LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Development aid rose by around 6 percent in 2013 after two years of decline to reach $134.8 billion, the highest level ever recorded, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday.
The OECD said the increase came despite ongoing pressure on the budgets of donor governments since the global economic crisis. The OECD total is for aid given by the 28 member states of its development assistance committee (DAC).
An annual survey of donor spending plans indicated aid levels could rise again in 2014, but the share going to poor sub-Saharan African countries was likely to carry on shrinking, the OECD added.
"It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a statement. "However, assistance to some of the neediest countries continues to fall, which is a serious concern."
Of the 28 DAC countries, 17 increased their official development assistance (ODA) in 2013, while 11 reported a decrease. Net ODA stood at 0.3 percent of gross national income, with only five states meeting a longstanding U.N. target of spending 0.7 percent on aid.
Britain boosted its aid by 27.8 percent in 2013 to hit the 0.7 percent target for the first time, while the Netherlands fell below 0.7 percent for the first time since 1974 due to overall budget cuts, the OECD said.
After growing steadily since 1997, aid to developing countries fell in 2011 and 2012 as many governments took austerity measures and trimmed their aid budgets. The rebound in 2013 meant assistance hit an all-time high even excluding the five countries that joined the DAC last year and which gave less than $1 billion combined.
The largest increases in 2013 were recorded in Iceland, Italy, Japan, Norway and the UK. The biggest falls were in Canada, France and Portugal. The biggest donors by volume were the United States, Britain, Germany, Japan and France.
EU AUSTERITY STARTS TO REVERSE
Development aid from the 19 EU countries that are DAC members was $70.7 billion, a rise of 5.2 percent in real terms from 2012. That made up around half of the total net ODA figure, which includes humanitarian spending.
"Aid austerity is starting to reverse across Europe, despite two years of substantial cuts that are still felt by some of the world's poorest. Many development projects have been stopped or abandoned as a consequence," said Seamus Jeffreson, director of CONCORD, a European confederation of relief and development groups.
Bilateral aid to sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 was $26.2 billion, a drop of 4 percent in real terms from 2012, while aid to the African continent fell by 5.6 percent to $28.9 billion.
The OECD's survey of future spending plans suggested a medium-term focus on middle-income countries, many of which have large populations in extreme poverty, such as Brazil, China, Georgia, India, Mexico and Pakistan.
By contrast, it showed no let up in the "worrying trend" of declines in programmed aid to the least-developed and low-income countries, especially in Africa, reflecting reduced access to grant resources on which these states depend.
Some Asian countries may see increases, so that by 2017 overall allocations to Asia are expected to equal those towards Africa, the OECD noted.
The map below shows roughly how much ODA wealthy donor governments from Europe and North America provided in 2013.