Oxfam today celebrated news that donors had increased their development aid spending to $134.8 billion in 2013, which the OECD says stands at the highest-ever recorded level. However aid levels to Africa dropped by 5.6% to just $28.9 billion – back to the levels they were 10 years ago.
“On the face of it, the “big picture” of more aid spending is obviously very welcome news. Poor countries have suffered two years of falling aid volumes so it is heartening today to see that donors have reversed that trend,” said Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima.
The OECD said that while 17 of its ‘Development Assistance Committee’ members had increased their aid, 11 reported a decrease. Those included France (-9.8%), Canada (-11.4%), Belgium (-6.1%), Ireland (-1.9%), Netherlands (-6.2%), Australia (-4.5%) and New Zealand (although NZ’s 1% drop was due to its increasing aid program being off-set by inflation, the OECD says).
Robert Fox, Oxfam Canada Executive Director, said: “We are disappointed to see Canada’s aid spending in 2013 cut by more than 10 per cent. While many countries are increasing aid – the UK in particular – Canada is reducing its commitment to the poorest, particularly in Africa. Only Portugal saw its aid budget fall by a larger percentage.”
OECD member countries such as Japan (+36.6%), the UK (+27.8%), Italy (+13.4%), Spain (+3.7%) and Germany (+3%) were among those who recorded increased aid levels. So did other donors such as Russia (+26.4%) and Turkey (+29.7%). However, Oxfam is alarmed that aid to the neediest sub-Saharan African countries continues to fall and OECD believes this trend is likely to continue.
“The global aid figure has been beefed up by significant increases from donors such as Russia, Turkey and UAE and much of it going to crisis-hit countries in the Middle East. This aid is vital and much needed. But we cannot allow the overall increase in global development aid to obscure the fact that the neediest countries in other continents, like Africa, are still losing out,” Biyanyima said.
Oxfam notes that still only five donor countries have achieved the promise of spending 0.7% of their Gross National Income on aid – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and now also the UK, while the Netherlands dropped out of this group.
Later this year, OECD leadership will meet in Paris to discuss future aid commitments and a proposal that would radically alter the way countries count their international development contributions. Oxfam warned that any change to the definition of aid should be part of an effort to properly gauge development assistance, rather than merely alter the numbers in an effort to mask global cuts.
“Aid is only one piece of the development puzzle but it’s a critical source of funding for health and education, water and sanitation, and support to small-scale farmers, most of whom are women. Without it, the poorest countries will never be able to lay the foundation for a healthy, educated population and a prosperous, sustainable economy.” Fox said.
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