Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • In light of Davos, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim reflects on the state of the global economy. Kim points out that the predicted growth of the world’s economy is lower than initially estimated and notes the “uncertain [economic] environment.” He brings up the challenges but also the potential solutions for the global economy going forward, all while emphasizing the importance of working together.
  • At a discussion of the post-2015 development agenda on Monday, 10 top UN human rights experts stressed the need to make human rights and accountability a major focus of the SDGs. The experts urged Member States to include explicit references to freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in goal 16 of the SDGs.
  • The international vaccine alliance GAVI raised around $7.5 billion to immunize around 300 million children in developing countries by the year 2020 at a donor conference in Berlin. The largest single donor was the United Kingdom, which pledged $1.573 billion. The second leading donor was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($1.550 Billion) followed by Norway and the United States.

Asia-Pacific

  • U.S. President Barack Obama concluded a three-day visit to India on Tuesday, his first visit to the country since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in. President Obama and PM Modi made announcements regarding a range of issues such as enhancing U.S.-Indian cooperation on climate and clean energy goals, incentivizing trade and investment with India while supporting thousands of jobs in both countries, increasing cooperation on nuclear trade, and stabilizing the Indian tax regime.
  • Japan and the US seem to be close to reaching a compromise on agricultural and auto-industry trade issues as officials voiced confidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is close to completion. Media report that Japan has offered to import more rice from the US, in exchange for the US agreeing to Japan’s desire to maintain its existing rice tariffs for the other member states. American negotiators, in exchange, are to drop their demand that Japan ease its rules on car imports.
  • Vietnam is set to receive up to $450 million in non-refundable aid from the European Union as of a statement by an EU official on Thursday. The EU has been one of the most important trade and investment partners for Vietnam as well as one of the country’s largest providers of non-refundable aid.  The European Union has set its commitment to increase aid from approximately $340 million in 2014 to $450 million in 2020.

Africa

  • A group of African billionaires will jointly form the African Energy Leaders Group, aimed at uniting leaders in the continent to establish public-private partnerships, increase political support and raise funding for regional sustainable energy and development. The African Energy Group will seek to abide by three pillars: “driving universal access, driving efficiency and driving renewables.” The group will see the participation of Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu and was crafted by a working group including current President of the African Development Group Donald Kaberuka and the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast Daniel Duncan.
  • International organizations continue to supply aid to Malawi after it was hit by catastrophic floods last week. Currently, more than 630,000 people are estimated to have been affected, with 120,000 of those displaced by the flood and heavy rains that hit the country’s southern district.
  • Zambians elected Edgar Lungu, a powerful member of the ruling party and a former defense and justice minister, as their next president. Lungu is expected to continue the current government’s struggle with foreign mining companies amid a number of tax disputes and a recent increase in government mining royalties from 6% to 20%.

Latin America

  • USAID and the U.S. Department of State have drafted an expanded $300 million assistance plan for Central America which will likely end up in the President’s budget next month. The plan is intended as a response to the “Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle” plan proposed by the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as a response to the recent wave of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America for the U.S.
  • The Assessing Progress in Haiti Act of 2014 was recently passed unanimously in the House of Representatives on Friday and now awaits President Obama’s signature to become law. USAID welcomes the Act which will allow for stronger assistance and reconstruction programs in Haiti. The Act will also allow for better independent auditing and evaluation of development assistance in Haiti. In addition, it will mandate the US Secretary of State to provide Congress with a “three-year Haiti strategy based on rigorous assessments” focused on current Haitian efforts in certain developmental priority areas.
  • The Inter-American Development Bank announced that it will hold its Annual Meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea, March 26-29, bringing finance officials and business leaders from its 48 member countries to discuss the economic outlook and development challenges of Latin America and the Caribbean. The summit will also address investment opportunities and the exchange of best practices between the region and Asia.

Middle East/North Africa

  • UN humanitarian assistance chief Valerie Amos allocated $100 million in additional financing for aid operations in Syria and other poorly funded crisis zones including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, DRC, Burundi and Rwanda.
  • Afghanistan’s economy has lost around a third of its value in the past year as international aid organizations have drastically scaled back after Western forces ended their 13-year war against the Taliban. According to the World Bank predictions, economic growth that was above 14 percent in 2012 will fall to just 1.4 percent this year.  Fear around the state of the economy now rivals security concerns in the country.

Europe

  • Former chief of the EU delegation in Turkey stated that the rule of law in this country had significantly moved away from the EU standards during the last twelve months. This was due to political aspects, such as rule of law, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the media, but also technical aspects, including public procurement and competition policy.
  • Ukraine will be on the receiving end of US$2 billion following an agreement signed by the United States on Wednesday which will provide for “near-term social spending” in 2015. The United States has also affirmed that it will increase economic sanctions against Russia if needed. Similar to other aid deals, this one will depend on Ukraine’s ability to continue meeting fiscal and anti-corruption reforms in addition to abiding by conditions imposed by a loan program in the country provided by the International Monetary Fund.

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