from November 3-5. Participants from LLDC governments, developing countries, donor countries, and the private sector came together to discuss the development agenda for LLDCs over the next decade. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa both called for cheaper imports and more exports for LLDCs.
  • The World Bank Group recently launched its 2015 Doing Business report and rankings. Singapore took the list’s top spot, and five of the top ten most improved countries are in sub-Saharan Africa this year. There have been over 2000 reforms since Doing Business was launched 12 years ago.  Ranking national economies remains a controversial practice, despite the significant value the report offers.

 

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