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27th Feb 2024

Aid for Ukraine breaks records, but 7.4 percent cut for Africa

  • Ukraine received in 2022 more aid in a single year than any country since records began, according to new data this week — although some of that was spent on refugees inside EU (Photo: Matt Brown)
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Ukraine received in 2022 more aid in a single year than any country since records began, according to new data published this week.

The $29bn [€27.8bn] received by Ukraine in 2022 from the Development Assistance Committee's (DAC) 24 members and multilateral institutions was the most that any country has ever received in one year. Ukraine is still at war with Russia nearly two years after it was invaded in February 2022.

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However, that figure was eclipsed by the $31bn spent on in-country donor refugee costs, equivalent to 14.6 percent of total aid, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The bulk of that spending was to cover the costs of supporting the six million Ukrainian refugees across Europe.

Meanwhile, the response to the war in Ukraine and new rules on how aid is classified resulted in a 7.4 percent cut in aid to Africa in 2022.

The 20 EU countries which are members of the DAC at the OECD reported an official development assistance of €87bn, an increase of almost 19 percent compared to 2021.

The data was presented at an online event on Tuesday (22 January).

Carsten Staur, the chair of the DAC, described the new statistics as a "glass more than half full" scenario, but expressed disappointment at the drop in aid for African and the world's poorest states, known as Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

"That should not be the case," said Staur.

Aid fatigue has also been reported by the UN and other humanitarian aid agencies, with funding pledges for Yemen, Sudan and Ethiopia, all facing civil war and famine, falling well short of the financial commitments required.

"It's not doing less for Ukraine, it's doing more for others — that is the political challenge that we face," said Staur.

The OECD's new aid rules, which were agreed by donor countries and introduced in December 2022, mean that domestic refugee costs can be recorded as ODA for the first 12 months. They also permit projects related to migration control and returns to be classified as aid.

In 2022, Sweden, the non-EU UK, and Denmark reallocated much of their aid budgets to support Ukrainian refugees — nearly 20 percent in the case of Sweden. The $31bn spend on in-country refugee costs represented a 150 percent increase on 2021.

If refugee costs in donor countries were excluded, ODA levels would show a sharp fall in 12 countries.

The rule changes have prompted criticism from civil society groups that the integrity of aid has been compromised.

"Not only is there little to celebrate in today's final 2022 ODA figures, it is hugely problematic that donor countries are continuing to turn inwards and become recipients of their own aid, even in this time of multiple and interconnected crises," said María José Romero, policy and advocacy manager for development finance at Eurodad.

"We urgently need greater ambition and political will to preserve the integrity of ODA and fulfil the long-standing commitment to allocate 0.7 percent of GNI to ODA," she added.

Of the 27 EU member states, only Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, and Germany — met the UN target to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid. The average was just 0.37 percent across the bloc.

The preliminary aid spending figures for 2023 are due to be released by the OECD in April.

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