Rich countries misleading the public about overseas aid spending

Rich countries are exaggerating how much they are spending to tackle poverty and inequality in poor countries said Oxfam today. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in its annual review of development aid assistance, suggests that aid spending increased by 8.9% percent to $142.6 billion in 2016.

However, OECD data shows that rich countries are using $15.4 billion of that inside their own borders, to process and support refugees. Some donors are also starting to use aid to reward third countries to tighten up their border controls.

Oxfam’s Deputy Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Natalia Alonso, said:

“Rich countries are misleading the public. They are rebranding as “aid” the money they’re spending to process asylum claims or to pay off others to clamp down on migration. All countries are obliged to help refugees at their borders, but they must stop pretending that the costs of doing this are “aid” to fight poverty and promote development overseas.”

To make matters worse, most rich countries are still failing to meet their decades-old commitment to spend 0.7 percent of their national income on overseas aid. Just six of the 30 member OECD states - Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark, UK and Germany - have delivered on this promise.

Another alarming highlight from the OECD was that aid to the poorest countries in the world actually fell by an average of 3.9% from 2015 and was down by fully 0.7% to sub-Saharan Africa. This is happening at a time when 20 million people in sub-Saharan African countries are facing extreme food insecurity, to the point of famine in South Sudan and on the brink of famine in East Africa and around the Lake Chad Basin.

“Today 767 million people live in extreme poverty, 20 million people face starvation, and climate change is wreaking havoc across the globe, yet rich countries have dedicated, on average, just 0.3 percent of their national income to overseas aid,” said Alonso. “Development aid is key to building a safer, fairer and more prosperous world for everyone. Skimping on aid spending is in nobody's interest.”

Notes aux rédactions: 

See the OECD dataset.

OECD rules currently allow donor countries to report certain costs for hosting refugees in their own countries as official development assistance (ODA) even though this money does not help deliver on the primary aim of ODA which is to lift people out of poverty in developing countries. Oxfam is calling on the OECD to change the rules so that that in-donor country refugee costs cannot be counted as ODA.

The EU Migration Partnership Framework with African nations and its migration deal with Libya use aid as a bargaining chip to obtain agreements on tighter border controls and other measures aimed at preventing migration into Europe. More details on the EU Partnership Framework with African countries here https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/reactions/focus-reducing-migrant-arrivals-europe-ignores-impact-migration-policies-people, and on the migration deal with Libya here https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/reactions/migration-deal-libya-exposes-people-suffering-and-death.

According to the World Bank (2013) 767 million people live in extreme poverty - on less than $1.90 a day.

20 million people currently face famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria. Source UN: http://www.voanews.com/a/twenty-million-people-four-countries-face-starvation-famine-un-aid-chief-says/3760816.html

Contact: 

Matt Grainger, matt.grainger@oxfaminternational.org, desk +44(0)1865 780128, m +44(0)7730 680837

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