The Future is Equal

New OECD figures show international aid woefully inadequate to fight the coronavirus crisis, says Oxfam

New OECD figures show international aid woefully inadequate to fight the coronavirus crisis, says Oxfam

Rich countries barely increased international aid by 1.4 percent overall in 2019, while they cut humanitarian assistance by 2.9 percent, according to figures published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Despite the small over-all increase, the current level of aid is far from enough for the world to tackle crises like the coronavirus and effectively achieve sustainable development, said Chema Vera, Oxfam International Interim Executive Director, reacting to the news:

“Current levels of aid from rich countries are woefully inadequate to help developing countries face the coronavirus crisis, which could force 500 million more people into poverty, and cause up to 40 million deaths. We can stop this pandemic’s spread if we act in every country and for every person. Governments need to radically and rapidly increase their aid now to a level we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.

“The coronavirus has caused widespread suffering in rich countries, overwhelming some of the best healthcare systems. In many poor countries, which face high levels of poverty and inequality, the challenges are even greater. The Central African Republic for example has only three ventilators, which are vital to treat Covid-19 patients.

“The UN estimate that developing countries need a USD$500 billion in increased life-saving aid now to have hope of tackling the coronavirus crisis. Rich countries should contribute their fair share by immediately injecting close to USD$300 billion in additional aid to fight the virus. This is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest men combined.

“Rich countries are facing tough times, and all that is needed is only a fraction of their trillion-dollar rescue programs to prevent millions dying and hundreds of millions falling into destitution. This would also mean that donors finally and collectively reach their 50-year-old promise to give at least 0.7% of their national income in aid.

Oxfam New Zealand’s Advocacy and Campaigns Director Joanna Spratt said: “Oxfam is asking the New Zealand government to step up to make sure we leave no one behind. As a first step, we’re asking for $25 million in extra emergency humanitarian funding. This is only 0.2% of what’s already been spent on domestic measures – a drop in the bucket. The coronavirus is a problem for us all and we need to make sure we help all countries to get rid of it, especially the poorest.

“Resources are needed now for public health, income support and protection from harm for the people in the most vulnerable situations across the world. In Papua New Guinea, for example, there are only 14 ventilators for their eight million people. The world’s response is only as strong as our weakest health system. Until we are all safe, no one is safe.”

Vera added: “Donors should now prioritise emergency support to the under-funded and ill-equipped public health systems in poor countries. They should also help countries improve social protection and provide direct support to people in need so they can deal with illnesses and income loss. This is particularly vital for women, who often have limited employment rights and are far more likely to be informal workers without any social protection. In 2018, less than one percent of aid was invested in social protection while more than four billion people don’t have formal social protection.”

“This crisis is the time for bold and visionary choices for our collective future. It’s time for donors to profoundly transform their aid to build a world that is free from poverty, that is more equal, feminist and sustainable. As the coronavirus is threatening to set back the fight against poverty by decades, we must now act and build a better future.”


Notes to editors:

·         Oxfam New Zealand aid expert Joanna Spratt is available for interviews

·         The 2019 aid figures are available on the OECD website here.

·        Slight increase in development aid: The new OECD data shows that overall aid spending from 30 OECD members totalled USD 152.8 billion in 2019. This was a 1.4 percent increase from 2018. Rich countries only committed 0.30 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to development aid, down from 0.31 percent in 2018, and well below the 0.7 percent they promised back in 1970. In 2019, just five countries – Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom – have lived up to this promise.

·        Slight increase in aid to the poorest countries: The proportion of bilateral aid spent in low income countries was up by 0.4 percent. The coronavirus will most likely have a devastating impact in developing countries.

·        With limited resources, high debt levels, massive capital outflows and weak, underfunded and unequal health systems, poor countries are ill-equipped to protect their populations and their economies. Without urgent action, the economic, social and health toll in these countries will be incomparably devastating. The recent Oxfam report ‘Dignity not Destitution’ found that the economic fallout of the pandemic could force half a billion people into poverty unless dramatic action is taken. This could set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa.

·        UN estimates developing countries need USD 500bn in aid to face the Coronavirus
On 30 March 2020,
the UN called for a USD 2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries. This includes: a USD 1 trillion liquidity injections to be made available through the expanded use of special drawing rights; the cancellation of USD 1 trillion of debts owed by developing countries this year; and USD 500 billion in overseas aid to fund a Marshall Plan for health recovery and dispersed as grants.

·        Methodology for calculating rich countries’ fair share of the coronavirus aid response: Oxfam bases its calculation of fair share on donors’ gross national income (GNI). The members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) together account for 59% of total global GNI, so their collective fair share of any appeal or aid pledging target is 59%. The fair share of any individual DAC member is their GNI divided by the DAC collective GNI and multiplied by the DAC fair share.

·        Oxfam’s vision for aid in times of extreme inequality: In its 2019 report ‘Hitting the target, an agenda for aid in times of extreme inequality’, Oxfam set out a 10-point action plan for donors to beat poverty by fighting inequality through: more spending in health, education, social protection, water and sanitation and small-scale agriculture; support to build equitable tax systems in developing countries; support for active citizenship and to fight gender inequality. These recommendations are all the more acute today, as the coronavirus is showing how deep and growing inequalities undermine our ability to face existential threats.

According to the
Forbes magazine, the three richest men in the world are Jeff Bezos (USD 138 billion), Bill Gates (USD 104.4 billion) and Bernard Arnault (USD 93 billion). Their combined wealth is USD 335 billion.