Foreign aid at highest ever level in 2021 but still far off UN spending target

Over time Official Development Assistance (ODA) increased significantly in 2021, according to new data from the OECD. The chart on the left shows the total amount of ODA from 1990 to 2021, in constant 2020 USD prices. Compared to 2000 ODA has increased by almost USD 100 billion. Measured in monetary terms, the United States was the largest donor of official development assistance in 2021 followed by Germany and the EU institutions.

First adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1970, a 0.7% target for ODA has been set as a global commitment made by member countries of the United Nations to provide a certain level of financial aid to developing countries. The target calls for developed countries to allocate a minimum of 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) to ODA in order to promote economic development and reduce poverty in developing countries. 

The 0.7% target is not a legally binding requirement, but it is widely endorsed by UN member countries and is considered to be an important benchmark for measuring progress in development assistance.

According to data from the OECD, the total ODA provided by DAC (Development Assistance Committee) members as a percentage of their GNI was 0.33% in 2021. As shows in the chart on the right, the share has remained relatively stable in recent years. The level in 2021 is slightly higher than the average ODA/GNI ratio in the 1990s, which was around 0.25%, but still significantly below the 0.7% target. 

While some DAC countries have consistently met or exceeded the 0.7% target in recent years, others have consistently fallen short. In order to meet the 0.7% target, many DAC countries would need to significantly increase their levels of ODA. The data for 2021 shows that only 5 countries hit the UN 0.7% aid spending target in 2021: Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Germany and Denmark.

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