Aid rising in 2016: No room for complacency

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee
Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, Development Co-operation Directorate, OECD

oda generic 22015 was a year of big promises: eradication of global poverty, delivery of more effective development finance and calls for resolute action against climate change, all for a better world by 2030. But with growing concerns about inequalities at home, and rising protectionism and unilateralism abroad, the last few months cast some doubts about whether OECD countries still firmly stand behind their commitments.

The latest OECD figures on international aid are reassuring: 2016 preliminary data on Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries reveals yet another increase in aid volumes, reaching the highest levels on record. This is an 8.9% increase in real terms. Indeed, since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, ODA volumes have more than doubled. It is also positive to note that support to multilateral agencies has increased, reflecting the vital role played by multilateral aid in responding to the global challenges that require collective responsibility.

Yet, there is no room for complacency. A closer scrutiny of the increases reveals that humanitarian appeals and response plans remain consistently underfunded, with only 60% of global humanitarian appeals funded in 2016. Inadequate resources are being over-stretched to cover a larger diversity of needs and greater instances of crisis.

It is also concerning that bilateral net ODA to least-developed countries fell by 3.9% in real terms since 2015. Aid to sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, has fallen by 0.5%. These trends are especially worrying given that 8 of the top 10 refugee-hosting countries are in sub-Saharan Africa – seven of which are least-developed countries. Further still, eight of the world’s top 10 most fragile contexts also are located in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2030, it is estimated that 60% of the global poor will be living in fragile contexts. In the context of prolonged conflict and instability in fragile states (like Syria), a global showing of solidarity is essential.

We simply cannot afford to lose sight of the persistent vulnerabilities that exist in countries prone to fragility and violence. Our ability to realise our commitment to leaving no one behind and to helping the poorest of the poor requires a concerted effort to tackle the root causes of today’s context.

Ongoing humanitarian challenges, particularly large-scale refugee and migrant movements across the Mediterranean, continue to affect the way ODA is allocated. Preliminary figures indicate that in 2016, costs to support refugees in donor countries represented more than 10% of total net ODA flows for 11 DAC countries. For four of these, it was over 20%. Fourteen countries, nearly half of DAC members, recorded increases in the proportion of in-donor refugee costs as a share of their total net ODA between 2015 and 2016.

Responsibility-sharing stands at the core of the refugee protection regime. The support provided by DAC members to protect the forcibly displaced populations who arrive on their shores is undoubtedly needed. However, members can strengthen a whole-of-government response by being clear about how in-donor expenditures contribute to humanitarian actions targeting large-scale refugee movements and how these expenditures fit into long-term development strategies.

Looking ahead, it is evident that we need to redouble our collective efforts if we are to reach the 0.7% ODA/GNI target and to narrow the estimated USD 2.5 trillion annual funding gap separating us from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Recent signals from some donor countries indicate a decline in future aid levels; this is an additional cause for concern.

We call on the international community to step up efforts to mobilise new resources and capitalise on new partnerships that drive innovation, revive investment and accelerate growth. We must also remain committed to continuing to reform and adapt our policies and tools. The future of development co-operation will be defined by our ability to respond in an accountable and inclusive manner to the very complex, demanding and global challenges we face today and by our willingness to scale-up solutions for the long term.