A missed wake-up call: aid commitments fail to match the severity of the pandemic

Published: 10th November 2020

Rich countries at the OECD ministerial meeting on development cooperation have failed to collectively commit to a massive scale-up in aid budgets to help developing countries face the devastating and widescale impact of COVID-19. 

Reacting to the news, Oxfam’s OECD policy advisor, Julie Seghers said:

“Countries reiterated the collective promise made in April 2020 to ‘strive to protect’ aid budgets. This is simply not enough at a time of unprecedented hardship for people living in poverty around the world. The fact that a handful of countries —including France, Germany and South Korea— have committed to increasing their aid contributions shows that it is indeed possible and simply a matter of political will.”

“We applaud countries’ willingness to further engage with and support civil society organizations, a crucial signal at a time of increasing shrinking civic space around the world. Sealing this with an OECD Recommendation in 2021 —the most powerful tool in the OECD’s toolbox— will be key to translating words into action”. 

“We are pleased that countries committed to tackle inequality ‘more actively’ through their aid programs, and insisted on the vital role of aid to foster strong and resilient public services in developing countries. Investing in free and quality universal public systems is the best way to counter both the steep increase in poverty due to the pandemic and reduce economic and gender inequality.” 

“However, we are very concerned that these efforts will be hampered by donor countries’ continued push for scarce aid resources to be invested in mobilizing private finance rather than being invested in scaling up public services by building hospitals, schools and other essential services.”

Notes to editors

  • The Communiqué endorsed by members of the OECD Donor Assistance Committee (DAC) at the meeting is available here. The Communiqué reiterates a statement made in April 2020 in which they committed to ‘strive to protect’ aid budgets —available here
  • The pandemic threatens to push 500 million people into poverty according to recent estimates, with women being the most affected. 
  • In a recent report, Oxfam revealed that low- and middle-income countries have already lost out on $5.7 trillion because of 50 years of broken aid promises.
  • Oxfam calculated that OECD donor countries’ fair share of the UN’s call for $500 billion in aid to help low- and middle-income countries face the pandemic would amount to nearly $300 billion.
  • Despite the global crisis, boosting aid budgets is possible. Governments could for example shift funding from areas that do more harm than good. In 2019, governments spent more than twice as much on fossil fuel subsidies ($320 billion) as they did on aid ($153 billion). 

Contact information

Florian Oel | EU media lead | florian.oel@oxfam.org | desk +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

Jade Tenwick | EU media assistant | jade.tenwick.@oxfam.org | desk +32 2 234 11 15

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