The 2009 overseas aid figures, released today, show that rich countries are failing to deliver on their promises to poorer countries.
Today's figures, from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that although there has been a fraction of an increase in total aid, from $122 to $123 billion, the amount of aid has actually fallen by $3.5 billion when compared with last year’s prices. This comes at a time when the World Bank forecasts that 50,000 more children in Sub-Saharan countries may have died this year because of the financial crisis.
Max Lawson of Oxfam said: “This lackluster performance from donors is not close to meeting the needs of poor countries, who are suffering now from the impact of the economic crisis. It is a scandal that more than half of rich nations have cut their aid this year and are giving less of their income than last year – just 31 cents in every hundred dollars."
Forty years ago* rich countries pledged to spend 0.7 per cent of their annual national incomes in development aid. And so far, just five nations, all European – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – have actually reached the target.
Today's figures show that some donors have increased aid, demonstrating that even in hard economic times this is possible where there is political will to meet international commitments.
Lawson said, “Whilst some countries like the UK and Belgium have made efforts to increase aid, others are really letting the side down. Italy’s aid spending has plunged by a massive 31 per cent, Ireland’s by 18.9 per cent, Germany's by 12 per cent, Japan by 10.7 per cent and Canada by 9.5 per cent."
"Its crunch time. More aid is vital now to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and world leaders must rebuild their credibility on the global stage before its too late. All rich countries must commit to timetables to meet 0.7, backed by national binding legislation, when they meet at the UN summit in September to review their progress on MDGs."
Delivered well, aid saves lives. In Nepal development aid has been pivotal in dramatically improving healthcare, with a series of reforms including abolishing health fees. Since 2006 the under-five mortality rate has reduced by 22 per cent, neo-natal mortality by 38 per cent and maternal mortality has fallen by 19 per cent. In fact maternal mortality has now fallen by 58 per cent in the country since 1996 - a towering success.
New research published on Monday** revealed that maternal deaths have fallen worldwide, from over half a million a year in 1980 to less than 350,000 in 2008.
“The heartening fall in global maternal mortality comes in large part because of well-targeted aid spending. It is unconscionable for rich countries to fail on aid promises when there are such rich rewards to be won in the fight against poverty,” said Lawson.
A new Oxfam report, "21st Century Aid," recognizing success and tackling failure, to be published later this month, will call on donors to meet their aid commitments, and do more to improve quality of aid. Oxfam is calling for donors to commit to legally binding legislation and national timetables to reach at least 0.7 per cent of their national income in aid, and ensure all aid is aimed at meeting poverty reduction goals.
Notes to editors
* In 1970 the UN General Assembly committed to providing 0.7% of Gross national product in aid. This was recommitted to by rich countries attending the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development, and at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles in 2005 where European members of the G8 also recommitted to reaching the 0.7% target, by 2015.
**According to a study published in the Lancet.
- Aid levels from G8 member countries Canada and Japan have dropped, by 10.2 per cent and 9.5 per cent respectively.
- Aid from the United States registered a small increase from 0.19 to 0.20 per cent of GDP.
- The United Kingdom remains on target for its aid commitments, reporting a jump from 0.43 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 0.52 per cent in 2009.
- France has increased its aid from 0.39 per cent to 0.46 per cent of GDP.
After debt relief is deducted the increase in aid from 2008 to 2009 was better, but still way off track to meet promised increases.
European Union 15 Member States pledged to spend 0.7 per cent of their GNI on aid by 2015. EU 12 Member States committed to spend 0.33% of their GNI on aid by 2015. The collective EU target for next year is to provide 0.56% of GNI in aid by 2010. The EU is off track to meet this target.
Some donors have increased the percentage of aid given, but are actually spending less.
- Aid from the Netherlands rose slightly as a percentage of the economy, but actual spend fell by nearly $600 million.
- Spain’s aid rose from 0.45 to 0.46 as a percentage of GDP but its actual spend fell by $200 million, a disappointing record for the country holding the Presidency of the European Union.
- Although both Sweden and Luxembourg gave over 1% of GNI, the actual amount given was less than in 2008.