Weekly roundup: Top international development headlines

Weekly roundup: Top international development headlines

Will 2021 be our year? UN health agency clears COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use and WHO warns of COVID-19 ‘tipping point’. Here is what you missed from last week’s headlines in the international development sector:

Will 2021 be our year?

From political views to classifying favourite holiday movies, our world is bitterly divided. But if there is one thing we all seem to agree on, it is that the year 2020 has been an annus horribilis.

The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a health and economic crisis unprecedented in scope and magnitude. National lockdowns enforced in March and April paralyzed economic activity across the board, leaving millions of workers worldwide without jobs and wiping out nearly all the output gains of the previous four years.

A re-opening in July and August has led to a second surge of infections, especially in Europe and the United States.

While the world economy ends 2020 in better shape than many experts predicted, the long-term effects of the pandemic will continue to impact it in the future. Despite a temporary boost from fiscal stimulus measures, rising levels of poverty, inequality, and debt, falling trade and investments, and low productivity continue throwing roadblocks in the way of a robust economic rebound.

UN health agency clears COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

To speed up access to COVID-19 vaccinations in the developing world, on the eve of the new year, the UN health agency approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine for emergency use.

Regulatory experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) from around the world and the UN agency’s own teams reviewed the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and found that it met WHO’s must-have criteria for safety and efficacy – with its benefits offsetting any potential risks.

“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.

“But I want to emphasize the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere”.

The move opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine.

WHO warns of COVID-19 ‘tipping point’ as cases rise across Europe

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a “tipping point” in the fight against COVID-19, amid surging cases in Europe and the fresh challenge of a mutating virus.

“We were prepared for a challenging start to 2021 and it has been just that”, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said during a virtual press briefing from Copenhagen.

Although new tools against the disease are now available, including several vaccines, and knowledge about the virus has increased, “we remain in the grip of COVID-19”, he said.

“This moment represents a tipping point in the course of the pandemic – where science, politics, technology, and values must form a united front, in order to push back this persistent and elusive virus”, he told journalists.

Last year, more than 26 million cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the WHO European Region, which comprises 53 countries.

DevelopmentAid Editorials

COVID-19 has worsened the humanitarian crisis on Colombian-Venezuelan border

Lack of medical assistance, hunger, poverty, crime, and violence are part of everyday life for communities living on the Colombian-Venezuelan border where indigenous people and migrants are the most vulnerable groups.

Check the full article here.

Almost 2 billion people worldwide rely on healthcare facilities that do not have access to basic water services

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) report, nearly 1.8 billion people around the world have to use healthcare facilities that operate without basic access to running water.

Check the full article here.

Watchdog: Tanzanian authorities forcibly disappeared and tortured Burundian refugees

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has announced that at least 18 Burundian refugees and asylum seekers have been tortured and forcibly disappeared since late 2019, by the Tanzanian police and secret service.

Check the full article here.

Here’s what else has happened

Moderna: The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna has today been given regulatory approval for supply by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). This follows a thorough and rigorous assessment by the MHRA’s teams of scientists, including advice from the independent Commission on Human Medicines, which reviewed in-depth all the data to ensure this vaccine meets the required standards of safety, quality, and effectiveness.

WFP: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned more than 435,000 refugees in Kenya faced imminent food shortages unless new funds are swiftly received.

AfDB: The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has approved a new Gender Strategy for 2021-2025: “Investing in Africa’s women to accelerate inclusive growth.”

UK: The UK Government has today (Wednesday 6 Jan) announced a major £213 million government investment to upgrade the UK’s scientific infrastructure, with Scottish facilities to benefit.

Switzerland: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of CHF 4.5 million (approximately US$5 million) from the Government of Switzerland to provide cash assistance to vulnerable Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip.

World Bank: The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal, and the World Bank signed a $105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal.


Global economy to expand by 4% in 2021; vaccine deployment and investment key to sustaining the recovery

The global economy is expected to expand 4% in 2021, assuming an initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout becomes widespread throughout the year. A recovery, however, will likely be subdued, unless policymakers move decisively to tame the pandemic and implement investment-enhancing reforms, the World Bank says in its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects.

Read the report: Global Economic Prospects.

Call for Closer Policy Collaboration on Artificial Intelligence

A recent APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) report revealed that artificial intelligence (AI) has a role to play in mitigating both the short and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on APEC economies.

Read the report: Artificial Intelligence in APEC


The list of major upcoming events in development sector in January 2021

Track events hosted by reputable international organisations, donors, NGO’s and IFIs that bring together the biggest change-makers and stakeholders in international development cooperation. Save the date to register and attend the upcoming events in January 2021.

Download the comprehensive schedule of major online events.

Climate Resilient Food Systems for Africa: From Evidence to Action | Virtual

? 13-18 January 2021 ? 14:00 – 15:30 (Europe/Amsterdam (UTC +1))

This virtual dialogues series taps into the competitive advantages of the host institutions to convene key stakeholders to catalyze evidence-based action, which builds on earlier efforts outlined.

Global Reset: inequality and a new social contract | Virtual

? 13 January 2021 ? 14:00 – 17:45 (GMT)

This half-day conference, hosted by ODI in partnership with IrishAid brings together experts, leaders, activists, and policymakers, to discuss a pathway forward that places inequality and a new social contract at the front and centre of recovery efforts.