Aid from rich to poor countries fell by 4% in real terms last year, the second decline in two years, according to the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which brings together 24 of the world’s leading aid donors. In 2011, aid spending fell by 2%.
The falls reflect the continuing budget pressure on developed countries, many of which are cutting spending across the board, including on aid. Several of the European countries that have been hardest hit by the euro zone crisis made notable cuts in aid in 2012 – by just over 49% in Spain, just over 34% in Italy and 17% in Greece.
This is the first time since 1996-1997 that aid from the major donors has fallen in two successive years, and it now means that aid is down by 6% in real terms since peaking in 2010. However, there is some hope that the worst may be over: Major donors supply forecasts for their aid spending to the OECD every year, and these suggest that 2013 should see a moderate recovery.
Despite the falls, some of the DAC’s member countries did manage to increase their air spending last year: Korea’s total rose by almost 18%, Australia’s by just over 9% and Iceland’s by almost 6%. Turkey, which is not a member of the DAC, reported a rise in its aid spending of almost 99%, largely in response to the refugee crisis in Syria and the need to support countries in North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring.
The latest aid figures also show aid is shifting away from the world’s poorest countries, including in Sub-Saharan Africa, and towards middle-income countries, such as India, China and Vietnam. That’s a worrying trend, as OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría noted: “I hope that the trend in aid away from the poorest countries will be reversed. This is essential if aid is to play its part in helping achieve the [Millennium Development] Goals.”
The fall in aid was criticised by a number of international agencies. “This cut in aid is going to cost lives,” said Oxfam International’s Jeremy Hobbs. “This is not the time for rich countries to drop long-standing commitments.” Several contributors to a live Tweetchat following the release of the data were also critical of the performance of the world’s wealthiest countries. “For 2nd yr official aid data show rich countries fail to do all they can to fight poverty,” wrote Nicole Metz.