The year’s top development narratives: 2017 in review

As Donald Trump cut funding for family planning and people from east Africa to Yemen ran hungry, peace eventually gained a foothold in Colombia


The year began with the inauguration of Donald Trump and the reinstatement of the ” global gag rule “~ ATAGEND, or Mexico City policy, which banned US federal funding for NGOs in countries that provide abortion services or advocacy.

When family planning funding was further reduced in April and May, concern intensified about the potential impact on maternal mortality and young people’s access to sexual and reproductive health datum. Other donor countries responded with the She Decides initiative, led by Dutch minister Lilianne Ploumen, which set out to raise $600 m( PS450m) to compensate for the deficit created by the Trump administration.

People in Brussels stage a women’s rights protest during the US presidential inauguration on 20 January 2017. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/ EPA

Setting the tone for a year when elections brought big changes in governance, Adama Barrow aimed Yahya Jammeh’s 22 -year rule in the Gambia. Jammeh, whose exit words entailed he avoided prosecution and was able to keep many assets, departed merely after mediation by west African neighbours and the threat of armed intervention.

Data compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that six European countries- the UK, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden- hit the 0.7% UN aid spending target.

Save the Children urged the British government to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia to protect children in Yemen from ongoing violations. With no improvement in humanitarian access, author Alex de Waal cautioned afterwards in the year that Britain was in danger of becoming complicit in the use of starvation as a weapon of war in the country.

A malnourished boy is weighed at an intensive care unit in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, Yemen. Photo: Khaled Abdullah/ Reuters

In a report published to coincide with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Oxfam said it was ” beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich humen are worth $426 bn, equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people.


Three UN agencies warned that Somalia was facing a “very real” risk of famine, with more than 6 million people- half the population- facing acute food insecurity. Humanitarian groups said there was a” small window” to stop a repeat of the 2011 famine, when an estimated 260,000 people starved to death in the country after a slow replies from donors.

EU commissioner Neven Mimica pledged a EUR2 25 m( PS200m) subsistence package for the Gambia, which he said was ” virtually bankrupt “. Following in his footsteps, Boris Johnson became the first British foreign secretary to visit the country.

The fallout from Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries was a recurrent topic of 2017. Photo: Rex/ Shutterstock

While Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was elected as the new head of the African Union, outgoing chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the proposed US travelling forbid on refugees from Somalia, Libya and Sudan. Morocco rejoined the AU after a row over the status of Western Sahara more than 30 years ago.

Tributes poured in for Hans Rosling, the data guru and developing champ, who died aged 68.

Famine was formally proclaimed in parts of South Sudan, and stretched aid agencies warned it was immininent in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen. David Miliband and Toby Lanzer argued that the global humanitarian system was under” unprecedented strain “.


Agencies warned that” countless lives” were at stake as they launched a major appeal for east Africa to help those facing hunger. Drought and conflict had left more than 16 million people in the region in need of food, water and medical treatment. Our podcast asked what could be done.

Ben Quinn, reporting from Burao and Hargeisa, said help was slacken to arrive in the towns and villages he visited.

People forced to leave home because of drought stroll towards a mobile medical division at an impromptu camp put in near the cities of Caynabo in Somaliland. Photograph: Kate Holt/ Unicef

In South Sudan, Simona Foltyn found aid delivery under threat from armed fighters, while agencies rebuked the country over an extraordinarily day move to raise fees for aid employees. Six aid workers and a driver were killed in the worst single attack on humanitarian staff since civil war broke out in December 2013.

International Women’s Day on 8 March included a call for a global ten-strike. In New York, the Commission on the Status of Women ended with commitments by states to advance women’s economic empowerment by implementing equal pay policies, gender audits and job evaluations.

At a protest against mining at the legislative assembly in San Salvador, a woman holds a banner read:’ No to mining. Yes to life.’ Photograph: Marvin Recinos/ AFP/ Getty Images

El Salvador made history as the first nation to impose a blanket prohibition on metal mining. Campaigners celebrated a victory for” water over gold “.

A powerful video report showed how anti-slavery activists are often the only chance of escape for the thousands of vulnerable Russians enticed from cities to the remote republic of Dagestan, where they are enslaved in rural brick mills and farms.

Medecins Sans Frontieres hailed trials in Niger of a vaccine against rotavirus as a” game changer” in the battle against the virus, which claims the lives of an estimated 1,300 children daily, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.


Bidi Bidi, in Uganda, greeted 800,000 people escaping conflict and famine in South Sudan, in the process becoming the world’s largest refugee camp. Tensions promptly rose as more new arrivals took the number closer to a million.

Four months after the peace deal that ultimately aimed Colombia’s long-running civil war, our podcast investigated how you solve half a century of bloodshed and go about build lasting peace. In a video, we followed the stories of women and couples in the Farc guerrilla army who are now free to become mothers.

Peace in Colombia meant girls from the Farc guerrilla army were able to celebrate International Women’s Day for the first time. Photograph: Mauricio Duenas Castaneda/ EPA

British MPs recommended growth secretary Priti Patel to tackle a” global learn crisis” by spending more of the overseas aid budget on education.

It emerged that international aid agencies in Nepal are paying the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to get their projects approved. Citing year-long delays, they accused the authorities of hampering the performance of their duties as the country fights to recover from the 2015 earthquake.

The World Health Organization( WHO) lauded record-breaking progress in tackling sleeping sickness, elephantiasis and other tropical diseases that affect one in six people globally.


G2 0 health ministers in Berlin called for a faster response to global health risks, such as infectious disease outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance.

Research by a coalition of UK and African campaigners showed that more wealth leaves Africa every year than enters it– by more than $40 bn.

Delegates filter into the main hallway at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa for a two-day summit. Photo: Zacharias Abubeker/ AFP/ Getty Images

Uganda and the US ended a six-year hunt for the fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army; others continued their quest for justice.


The UK held the legislative elections on 8 June triggered by the outcome of the referendum on whether to leave the EU. Despite continued sniping from the hard right, the governmental forces maintained its commitment to 0.7% of gross national income for development aid.

World Food Programme staff in Mogadishu demonstrate a biometric food aid ID system, are applied to way distribution, to British politician Priti Patel. Photograph: Kabir Dhanji/ WFP

On a visit to Mogadishu, Priti Patel announced further funding for the crisis in Somalia and Ethiopia. Against the global backdrop of ongoing food insecurity, we asked why people still go hungry.

Supermarkets in the UK pulled corned beef off shelves after the Guardian and Brazilian journalists found the products could contain meat linked to slave labour on cattle farm.


As Chancellor Merkel tried to keep the focus on her compact with Africa initiative, some ensure the G20 as marking the end of the US as a world leader, while the Trump-Putin session stole the present. The compact pairs up African countries that have committed to economic reforms with private investors for task and business development.

The British Government published its first annual report on how funds were spent through the conflict, stability and security fund which some consider a symptom of the increasing militarisation of aid.

On the eve of London’s family planning summit, Liz Ford asked if the resumption of the” global gag rule” would induce 2017 the year we lost control of the global population surge? Top officials from more than 50 countries convened at the summit, which coincided with world population day, to discuss how to rejuvenate languishing family planning efforts in places like Mbale, Uganda. Sarah Boseley reported on how Trump had effectively signed a global death warrant for women.

Aisha Mugoya Mutonyi, right, a member of the village health squad in Mbale, Uganda, administers a contraceptive to a rural woman. Photograph: Juozas Cernius/ For The Guardian

The painstaking steps in women’s long fight to access family planning and abortion, and reduce maternal mortality, are reflected in a timeline of the struggle’s landmarks.

In the Philippines, a country where fewer than 35% of women use contraceptives and discontinuing pregnancy is illegal, botched abortions kill three women a day.

Backed by Graca Machel and her fellow Elder, the Tanzanian government is introducing healthcare reforms that could revitalise its economic prospects. As the new WHO director general and the sustainable development goals seek to reinvigorate the dream of healthcare for everyone, we asked whether that ambition is achievable.

If you are old enough to carry a gun, you are old enough to be a soldier ,” Jason Burke was told when he visited South Sudan, where endeavours are being made to reintegrate Africa’s largest contingent of child soldiers into society.


South Sudanese refugees waiting to be relocated prepare to board a truck at Imvepi reception centre in north Uganda. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/ ECJ

The number of South Sudanese fleeing across the border to Uganda passed a million. A farther million have fled into Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in what has become the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, Kenyans queued to referendum in fraught elections and the president of Sierra Leone called for urgent help after a mudslide engulfed homes near the capital, Freetown. Storm Harvey’s ravaging of southern states of America predominated headlines, while in south Asia, water and mud is likewise overwhelming homes on a massive scale. Simon Tisdall wrote on the apparent hierarchy of suffering.

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