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OECD: Overseas aid rebounds to record high

Staff writer |
Overseas development aid (ODA) jumped 6.1% last year to reach a record $134.8 (€97.8) billion, according to new figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), marking a "rebound" after two years of falling donations.

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Some 17 of the OECD's 28 member countries increased their ODA spending in 2013, bringing the group's average aid spending to 0.3% of Gross National Income, although this is still less than half the 0.7% figure that developed countries have pledged to meet by 2015, reports EurActiv.

"It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing," said the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, even if she remained concerned that assistance to some of the neediest countries was continuing to fall.

Most donor activity appears to have been targeted on middle-income countries with bilateral aid to sub-Saharan Africa dropping off by 4% in real terms last year, and assistance to the Africa as a whole plummeting by 5.6%.

For the OECD's 19 EU member states, the aid increase in 2012 came to 5.2% - a full 0.42% of their combined GNI. But while the UK increased aid spending 27.8%, France's spending fell 9.8%, and in austerity-hit Portugal, ODA declined by a dramatic 20.4%.

Oxfam warned that this was far too little to meet the 2015 target, and noted that even among the big OECD-DACs (Development Aid Contributors), too much assistance was still being supplied in the form of ‘tied aid' that must be spent in the country which provided it.

"It's bad enough that most of Europe's wealthiest countries are far from reaching their aid promises but counting funding that never gets to poor countries, like debt relief and export credits, as aid is simply unacceptable," Natalia Alonso, the head of Oxfam's EU office told EurActiv.

"Clearly, the EU still has a long way to go to meet our collective commitment," the EU's development commissioner, Andris Piebalgs commented, "but measures taken by some member states show that we can deliver on our promises, even in difficult budgetary circumstances, provided the political will is there."

Some measures though may be primarily statistical, according to the OECD. While total bilateral ODA grants rose by 7.7% in real terms, around half of this figure was made up by writing off debts, many of which might anyway not have been repaid.

The longevity of some of the aid spending may also be contested. One OECD state, the United Arab Emirates now leads the ODA table, with a 1.25% score, after registering a 375.5% spike in its aid spending. This was due to financial and infrastructure contributions to Egypt – after the Muslim Brotherhood government was overthrown. Turkey meanwhile notched up a 29.7% aid increase due to the crisis in Syria.

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