Dóchas Response to COVID-19: 23 April

Dear colleagues,

It is strange to think how we have all settled into a ‘new normal’, but I fear the novelty of Zoom calls and headphones may be wearing off. We hope you are all staying safe and well.

President Trump’s cancellation of critical funds to the WHO last week underline the real danger that at times of crisis the reaction is to fragment, or worse, blame others. We know the opposite is needed. Speaking at a recent Web-Conference on the response to the pandemic in Africa, President Michael D. Higgins reminded us that we need solidarity and collective action, now more than ever, if we want to shape the outcome of this crisis, not be defined by it. View the President’s speech here.

Dóchas and its members have continued to exchange ideas in relation to programming, while tracking news of the spread of the COVID virus in developing countries. Our virtual meetings included an important meeting with Irish Aid and the Humanitarian Action Working Group. Dóchas’ Institutional Funding group discussed donor reactions, which appear to be mostly positive. The Development Education Working Group also met, and the Results Working Group held a meeting earlier today. 

Key Updates from the Week

We were pleased to work with Irish Global Health Network (IGHN) and Cómhlamh to issue a press statement welcoming the Irish Government’s support to the World Health Organization. “Ireland has always demonstrated solidarity to those most vulnerable at home and abroad and we applaud the Irish government’s support to the WHO as an extension of that global solidarity. Now more than ever we need to invest in the multilateral system and work collectively – this pandemic will impact every country in the world, but not equally – we have to do everything we can to make sure the furthest behind aren’t left behind,” said our CEO. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement stating: “To date Ireland has provided €17.2 million to enable our partners – the UN, WHO, NGOs and partner countries - to respond directly to Covid-19… This is in addition to €40.7 million in planned contributions which is supporting our partners...

We were also pleased to participate in the IGHN webinar on “how NGOs are adapting to the pandemic”. Concern’s Anne O’ Mahony echoed many contributors’ concerns that: “the cure may be worse than the disease”, stressing the need to continue with ongoing programming, including livelihoods and cash transfer projects. Siobhan Walsh from GOAL also suggested that “the battle will be won or lost at the community level”. Other common themes from the discussion included the importance of local context and local responses, with MSF noting the huge resourcefulness and innovation already in developing countries. You can watch a recording of the webinar here.

Irish Aid News

During an exchange with Irish Aid and Dóchas’ Humanitarian Action Working Group, Irish Aid’s Head of Humanitarian Unit, thanked Dóchas members for the ongoing dialogue. He continued to stress that Irish Aid aims to be as flexible as possible with current partners. Its COVID response has primarily gone through the multilateral system, including the UN’s pooled funding mechanisms, but there is no likelihood of additional humanitarian funding at this stage. Irish Aid’s former Policy Director stressed that their ‘A Better World’ policy was now more relevant than ever in shaping their COVID response. Their approach will be to reach the furthest behind first in this response, both in relation to fragile states and conflicts, and the most marginalized communities including IDPs and refugees, and women and girls. It was noted that no decision has been made yet in relation to the timelines for evaluating PGIII but it will be open to all (including the HPP).

What others have been doing this week

It’s clear that many donors, including ECHO and EU delegations, have been quick to stress the need for flexibility, which has been welcomed by members. However, the lack of new funding is a growing concern, including a possible gap in funds for southern Africa. There have been a number of COVID-19 appeals launched recently. Here are a few big appeals:

• The UN launched their Humanitarian COVID appeal on 25 March for $2billion. It was 21 per cent funded as of 15 April.
• The EU intend to mobilise €20bn in funding for ‘Team Europe’s Approach’ to the COVID crisis.
• WHO has appealed for $675 million.
• DFID has launched a £544million COVID response.
• USAID is mobilizing $500 million.

The OECD DAC released preliminary ODA figures for 2019, which saw Ireland’s figure rising by 4.5% due to an increase in bilateral aid. However, on average, EU member states gave 0.3% of GNI, slightly down on the previous year, and well-below the 0.7% target. A few EU member states continue to meet the target, including the UK, with DFID re-assuring the sector last week that it expects this to continue. CONCORD’s press release stated that “now is the time to boost aid” and called for “mobilising new resources and reaching the 0.7% target” to support the COVID response.

International and Irish campaigners continue to call for the cancelling of external debt repayments to allow developing countries to manage the COVID crisis, and for the provision of emergency additional finance though grants rather than loans. Although news was welcomed that the IMF will cancel $215 million of debt payments for 25 countries over the next six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is still a long way to go. According to Financial Justice Ireland, IMF write-downs only make up 1% of all low-income country debts. Currently, over 100 organisations, including a number of Irish NGOs, have signed up to a statement calling for Global South countries’ debt to be cancelled. View the statement here.

There has been growing media coverage of the situation in developing countries, including today by President Michael D Higgins, with the emphasis on the need to show solidarity at this critical time. Please see links below to recent articles.

Looking Forward

• The Dóchas COVID-19 Response leaders meeting will take place next Wednesday (29 April) at 2.30pm, as well as the HAWG catch-up (29 April) at 12pm.
• The Communications Working Group will meet on Tuesday (28 April) at 3pm to look at how a sector wide narrative on the response to COVID-19 can be built.
• The Finance, Governance and Compliance Working Group will host a session on Thursday (30 April) at 3pm to discuss “fraud and corruption prevention, detection and investigation in challenging situations,” including insights from IFRC and GOAL’s Investigations Managers.

If you wish to participate in any of these calls, please contact niamh@dochas.ie

As the crisis moves on, we are committed to working together across the Dóchas network to articulate a collective sector response. At this critical moment for the world we want to ensure that those who shape policy hear clearly from us with one voice what commitments to leaving no one behind require. As always if there is anything you feel we should be doing to represent the sector and our members at this time please get in touch.

Take care, stay safe.

The Dóchas Team.


Articles and items of interest: