Development Aid Hit Record High in 2015, OECD Reports

Even as overall development aid reached a record high in 2015, some charities are concerned that donor governments are shifting development aid away from poor countries to deal with refugees at home, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

According to final data released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, official development assistance (ODA) totaled $131.4 billion in 2015, a 6.6 percent increase in real terms from 2014. Of that total, $12.1 billion (9.2 percent) was spent on hosting and processing refugees in donor countries — about double the amount spent the previous year. Development programs, however, were not significantly affected, because fully half of the donor governments used money from outside their development aid budgets to increase their spending on refugees, and even when refugee costs are excluded, net ODA still grew 1.3 percent.

In 2015, Syria received the most OECD assistance, some $4.9 billion, followed by Afghanistan ($4.3 billion). And among the twenty-eight members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, the United States was again the largest donor, contributing $30.1 billion, followed by the United Kingdom ($18.5 billion). At the same time, only Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK exceeded the United Nations target of spending 0.7 percent of national income on development aid.

Some aid groups expressed concern at the shift in funding. Advocacy group ONE, for example, said that wealthy nations should tackle the root causes of forced migration instead of using aid money to host refugees in their own countries. "It's crucial that we protect and support people fleeing war and insecurity," Sara Harcourt, ONE's policy director of development finance, told Thomson Reuters Foundation. "But it is short-sighted to do this by shifting resources away from the world's poorest people."

"Charities Alarmed as Aid Spending From Poor Countries to Refugees." Thomson Reuters Foundation 01/04/2017.