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14th Apr 2024

EU tops donor chart, but aid to poorest slumps

  • Sudanese women: EU development aid is up on 2013, but well away from its 0.7% target (Photo: Arsenie Coseac)

The EU remains the largest international aid donor, but aid to the poorest countries continued to fall in 2014, according to new statistics from the OECD, a wealthy nations' club.

Total aid amounted to $135.2 billion (€120 billion) in 2014, a mere $0.1 billion higher than the previous year, the Paris-based institute said on Wednesday (8 April).

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Of this, EU governments and the European Commission contributed a combined 0.42 percent of the bloc’s total income in 2014 - €2 billion up on the previous year, a total of €58.2 billion.

Development aid has increased by 66 percent in real terms since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals, which set out targets ranging from reducing extreme poverty and child mortality, to increasing access to water and education, were agreed.

“I am encouraged to see that development aid remains at a historic high at a time when donor countries are still emerging from the toughest economic crisis of our lifetime,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria.

For his part, EU development commissioner Neven Mimica said he is “proud that the EU has upheld its place as the world's leading provider of ODA in recent years, despite the difficult economic situation,” but he conceded that the bloc is “some way” from meeting its self-imposed 0.7 percent UN target.

Development budgets were one of the main casualties of austerity policies pursued across most of Europe, with a number of governments slashing aid spending.

Of the EU’s largest countries, France has cut its aid budget for the fourth year in a row, while Spain’s aid spending has been halved since 2011 and is now at its lowest since 1989.

Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor, singled out France and Austria for having “failed to uphold their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

“In times of ballooning challenges for the world’s poorest, it is striking that European overseas aid has stagnated,” she said.

Sweden and Luxembourg are the only EU countries to contribute more than 1 percent of their economic pie, while the UK and Denmark are the only others in the 28-country bloc to allocate at least 0.7 percent of national income to development aid.

Bilateral aid to the world’s poorest countries, which accounts for around two thirds of total aid spending, also fell by 16 percent, the OECD report added.

It said the scale of the decline was linked to ”exceptionally high debt relief” for Myanmar in 2013.

But even excluding debt relief to poorest countries, which is classified as aid, bilateral assistance still fell by 8 percent.

“Development aid remains crucial for the poorest countries and we must reverse the trend of declining aid to the least-developed countries,” said Erik Solheim, who chairs the OECD’s development assistance committee.

“OECD ministers recently committed to provide more development assistance to the countries most in need. Now we must make sure we deliver on that commitment".

Governments will convene in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in July for an international conference to agree on future development priorities and financing.

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The latest figures on development aid from European Union member states from the OECD suggest that the bloc is drifting away from commitments to deliver 0.7 percent of its gross national income in development assistance by 2015.

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