Surge in aid from many European countries driven by expenditure on looking after refugees at home, where spending has nearly doubled
The amount of foreign aid money rich nations spend on dealing with the impact of the refugee crisis at home has almost doubled over the past year and now accounts for 9% of all development expenditure, according to the latest official figures.
The preliminary statistics, from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), show that wealthy donor countries spent a net total of $131.6bn (92.5bn) on aid in 2015, compared with $135.2bn the previous year. Of that, $12bn went on domestic spending or in-donor refugee costs, up from $6.6bn in 2014.
Many of the European countries most affected by the mass migration of people recorded surges in their official development assistance (ODA) in 2015: Greeces aid spending rose by 38.7%; Swedens by 36.8%; Germanys by 25.9%; the Netherlands by 24.4%, and Austrias by 15.4%. The OECD says that all these rises, to greater or lesser extents, were caused by growing in-donor refugee costs.
According to the organisation, members of its development assistance committee (DAC) spent 6.9% more in real terms in 2015 than they did the previous year, making it the highest level ever achieved for net ODA. It said ODA as a share of gross national income was 0.3%, putting it on a par with 2013, when aid reached a record, real terms high of $135.1bn.
However, the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) said many EU countries are now the biggest recipients of their own aid, adding thatthe latest figures had been dramatically inflated by the diversion of aid to cover the domestic costs of the refugee crisis.
While it is very important that we care for refugees arriving on our shores, our own costs should not be classed as international development aid, and money to cover this must come from other sources, said Jeroen Kwakkenbos, Eurodads policy and advocacy manager.
We must stop raiding aid budgets to solve our own problems at the expense of the poorest people who desperately need more and better aid. The figures presented today show clear issues with the reporting rules as the largest increases were for domestic budget gaps related to the refugee crisis.
Amy Dodd, of the Concord AidWatch initiative, said: Unfortunately, official figures today confirm that despite some positive exceptions, the EU once again missed its overall aid target in 2015.
The figures are a real blow to the credibility of the EU and its member states at precisely the moment they should be demonstrating their commitment to implementing the promises they made to provide sufficient, high quality sustainable development financing for [the sustainable development goals].
Between them, the 19 European DAC members spent $73.5bn last year, an increase in real terms on the previous year of 12.7%. Their contributions accounted for well over half the total amount of international aid. The US was once again the largest single donor, with a net ODA spend of $31bn last year.
Although the OECD noted that most of the increase in 2015 was due to higher expenditures for in-donor refugee costs as a result of the surge of asylum seekers, it said last year also saw an increase in the amount of bilateral aid going to the least developed countries.
After several years of dwindling aid to such countries, 2015 saw the trend bucked with an increase of 4% on the previous years bilateral funding, bringing the total to $25bn.
Adrian Lovett, of the ONE Campaign, said: Its promising to see aid to the poorest finally starting to increase. But extreme poverty must be tackled with the same sense of urgency that Europeans have shown in supporting refugees. It would be short-sighted for governments to neglect funding for long-term development needs for some of the most vulnerable people in the world in order to fund costs at home.
All donor countries should invest at least 50% of their aid in the least developed countries to help them meet basic needs such as health and education and to help them lift themselves out of poverty.
Amid the proliferation of crises in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen, humanitarian aid rose by 11% in real terms to $13.6bn. Net debt relief grants fell by more than a third, representing 0.2% of total ODA. A decade ago, when debt relief was at its highest because of exceptional measures for Iraq and Nigeria, the proportion was 20%.
Bilateral aid to sub-Saharan Africa countries was $24bn, an increase in real terms of 2% on the previous year. Across Africa as a whole, it was up by 1% in real terms to $27bn.
The EU commissioner for international cooperation and development, Neven Mimica, said: In 2015, faced with an unprecedented migration crisis, the EU and its member states were able to increase both their support to refugees as well as their development aid to developing countries.
The OECD said that even without the rising amounts of aid going on mitigating the effects of the refugee crisis in Europe, the overall level of aid was still climbing.
ODA still continued to grow by 1.7% in real terms, said the organisation. Despite the recession in several DAC member countries, which has led to cuts in aid budgets, overall levels of ODA continue to grow; since 2000, net ODA has increased by 83% in real terms.