Record aid spending hides a fall in assistance for Africa “back to levels of a decade ago”

Published: 8th April 2014

Big increases from some aid donors but only five achieve 0.7% promise

Oxfam today celebrated news that donors had increased their development aid spending to $134.8 billion in 2013, which the OECD says stands at the highest-ever recorded level. However aid levels to Africa dropped by 5.6% to just $28.9 billion – back to the levels they were 10 years ago.

“On the face of it, the “big picture” of more aid spending is obviously very welcome news. Poor countries have suffered two years of falling aid volumes so it is heartening today to see that donors have reversed that trend,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.

OECD member countries such as Japan (+36.6%), the UK (+27.8%), Italy (+13.4%), Spain (+3.7%) and Germany (+3%) were among those who recorded increased aid levels. So did other donors such as Russia (+26.4%) and Turkey (+29.7%). However, Oxfam is extremely alarmed that aid to the neediest sub-Saharan African countries continues to fall and that the OECD believes this trend is likely to continue.

Neediest countries losing out

“The global aid figure seems to have been beefed up by significant increases from donors such as Russia, Turkey and UAE and much of it likely going to crisis-hit countries in the Middle East. This aid is vital and much needed. But we cannot allow the overall increase in global development aid to obscure the fact that the neediest countries in other continents, like Africa, are still losing out.”

Oxfam notes that still only five donor countries have achieved the promise of spending 0.7% of their Gross National Income on aid – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and now also the UK, while the Netherlands dropped out.

The OECD said that while 17 of its ‘Development Assistance Committee’ members had increased their aid, 11 reported a decrease. Those included France (-9.8%), Canada (-11.4%), Belgium (-6.1%), Ireland (-1.9%), Netherlands (-6.2%), Australia (-4.5%) and New Zealand (although NZ’s 1% drop was due to its increasing aid program being off-set by inflation, the OECD says).

The human cost

“When countries fail to meet their 0.7% promise, their actions have a real human cost that could mean fewer programs supporting women’s rights or children’s education. Leaders need to put aid-supported initiatives at the top of the agenda, not on the scrapheap,” Byanyima said.

Later this year, OECD leadership will meet in Paris to discuss future aid commitments and a proposal that would radically alter the way countries count their international development contributions. Oxfam warned that any change to the definition of aid should be part of an effort to properly gauge development assistance, rather than merely alter the numbers in an effort to mask global cuts.

“Rich countries are casting aside their support to poor countries, and now they’re threatening to make it easier to reach minimum targets by changing the way aid money is counted. This is unacceptable to those of us who believe that a fairer world is possible,” Byanyima said.

When countries fail to meet their 0.7% promise, their actions have a real human cost.
Winnie Byanyima
Executive Director, Oxfam International

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