Weekly roundup: Top international development headlines

Weekly roundup: Top international development headlines

UNICEF scales up support in 145 countries to keep children learning, Tourism – a lifeline in free fall and air pollution goes down. Here is what you missed from last week’s headlines in the international development sector:

UNICEF scales up support in 145 countries to keep children learning, as COVID-19 forces majority of schools worldwide to close

As nationwide school closures disrupt the education for more than 80 percent of students worldwide, UNICEF announced it will significantly scale up support in all countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe.

“Schools in the majority of countries worldwide have closed. It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children’s education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we’ve beaten COVID-19. In the most vulnerable communities, the impact will span generations,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education.

Based on lessons learned with the school closures in response to Ebola, the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to ever return. Giving children alternative ways to learn and also by doing so, rebuild a routine is a critical part of response.

To help curb the disruption to children’s education and keep children learning safely, UNICEF has allocated additional funding to accelerate work with governments and partners in more than 145 low- and middle-income countries. The initial global allocation of US $13 million – nearly $9 million of which is from a contribution made by the Global Partnership for Education – will be catalytic by supporting national governments and a wide range of education partners in each country to develop plans to enable a rapid, system-wide response.

Tourism – a life line in free fall

Public life in countries around the world has come to a near stand still. The drastic measures to combat the coronavirus are unprecedented but are proving critically essential.

We do not yet know the full extent it will have on human and economic costs, but there is no doubt that it will be enormous. Current estimates predict between US$2 trillion to $3.4 trillion of income loss and 25 million job cuts. For one sector, the impact is particularly catastrophic: Tourism.

Tourism is a key contributor to GDP, employment and trade. The crisis severely affects each category of the sector: Travelling for leisure and business is at the moment one of our least priorities and our ability to visit family and friends is highly restricted or even forbidden.

The fall in economic activity is already impacting thousands of tourism establishments. In most countries across Europe, restaurants are closed and many hotels around the world have seen their booking numbers plummet. As tourism is an important income provider, providing roughly one in ten jobs worldwide, this crisis threatens the jobs of millions of people. With a workforce that comprises a comparatively high share of women and young people, it will hit those demographic groups hard which are already often the more vulnerable.

Air pollution goes down as Europe takes hard measures to combat coronavirus

The European Environment Agency’s (EEA) data confirm large decreases in air pollutant concentrations — of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in particular — largely due to reduced traffic and other activities, especially in major cities under lockdown measures.


Reductions of around half have been seen in some locations. The EEA’s data are measured hourly, on the ground, at about 3,000 monitoring stations across European countries.

“The EEA’s data show an accurate picture of the drop in air pollution, especially due to reduced traffic in cities. However, addressing long-term air quality problems requires ambitious policies and forward-looking investments. As such, the current crisis and its multiple impacts on our society work against what we are trying to achieve, which is a just and well-managed transition towards a resilient and sustainable society,” said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

The EEA’s data for recent weeks show how concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant mainly emitted by road transport, have decreased in many Italian cities.

DevelopmentAid Editorials

DFI files: SIFEM closely follows the new Switzerland development strategy

In 2019, the Swiss government announced that it would narrow the focus of its international development strategy to promote greater effectiveness. The newly proposed strategy for 2021-2024 was approved by the Swiss Parliament in early 2020, after it has undergone a series of public consultations. The effectiveness driven strategy defines four thematic pillars of future Swiss aid – job creation, climate change mitigation, irregular migration and forced displacement and the promotion of peace and the rule of law. The Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets, a Development Finance Institution founded by the Swiss Government and an important element of the country’s development architecture, has increasingly invested in climate financing. In this article, part of the ‘DFI files’ series, DevelopmentAid profiles the Swiss Investment Fund for Emerging Markets and explores its growing role in climate financing.

Find out DFI files.

Here’s what else has happened

Vaccinations: Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching health services, medical goods are in short supply, and transport disruptions have left supply chains facing “historic strain”, according to the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

UK aid and Unilever: The UK government is working with Unilever to fund a global programme to urgently tackle the spread of coronavirus. The programme will reach up to a billion people worldwide, raising awareness and changing behaviour, to make sure people are washing their hands with soap regularly and disinfecting surfaces.

UNOPS: In the midst of a global health pandemic, United Nations teams around the world are supporting efforts to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). UNOPS stands ready to support efforts.

United Nations: The United Nations launched a US$2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response plan to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus from circling back around the globe.


Striking lack of progress on environmental SDGs in Asia-Pacific, reveals new UN report

There is overwhelming evidence that the Asia-Pacific region needs to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and substantially reverse current negative trends, especially those which are depleting and degrading its environmental resources, according to a new report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Read and download the report: Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020.

Coronavirus could cut global investment by 40%, new UNCTAD estimates show

A new UNCTAD analysis of how the coronavirus pandemic will affect global foreign direct investment (FDI) prospects shows that the negative impact will be worse than previously projected on 8 March.

Updated estimates of COVID-19’s economic impact and revisions of earnings of the largest multinational enterprises (MNEs) now suggest that the downward pressure on FDI flows could range from -30% to -40% during 2020-2021, much more than previous projections of -5% to -15%.

Read and download the UNCTAD analysis on Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Global FDI and GVCs.


Foromic – Reinventing Inclusion

Lima, Peru
11-13 November 2020

Foromic is an annual event organized by the IDB Group. It focuses on reinventing inclusion with creative initiatives, based on digital solutions and new business models, that have the potential to improve lives for all.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Dubai, UAE
20 October 2020 – 10 April 2021

Our once-in-a-lifetime celebration – the largest event ever staged in the Arab world – is set to welcome 190 participating countries, and millions of visitors from across the globe. Here they will experience warm Emirati hospitality at its finest, as well as the UAE’s values of inclusion, tolerance and cooperation. Youth are at the heart of the World Expo. That’s why Expo 2020 aspires to create a meaningful legacy that will benefit generations to come, both locally and globally, spanning everything from innovations and architecture to friendships and business opportunities.