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ONE DATA Report 2016: Global instability will rise as refugee crisis puts pressure on foreign aid budgets

  • Governments must stop fatal trade-off between long-term development aid and the refugee crisis
  • Development resources risk losing ground in battle against deadly diseases
  • Multi-year planning and funding needed to ensure consistency in emergency responses
  • Pledging system in need of transparency overhaul to ensure promised aid reaches people living in poverty

Governments are failing to meet the unprecedented scale of humanitarian challenges because aid budgets in many countries are being stretched to cover the global refugee crisis, warns anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign in its report published today,  The 2016 DATA Report: A Bolder Response for a Changing World.

As the international community prepares to discuss the breadth of humanitarian issues facing the world at high-level summits in New York this week, ONE’s DATA Report analyses the impact of current crises on aid budgets.  Of particular concern are ‘in-donor refugee costs’, whereby governments support refugees in their own countries, sometimes using aid funds redirected away from their intended international poverty-fighting purpose.

The practice of counting in-donor refugee costs as part of aid risks causing deadly trade-offs between long-term development and short-term humanitarian priorities. This is putting lives in danger and heightening global insecurity worldwide. Combined, $13.9 billion (2014 prices) of reported Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been spent within donor countries in 2015 rather than on the fight against extreme poverty in developing countries, our report found.

According to the United Nations(1), in 2015 the number of people forced to leave their homes rose to a record high of 65.3 million ­– 21.3 million of them refugees. Of the 16.1 million refugees for whom the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is responsible, 86% live in developing countries, many of which are already dealing with an inadequate provision of basic services. Despite this, the UN has so far received only one-third of the funding needed in 2016 to attend to humanitarian crises.

These challenges arose just as the world focused its energies and resources on ending extreme poverty by 2030 through the new Sustainable Development Goals, and there is a limited window to tackle some of the biggest issues, including the fight against HIV/AIDS. Tremendous progress has been made against this killer disease – but the world risks a resurgence of a more virulent form if investment if not stepped up soon.

The DATA Report also details how record levels of funding pledged to address multiple humanitarian challenges have become broken promises by many governments. This, cautions ONE’s report, is an area of deep concern because it means the global community cannot fulfil its commitments to help the 900 million trapped in extreme poverty – the very conditions that fuel instability, disease, conflict and displacement.

Eloise Todd, Global Policy Director of The ONE Campaign, said: “The world is experiencing record levels of crises, yet as our 2016 DATA Report highlights, some countries are spending money intended for those living in extreme poverty within their own borders. Refugees should absolutely get the support they need, but with domestic funds, not by cutting into lifesaving development funds.

“Disasters, conflicts and diseases that are caused or perpetuated by extreme poverty will not be defeated by diverting development funds to spend at home. We need to raise enough funds to meet the great humanitarian demands that threaten our collective stability and prosperity. This means committing to multi-year funding, coordinating better with others, and tracking progress more effectively. ”

The 2016 DATA Report calls for governments to:

  • Urgently increase funding for both long-term development and humanitarian needs in developing countries, particularly those supporting refugees and fighting extreme poverty.
  • Immediately stop using development assistance to fund in-donor refugee costs and find money from domestic sources instead, and honour the poverty-reducing principles around development spending.
  • Move towards multi-year planning and funding to ensure consistency in humanitarian responses, and increase transparency so that pledges can be tracked and governments held to account.

According to the report, the UK remains a world leader in aid thanks to enshrining the commitment to invest 0.7% of national income in aid, and its focus on girls and women. Unlike other countries, it did not divert poverty-reducing aid to cover in-donor costs due to the relatively low number of refugees taken in by the country. The report also warns that while boosting trade and economic opportunities for the world’s poorest countries,  UK aid must retain its poverty fighting purpose.

Saira O’Mallie, UK Director (interim) of ONE, said: “We should feel proud that the UK remains a world leader in development, setting the gold standard by funding effective programmes that will help us defeat extreme poverty by 2030.  

“But as our 2016 Data Report shows, the donor community is actually falling short of the amount needed to really deliver prosperity and stability for those in the poorest countries.

“We welcome the Secretary of State for International Development’s commitment to ensuring the UK continues to play a leading role in global development, and will monitor carefully her new approach to make sure British aid reaches those who need it most.”


Notes to Editors

An embargoed copy of the 2016 DATA Report is available here (Password: datareport2016):


Saira O’Mallie is available for interview – please call Peter Simpson ([email protected], 07881370441) or Chris Mitchell ([email protected], 07901006799) for media enquiries.


About the DATA Report

(1)   UNHCR data – Global Trends: Forced Displacement http://www.unhcr.org/576408cd7.pdf

About The ONE Campaign

  • ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organisation of more than 7 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, we raise public awareness and press political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programmes.