Today, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) announced that over the course of 2021 members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) allocated 178.9 billion USD to official development assistance (ODA), more commonly known as ‘development aid’, representing an increase of 4.4% in real terms, compared to the previous year. Unsurprisingly , despite the long-standing commitment to contribute 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) towards ODA, the 2021 figures show that only 33 cents for every $100 of national income was allocated to addressing global development, reducing poverty and inequalities and meeting expanding humanitarian challenges.
At a time when the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is still fragile, particularly for countries across the Global South, the international community faces widening humanitarian crises due to extremely volatile geopolitical situations, conflicts, and climate-related events. Although we recognise the efforts made by DAC members to protect and increase their ODA budgets, these levels are still insufficient to meet the challenges ahead of us.
Figures for 2021 paint a grim picture. Over the last year, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection has more than doubled, reaching 274 million. More than one per cent of the world’s population is now displaced. Extreme poverty is also rising after two decades in decline, hand in hand with hunger and food insecurity, which are both reaching unprecedented levels. This has been aggravated by droughts and the global spike in food prices following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. And the Covid-19 pandemic continues to threaten decades of progress for women and girls and severely impact health systems worldwide, disrupting education and jeopardising achievements in gender equality.
In 2021, only a handful of high-income countries met their international commitment to the 0.7% of GNI target for international aid. An average of 0.33% of GNI devoted to ODA is not even halfway to the international commitment that the community of aid providers made more than 50 years ago. Even more deplorable is the fact that the 2021 ODA preliminary figures have been inflated, not only with in-donor refugee- and student costs, but also because of the reporting of in-excess vaccine donations, which were never purchased in the interest of development partners and should not be counted as such. In 2021 a total of US$ 2.3 billion have been reported against excess vaccines donations, representing 1.3% of total ODA. CSOs recently called on DAC members to completely drop any reporting of excess vaccine donations in 2022 and beyond.
Last but not least, since July 2020, new rules have also allowed aid providers to report debt relief as ODA under the grant equivalent methodology. In 2021 debt relief represented a total of 545 million, maintaining similar levels compared to 2020.
The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical, conflict and climate crises, requires the DAC community to considerably increase its ODA levels – the challenges ahead, and their implications for our common future, are too great to continue failing their international commitment. ODA is a vital resource, which plays a unique role in supporting those most in need, to help counter the continuing impacts of the pandemic, and persistent conflicts and fragility. In addition, DAC members have failed to deliver their commitment to the $100B climate finance target with new and additional resources.
Yet again, 40 civil society organisations across the world are calling on DAC members to fulfil the 0.7% target for ODA and the 0.15% to 0.2% target for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). And we are calling for donors to uphold the integrity of aid, human rights and development effectiveness principles, following decades of lessons learnt. Going forward, donors should avoid any temptation to inflate their ODA budgets with costs such in-donor refugee costs and excess vaccine donations and should instead mobilise fresh and much needed aid, and prioritise unconditional grants. This is a time to step up solidarity, to prevent another lost decade for development for the poorest countries.
● Matthew Simonds, Policy Liaison DAC-CSO Reference Group: firstname.lastname@example.org.
● Carlo Ipac, Coordinator DAC-CSO Reference Group: email@example.com.
1. Action Aid International, Global
2. ACEP – Associação Para a Cooperação Entre os Povos, Portugal
3. ADIN – Africa Development Interchange Network, Cameroon
4. AidWatch Canada, Canada
5. AidWatch, Global
6. AKU – Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation, Estonia
7. Ambrela – Platform for Development Organisations, Slovakia
8. Bond – The International Development Network, the United Kingdom
9. CDP – Coastal Development Partnership, Bangladesh
10. CNCD-11.11.11 – Centre national de coopération au développement, Belgium
11. CONCORD – European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, Europe
12. Cooperation Canada, Canada
13. Coordinador de la Mujer – Bolivia
14. Coordinadora de ONG para el Desarrollo, Spain
15. Coordination Sud, France
16. CROSOL – Croatian platform for International Citizen Solidarity, Croatia
17. CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, Global
18. CSPPS – Civil Society Platform for Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, Global
19. Czech Forum for Development Cooperation, Czech Republic
20. DECA, Equipo Pueblo, AC, Mexico
21. DemNet Foundation for Development of Democratic Rights, Hungary
22. Ekvilib Institut, Slovenia
23. Eurodad – European Network on Debt and Development, Europe
24. FOND – Federatia Organizatiilor Neguvernamentale pentru Dezvoltare din Romania, Romania
25. ForumCiv, Sweden
26. Foundacion SES, Argentina
27. Global Responsibility, Austria
28. IBON International, Global
29. Inter Pares, Canada
30. I-Watch – Investment Watch Initiative, Cameroon
31. JANIC – Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation, Japan
32. KCOC – Korea NGO Council for Overseas Development Cooperation, Korea
33. Lithuanian NGDO Platform, Lithuania
34. NEADS – North-East Affected Area Development Society, India
35. Oxfam International, Global
36. Pandemic Action Network, Global
37. Reality of Aid – Asia/Pacific, Asia and the Pacific
38. Reality of Aid, Global
39. Save the Children, Global
40. SLOGA – Slovenian Global Action, Slovenia