Kathryn Blanchflower writing at the Guardian, published on Friday April 4 2008
Aid to the developing world has fallen for the second consecutive year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development revealed today.
Campaigners said the G8 and EU targets to tackle global poverty were in jeopardy as developed country aid to poor nations continued to fall shy of goals.
Figures revealed today that overall aid totalled $103.7bn (£51.8bn) in 2007, representing a fall of 8.4% in real terms.
At the 2005 Gleneagles summit, G8 countries committed to pledge an additional $50bn in aid by 2010. Three years on, this target now looks to be missed by as much as $30bn, said Oxfam, enough to save 5 million lives.
“These figures today leave us in no doubt that the world’s richest countries are failing to meet their promises to the poorest countries, especially in Africa,” said Max Lawson, policy adviser for Oxfam. “The human cost of this failure is huge.”
The EU’s collective spending target of 0.7% of national income by 2015 now also looks badly off track, with aid from the world’s richest countries falling from 0.31% in 2006 to only 0.28% in 2007, as the effect of some one-off debt relief drops out of the data.
Figures from the OECD report show only seven countries met or surpassed the 0.7% target, with Norway (0.95%) and Sweden (0.93%) topping the rankings.
Though the United States made the largest donation ($21.75bn), it had the lowest percentage of national income, coming bottom of the charts at a mere 0.16%.
Aid rose but still fell short of the projected targets in a total of nine countries, including Germany and Ireland.
Britain’s Department for International Development insisted it remained well on track to raise aid spending to 0.7% by 2013, it acknowledged that aid had dropped last year to 0.36% from 0.51% in 2006 because debt relief agreements with Iraq and Nigeria fell out of the comparison. But even allowing for that, UK aid spending fell by 2%, the figures showed.
The government last year pledged to raise aid spending to £9bn by 2010 and said today it would keep its promise.
The international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, said: “The UK is keeping its promises to the world’s poor, helping millions of people to escape poverty, children to go to school and preventing avoidable disease. Thanks to the comprehensive spending review settlement, DFiD now has the largest development budget in the UK’s history.”
Development charities have never liked the fact that countries after Gleneagles included debt relief in their aid calculations, saying that was a distortion of the real aid spending.
“One-off debt relief deals have disguised the fact that underlying aid levels have not increased,” said ActionAid spokesman Jesse Griffiths. “Now major debt cancellation deals are over, and debt relief is no longer a major part of the aid figures, the real aid numbers are revealed.”
The OECD agreed that the 2007 total reflected the end of high levels of debt relief being offered.
The Paris-based body warned that “unprecedented increases” in spending were required if there is to be any hope of getting back on track and restoring what Oxfam called the “crumbling credibility of the Gleneagles promises”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008