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As a strong supporter of multilateralism, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s commitment to multilateral organisations remains one of the mainstays of Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation when acting at international level. The 2030 Agenda, the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ and the attainment of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are founded upon Luxembourg’s 2018 general development cooperation strategy, entitled ‘On the road to 2030’. Thus, in 2020, as in previous years, some 30% of Luxembourg’s official development assistance (ODA) was allocated to international and multilateral organisations (EUR 119,670,040.93 in 2019; EUR 124,618,745.02 in 2020).

During 2020, multilateral cooperation played a key role in responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and was significantly strengthened, particularly in order to implement SDG 3, ‘good health and well-being’. In order to enable UN agencies to respond quickly to the difficulties encountered in this context, Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation redirected its funds intended for the partner agencies towards activities linked to combating the pandemic, as well as a readjustment of activities in line with needs, particularly through core contributions. The timelines for ongoing projects have also been revised to enable the teams on the ground to finalise the activities launched in a fully secure manner.

Global health, and in particular universal health coverage, i.e. access to health for all, and combating communicable diseases, has been one of the priorities in Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation interventions, especially at multilateral level.

Since January 2020, Luxembourg has chaired the Belgium/Netherlands/Portugal/Luxembourg grouping within the Programme Coordinating Board of UNAIDS , the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS. Luxembourg has also boosted its multiannual support to UNAIDS at a critical moment of thoroughgoing reforms and of processes for developing its new strategy. Throughout the year, Luxembourg has participated actively in working meetings involving UNAIDS and partners on the development of the Programme’s new strategy. Special emphasis has been placed on access to healthcare for key groups, in particular women and girls who are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

In May 2020, a new strategic framework agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed by Franz Fayot, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, and Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, for the 2020-2021 period. This is intended to adapt and align its sources of annual funding to the future strategy of its partner and thus allow a more sustainable impact on the ground. In addition, on 2 December 2020, a bilateral strategic meeting was held between the Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs and the new Director, in order to deepen the partnership and to exchange views on the new challenges linked to COVID-19 and the ‘lessons learned’.

In order to ensure a sustainable impact on the ground and to enable the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement the Thirteenth General Programme of Work flexibly and effectively, Luxembourg decided to sign a new strategic framework agreement covering four years (2020-2023) with the WHO, a long-standing partner of Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation. This met the WHO’s wish for greater flexibility in funds, to make responses and implementation more effective. This new multiannual partnership was concluded in a virtual bilateral meeting held on 18 June 2020, between the Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs and the Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Additionally, from 2020 to 2022, Luxembourg, represented by Dr Vic Arendt, is chairing the Special Programme supporting research in infections and tropical diseases, hosted by the WHO in Geneva. As part of our collaboration with Tropical Disease Research (TDR), in spring 2020 Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation undertook to support a regional programme to improve training opportunities for French-speaking researchers in sub-Saharan Africa.

In view of the growing needs of Francophone research in the realm of health and the importance of capacity-building in this region, Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation undertook to support this programme with a budget of EUR 705,000 for the 2020-2022 period.

Given the new global health challenges, during 2020 Luxembourg significantly increased its contributions to major partners involved in the health sector, such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. On 4 June 2020, during the replenishment of Gavi’s resources, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel announced financial support of EUR 5 million for the 2021-2025 period, i.e. an increase of 25% compared with the previous round. In order to allow access to health, and particularly vaccines, for all, Luxembourg also committed to EUR 1 million for COVAX, a global mechanism for the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In November and December 2020, Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation organised its traditional annual consultations with the Geneva-based agencies, including UNAIDS, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the WHO and the ILO, in order to strengthen its partnerships and conduct a dialogue on common strategic priorities. Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation has placed particular emphasis on the importance of the gender dimension in formulating and implementing programmes as well as the need to focus more on the key areas of digitisation and new technologies. Since the issue of Palestinian refugees is a priority for Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation, particularly in these times of health crisis, Luxembourg remains a reliable partner of UNRWA, which it is continuing to support through its health programme and its general budget.

In parallel with topics relating to global health, other thematic priorities were addressed in the annual consultations with the New York-based UN agencies in July 2020 (UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, UNCDF, UNRWA and UN Women). In this context, the renewal of the framework agreements in place was postponed to 2021 in order to allow an alignment with the strategic frameworks that are to be defined by the New York-based UN agencies in 2021. The annual consultations with UN agencies in Rome took place in February 2020.

As in previous years, Luxembourg also participated actively in the United Nations General Assembly, which celebrated its 75th anniversary online for the majority of activities. In this context, Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation was able to highlight two themes in particular. Firstly, it co-organised a forum with UNCDF, Smart Africa and Bamboo Capital Partners, on the various means by which traditional donors can encourage investment by private actors in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) established in the less developed countries. These enterprises constitute the foundation of developing countries and, as in Luxembourg, have been particularly badly affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Another area in which Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation remains very active is education. Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation took part in a conference organised by the Theirworld organisation on 21 September 2020, on the importance of financing education globally.