Rich countries’ failed commitments deprive poor of $18bn

Published: 6th April 2011

Faltering overseas aid figures announced today are depriving poor countries of a massive $18bn worth of life-saving aid, at a time when 64 million more people globally have been pushed into poverty by the financial crisis, Oxfam warned.

The figures, from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show an $18 billion shortfall in the addition $50 billion aid promised by the G8 at Gleneagles in 2005, which they committed to provide by 2010. The G8 pledged that half of this, $25 billion, would go to Africa but shamefully only $11 billion that sum has been delivered.

Despite the fact aid figures have risen slightly compared to last year, total aid spend has increased from $119.7 to $128.7 billion, the repercussions of the current economic crisis won’t be felt until next year. For seven countries aid, as a percentage of their income levels, has actually gone down.

Max Lawson of Oxfam said, “Although many rich countries are suffering from economic hardships, poorer nations are being hit doubly hard. Cutting aid to these countries means depriving poor people of clean water, of life saving medicines, of food.

“This is small change for the rich world, but a lifeline for millions. The poorest people must not pay for the crisis caused by the superich bankers. 2010 was meant to be the year of celebration- when the promises made at Gleneagles G8 to Make Poverty History were to be met. Instead rich nations have barely increased aid and are lining up big cuts for the next few years- cuts that will cost lives.”

Oxfam estimates the $18bn shortfall could have paid for:

  • Every child in the world to go to school. Currently 72 million children in poor countries are missing out on a primary education.
  • The salaries of nearly 800,000 midwives in sub-Saharan Africa, where maternal mortality rates are the highest in the world. 
  • Life-saving mosquito nets for 1 million people, to protect them from malaria. Nearly this many people die every year from the deadly disease.

41 years ago rich countries promised to give just 0.7 per cent of their income in overseas aid, yet today only five countries do this. For richer nations, reaching 0.7 per cent of GNI spend on overseas aid, actually represents a small proportion of their overall budgets. The missing $18 billion is equivalent to four days of global military spending. Italy, the worst laggard on its aid commitments of the G8, only contributed 0.15 per cent of GNI (2.1bn Euros), yet in the last year alone the Italian government spent 4bn Euros on cars and drivers for ministry and other government employees.

Western European countries made an EU commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of their GNI on overseas aid by 2015, yet with just five years to go many, including Germany and Spain are lagging behind. The UK and Belgium are the only governments with a plan to reach 0.7 before 2015, when they'll join the group of 0.7 plus governments, including Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg, who are showing leadership by sticking to their commitments.

Lawson said “The leaders of the governments that have failed to stick to their promises must come to the table at the EU summit in June (or G8 next month if a non-EU country) to explain how they are going to get their aid commitments back on track.

“The future for the poorest people in the world looks bleak and they must not pay with their lives for the broken promises of rich countries. Aid levels must go up rapidly rather than stagnating or being slashed.”

The future for the poorest people in the world looks bleak and they must not pay with their lives for the broken promises of rich countries.

Notes to editors

In reality the shortfall is $19bn, but it is adjusted down to take account of the economic recession.

It would cost $16bn each year to ensure every child in poor countries gets the chance to go to school by 2015. The average annual salary of a nurse or midwife in Sub-Saharan African is $2500. The average cost of a mosquito net is $3.60.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institution the total global military expenditure in 2009 is estimated to have been $1531 billion.

The Italian government spent 1bn Euros on “auto blu”, cars for Ministry and other government employees, in 2010. In addition to this, other 2bn Euros were spent on drivers and other car related staff. 1bn Euros are spent for cars for special services and for urban vigilance. Italian government total spend on cars and related stuffs, in 2010 is 4bn Euros. See:

Chart of net official development assistance in 2010.



Contact information

For more information please contact Sarah Dransfield, Oxfam Press Officer on +44 (0) 1865 472269, +44 (0)7767 085636 or