Global aid at all-time high, but who is benefitting?

This is a guest post by Sara Harcourt and Kate Vang from ONE’s policy team.

In December, just before the Christmas break, the Organisation for Economic Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) published final aid statistics for 2016.

Eva Tolange, 14, at Malinzanga Primary School in Malinzanga . On the left is Ziada Kinyunyu, 12, at the centre is Jane Malekela, 14. Photo by Daniel Hayduk.

While we previously reported on 2016 aid in ONE’s 2017 DATA Report, those were preliminary estimates by donors, missing detailed country breakdowns. The final figures show a more complete picture of how much aid is going where, and of what type and we’ve analysed the trends that we think warrant your attention.

Global aid is on the up
Global aid (from all donors who are members of the OECD DAC) reached an all-time high of $142.44 billion in 2016, an increase of 9.23% in real terms. This was equivalent to 0.32% of national income (GNI). Yet, refugee costs spent in donors’ own countries also reached an all-time high of $15.96 billion, an increase of 32% in real terms from 2015, and totalling a massive 11.2% of total ODA.

More and more aid is never leaving donor countries
This sharp increase in so-called ‘in-donor refugee costs’ over the past few years is hugely worrying, as it falsely inflates overall aid levels with money that is never leaving donor countries. In some cases, these resources are diverted from other developing countries. While refugees absolutely must be fully supported, that money should not come from the overseas aid budget.

In the case of Germany and Italy, these countries spent more money on in-donor refugee costs than they spent in the whole continent of Africa. Of the six countries which met the target of spending 0.7% of national income on ODA, half of those countries (UK, Germany and Denmark) only met the target due to in-donor refugee costs.

Aid to the poorest is shrinking
At the same time as in-donor refugee costs are skyrocketing, the poorest countries – the least developed countries (LDCs), are receiving a declining share of aid. While ODA to LDCs increased by 5.4% in 2016, largely due to aid given by multilateral institutions, the proportion of total aid going to LDCs dropped from 28% to 27%.

This is down from 33% in 2010. This is even more concerning because over 40% of people in extreme poverty live in LDCs, and these countries have the fewest resources to meet people’s basic needs.

Similarly, although aid to sub-Saharan Africa increased by 4.9% in real terms between 2015 to 2016, only 28% of aid from DAC donors went to this region, even though over 50% of the world’s poorest people live there. And while poverty is becoming increasingly concentrated in Africa, this share of aid is moving in the wrong direction – down from 32% of total aid in 2013. At the same time, Africa’s population is set to double by 2050. It’s critical that there are greater investments in education, jobs and basic needs that are targeting those countries that need the most support.

The official OECD figures can be downloaded from here.

ONE calculates figures for all DAC donors, excluding debt relief.


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