The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said aid from donor nations fell last year, compared to 2017, with some of the neediest countries feeling the pinch. The OECD's new report, which raises concerns about meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The OECD report released Wednesday finds that official donor aid among its member states was down 2.7 percent in 2018. One of the biggest declines was in humanitarian assistance — down 8 percent compared to 2017. Aid to African countries fell 4 percent.
Trends are a concern
The OECD's head of development aid statistics, Yasmin Ahmad, says if support to refugees is taken out of the equation — in some cases because of fewer arrivals — the overall aid figure would remain unchanged. Ahmad, however, says the message is still alarming.
"The OECD considers these trends quite worrisome because it shows that most donors are not actually living up to the commitment that they made in 2015, which was to increase their aid,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad said separate OECD findings also show foreign direct investment to developing countries dropped by about one-third from 2016 to 2017, among other downward trends.
"What is particularly concerning as well is that (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goals which are global, are supposed to happen — and this drop in aid does not look good for being able to achieve these goals by 2030,” Ahmad said.
The reasons for the downturn vary. In Europe, some countries spent less on refugee assistance because fewer refugees arrived last year. Russian assistance dropped by more than 14 percent, reflecting an overall decline in its aid program. The United States cut foreign aid by 5 percent last year, including to Africa, although it remains the biggest donor.
"However, this amount only represents only 0.17 (percent) of its gross national income, which places it well below the average of the (OECD) Development Assistance Committee — the average being 0.31 percent,” Ahmad said.
The OECD report finds a few bright spots. More than half a dozen countries worldwide met the U.N. aid spending target of point-7 percent of GDP. And several, including France and Turkey, have increased development assistance.