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  • Maeve O'Brian

The OECD’s Final Report on Global Aid in 2022 Outlines a Year that Global Aid Became Even More Politicised

Maeve O’Brien is a second-year Comparative Literature student.

WFP Aid being managed in Nigeria

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Assistance Committee published its final data for 2022 this January, confirming a quick increase in global aid spending, but an even faster increase in humanitarian need. 

2022 saw a 24% increase in ODA disbursements; the highest annual percentage increase since 2006. This is almost entirely because of one single recipient, however. Ukraine was the highest recipient of ODA in 2022 and received more aid than India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Afghanistan combined. Donor countries have also been accused of ‘ODA inflation,’ primarily because they include in-donor refugee costs as global aid. Without the aid towards Ukraine and in-donor refugee costs, the tremendous 24% annual increase becomes a modest 3.1% annual increase, 1.54 billion USD worth of aid was given in COVID-19 vaccines, accounting for 0.8% of total global aid, but the majority of these vaccines were leftover supplies, originally intended to be used by the donor countries. Some were even close to expiry and unusable. This factor has led Reliefweb to claim that ‘ODA inflation’ accounts for 30.9 billion USD of the total figure, a 155% increase since 2021. So, while global aid has increased, the coverage of this aid has become even more generous and deceptive. 

Although the majority of countries stayed below the UN global aid target of 0.7% of gross national income, many countries chose to divert funds from existing aid projects to Ukraine after Russia’s full-scale invasion, rather than going over already established budgets. Africa received 7.4% less aid than it had the previous year, and LDC countries also saw a reduction in funding. Sweden and Denmark explicitly announced in 2022 that their other aid priorities would receive 14% and 10% reductions respectively, and the UK’s other aid priorities have also seen at least a 14% cut. 

The report documented a dramatic increase in the need for global aid as well. A 20 billion USD shortfall to UN-backed aid appeals was reported in 2022, meaning the funding gap is ever-increasing. COVID-19 and climate change are complexified crises, with COVID-19 setting sustainable development progress back by three years. But the shortfall is also a result of a longer-term trend. Global conflict is generally increasing, with the number of global conflicts in 2020 being 56, compared to 38 in 2000. Crises are also lasting longer than they previously did, with 83% of people in need living in countries that have had UN-backed aid appeals for 5 years or more. As the author of the recent OECD report stated, “Complex, protracted crises are increasingly the norm.'' Funding appeals caused by extreme weather are eight times higher today than they were 20 years ago, and extreme weather often overlaps with existing crises. Now, up to three-quarters of people in need of aid live in countries that face two of the three sources of crisis; conflict, extreme weather, and economic fragility. 

What does the report outline about today? 

Global poverty has almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels. However, increasing global conflict, increasing time span of crises and extreme weather due to climate change are ever-increasing trends that existed long before the pandemic and continue to define global aid today. Need, therefore, is only increasing, but the most glaring difference between 2022 and today in terms of global aid is the waning funds received by countries other than Ukraine. For example, because of a lack of funds and disagreement with local authorities with regard to food distribution, WPF paused food distribution in Houthi-controlled northern areas of Yemen. WFP claimed that the decision was made in conversation with donors. In 2023, WFP had the worst funding shortfall in its entire history, raising 7.5 billion USD of its 23.5 billion in projected costs. 

A recent report by the cross-party International Development Committee found that spending for sexual and reproductive health and rights projects had been dramatically reduced, or cut completely, sometimes with no notice. The report has estimated that the cuts amount to about a third of the previous budget. It predicted the spending cuts to lead to the deaths of thousands of women and girls and urged the government to stop with these cuts. 

Another glaring example of aid funding shortfalls today, of course, is Gaza. As Israeli aggression is largely ignored by world leaders, Gaza and the West Bank are only receiving just over half of their required emergency funding. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that only four-fifths of emergency funding needed to ensure food security was received, and that around a quarter of what was needed for shelter, water and sanitation was received. 

As global crises are becoming more complex and longer-term, global aid is increasingly becoming a politically determined resource, and crises must be deemed ‘important enough’ to receive the funding they require.


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