The Future is Equal

Obscene amount of aid is going back into the pockets of rich countries

Today, the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC) its preliminary figures on the amount of development aid for 2022.

In response, Marc Cohen, Oxfam aid expert, said: 

“In 2022, rich countries pocketed an obscene 14.4 percent of aid. They robbed the world’s poorest people of a much-needed lifeline in a time of multiple crises.

“Donors have turned their aid pledges into a farce. Not only have they undelivered more than 193 billion dollars, but they also funneled nearly 30 billion dollars into their own pockets by mislabeling what counts as aid. They continue to inflate their aid budgets by including vaccine donations, the costs of hosting refugees, and by profiting off development aid loans. It is time for a system with teeth to hold them to account and make sure aid goes to the poorest people in the poorest countries.

“There is no room for excuses. We can’t allow rich countries to argue their pockets are empty. Donor governments could raise over a trillion dollars annually through a modest wealth tax alone. The only thing lacking is the political will to put the poorest before the rich.”

Notes to editors

Dollars are in USD.  

The 2022 aid figures are available on the OECD website. The data shows that overall aid spending from 30 OECD members summed 204 billion US dollars in 2022. Rich countries only committed 0.36 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to development aid – up from 0.33 percent in 2021, but far below the 0.7 percent they promised in 1970. In 2022, just 5 countries – Luxembourg, Norway, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark – lived up to this promise.

The level of development assistance for the world’s poorest countries remains far below what is needed to end poverty by 2030 and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The share remains far below the UN’s goal of 0.15 percent of rich countries’ GNI. This year it is less than 0.1 percent. Donor spending on hosting refugees (called “in-donor refugee costs”) accounts for 14.4 percent of ODA (29.3 billion).

While total Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members rose by 13.6 percent in real terms, that increase falls to just 4.6 percent if in-donor refugee costs are excluded.

More than 50 years after rich countries agreed on the 0.7 percent target, only seven have ever met or exceeded it. Oxfam estimates that this has cost low and middle-income countries $6.5 trillion in undelivered aid between 1970 and 2021.

Donor countries mislabel the following as development aid (intended to fight poverty): 

  • In donor-refugee costs: Sweden announced the redirection of nearly one-fifth of its aid budget to fund the reception of refugees from Ukraine. The government has since backtracked (though about 430m US dollars is still being redirected to refugee reception) because of strong public pressure from civil society and the fact that it overestimated the number of refugees. This is not development aid as it is spent in Sweden.
  • Vaccines: Vaccine donations made up a total of 0.8 percent of aid (1.54 billion USD). Virtually all of the donations (1.52 billion US dollars of 1.54 billion, or 99 percent) were domestic vaccines hoarded by rich countries. This move to include vaccine donations in aid budgets last year was labelled by Oxfam as throwing out the aid rulebook.
  • Profiting off development aid loans: Since 2018, DAC members have been using a new methodology to assess the concessionality of loans for development purposes. Previously, they had to use a cash flow approach. This meant that donor countries could count the full amount of their loans as development aid, but they had to subtract loan repayments from their aid total. The new method uses a fixed interest rate to judge the grant element in the loans. The fixed interest rate is high, so donors are getting more credit for their loans than they should, which, in turn, encourages them to offer more loans.

Oxfam calculates that a progressive net wealth tax of up to 5% in OECD DAC countries alone would add just under 1.1 trillion US dollars to their budgets each year. This is just one way to increase the spending power of rich countries to tackle poverty, inequality and the climate crisis, including meeting their aid commitments.