Many agree: if we want to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, world leaders must agree on a financing strategy that addresses the needs of the least-developed countries and, most importantly, of the poorest people in these countries.
Least-developed countries, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, are the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world. They comprise more than 880 million people, but account for less than 2% of the world’s economic growth and almost half of their population live in extreme poverty. Projections show that the majority, probably the vast majority, of the extremely poor are likely to live in these countries in the future.
Governments in least-developed countries have very limited resources, which makes fighting extreme poverty an almost impossible task. In 2012, while governments in the richest countries spent on average $17,000 per person that year, governments of the poorest countries only had $181 to spend. For these countries, development aid really is vital.
But how much development aid does actually go to these countries that need it most?
Recognising the unique needs of least-developed countries, donors committed to contribute 0.15–0.20% of their national income in aid to these countries. In addition, a new target of 50% of all aid to be directed towards least-developed countries has recently been called for at the highest levels, including by these countries themselves.
A few donors prioritise the poorest countries in their aid allocation. The most impressive increase in 2013 came from Japan that boosted its aid to least-developed countries by 28%, representing three times its global aid increase, and gave more than 50% of its aid to these countries for the first time. Ireland has been giving half of its aid to least-developed countries for at least a decade. However it slightly decreased aid to these countries in 2013.
The UK, which significantly increased global aid levels by 29% and met its 0.7% commitment for the first time in 2013, increased aid to the poorest countries even more by 33%. Hence the UK also met the target of spending 0.20% of its national income on aid to least-developed countries.
However development assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable countries has been slowing down over the past few years and the majority of donors fail to meet the 0.15-0.20% target or to direct half of their aid to these countries.
Total development assistance to the poorest countries amounted to $41.8 billion in 2013, a 5% increase compared to last year but a 4% decrease compared to 2010. Like in 2012, aid to least-developed countries in 2013 represented only 32% of all development assistance and only 0.09% of the donor’s collective national income. This was a reduction from 2010.
Nineteen donors fell short of meeting the 0.15–0.20% of national income aid target and twenty-six donors allocated less than half of their aid to the poorest countries in 2013.
France fell short of meeting the 0.15–0.20% target and allocated only a quarter of its aid to least-developed countries.
Very worryingly, the US, the largest aid provider, cut its development assistance to the poorest countries by 12%, representing only 0.06% of its national income and a third of its total aid budget. Germany, the third largest donor, also cut its aid to least-developed countries while increasing its global aid budget. Its aid to the poorest countries represented less than quarter of its total aid budget and only 0.09% of its national income.
Donors must take action now to ensure they provide more and better aid and that a larger proportion of this is directed towards the least-developed countries and benefits the poorest people in those countries.
Least-developed countries are calling on donor governments to commit to a new target of 50% of all development assistance to them at the Financing for Development Conference in July 2015. If all donors had provided 50% of their aid to least-developed countries in 2013, this would have made $23.7 billion of extra support available to those countries.
As world leaders agree on new global development goals and their financing framework this year, they must ensure that the poorest countries aren’t left behind.
Donor countries can contribute to achieve this by listening to calls by these countries and, as they continue to increase aid to deliver on international targets, commit to direct half of this aid to least-developed countries and ensure this money is spent to benefit the poorest people in those countries.