Global Aid Trends

Global Commitments Made
In 1970, members of the United Nations General Assembly committed to increase their Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI).

Over 40 years later only 5 donor countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – have met this target consistently. Finland reached it once in 1991. The UK is close to reaching the target for the first time; in March 2013, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the government would spend 0.7% of the UK’s GNI on aid in 2013.

In 2005 EU member states pledged to reach 0.7% by 2015, the same target year as for the MDGs. The 12 eastern and southern countries that joined in 2004 and 2007 pledged to meet a reduced individual target of 0.33% by 2015.


Target (ODA as % of GNI)


EU collective target






EU-15 individual target






EU-12 individual target






Why 0.7%?

The recommended target of 0.7% goes back to 1969 when the Pearson Commission recommended that ODA should amount to 0.7% of GNP by 1975. Subsequently, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution that economically advanced countries would reach a minimum net amount of 0.7% of their GNP by 1975.

A comprehensive assessment by the UN in 2005 found that meeting the MDGs would require 0.54% of developed country GNI to be delivered in aid. The UN found that comprehensively addressing the global development and poverty challenges will require a larger volume of aid resources than this. Hence the 0.7% target remains a valid and important goal.


Progress on meeting aid promises

Data on ODA provision present a mixed picture. On the one hand, net ODA has risen from about US$35m in 1960 to US$128m in 2012 (see graph below). Yet, since the target was established in 1970, ODA by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) has not surpassed 0.4% in total. With just two years to go until 2015, this still leaves the DAC members considerably behind the target of 0.7% of GNI.

Net ODA from DAC donors since 1960s

Source: Development Initiatives (2013), “Investments to End Poverty”, Figure 10, p.23


EU Donors

The EU remained the world’s largest donor group in 2012, yet the total EU aid disbursed fell from $56.2 billion in 2011 to $55.1 billion in 2012. Whilst four member states increased their ODA volume (Austria, Latvia, Luxemburg and Poland) and 7 maintained theirs, 16 reduced their contributions – among them the UK. The EU’s ODA/GNI ratio fell from 0.45% in 2011 to 0.43% in 2012; that of the 27 member states decreased from 0.42% in 2011 to 0.39% in 2012. The 2012 figures leave the EU a long way from the EU collective target of 0.7% by 2015.

Genuine ODA Contribution by EU countries in 2012 (% of GNI)


Source of data: AidWatch, The Unique Role of European Aid – The fight against Global Poverty, p.20


ODA Disbursements by Region (2000-2011)


Source: Development Initiatives (2013), “Investments to End Poverty”, Figure 10, p.24

Whilst ODA to Sub-Saharan Africa has risen considerably since 2000, individual contributions have fallen in part recently. Between 2011 and 2012, bilateral aid by the DAC to Sub-Saharan Africa fell by 7.9.% to US$26.2bn according to the DAC. Data by ONE shows that UK aid to the region fell by 9.8% to £3.07bn in 2012.


ODA to Sectors, 2002-2011

Source: Development Initiatives (2013), “Investments to End Poverty”, Figure 10, p.24


For more information on ODA provision: