Aid levels show donors far from delivering on commitments as Covid-19 pandemic calls for more and better aid


New statistics published today in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic show donors are far from delivering on their long-standing commitments and urgently need to reassess the way aid is delivered to target those who are being left behind.

The figures - published by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - show that donors spent 152.8 billion USD on official development assistance (ODA) in 2019. In real terms, this figure represents a slight increase of 1.4%. In relative terms, however, this amount represents a drop in aid spending from 0.31% to 0.3% of GNI, less than half of the long-standing spending target of 0.7% - a promise made half a century ago.

Jan van de Poel, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) said: "The fact that the majority of rich countries fail to meet their 0.7 commitment is particularly worrying amidst the current crisis. COVID-19 is a game-changer and risks erasing any progress made over the past decade to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and spur development. Two thirds of the world's population living in developing countries outside China risk being plunged into a situation of deepened vulnerability and poverty, with women and girls hit hardest.

"In a joint reaction, published last week, donors committed to 'strive to protect aid budgets'. If they are serious about tackling this global crisis, now is the time to move beyond merely protecting current aid budgets.

"In the coming months, donors must show political leadership and scale up financial support to people most severely hit by this crisis and deliver on their long-standing commitments."

The figures also show an increase in ODA given as loans instead of grants of 5.7%. As the newly adopted accounting rules favour lending to the poorest countries, these figures suggest donors are channeling more loans than in the past to lower income countries.

Van de Poel said: "This is a worrying trend as especially the poorest countries’ response to the coronavirus pandemic is jeopardised by mounting pressure from debt vulnerabilities. What is needed now are grants that do not have to be repaid and allow most vulnerable countries to provide urgent support to health workers, health systems and social protection schemes to ensure access to basic human rights."

Current rules on what can and cannot be counted as ODA allow donors to include debt relief as ODA. While we are not seeing any major debt relief operations in these figures (a total of 0.1 USD billion or less than 0.1% of ODA), current pressure on donors is mounting to start considering debt relief to developing countries.

Van de Poel added: “If these rules are left unfixed, much needed debt relief risks inflating ODA figures in future without increasing the availability of resources for developing countries to tackle the direct and indirect impacts of this pandemic. Now is the time to make sure rules are set in the right way so scarce development resources are not merely shifted away from where they are needed the most”.


Media contact: Julia Ravenscroft: [email protected]/ +32486356814


  • Eurodad (the European Network on Debt and Development) is a network of 50 civil society organisations (CSOs) from 20 European countries.
  • Eurodad is part of a global campaign calling for developing country debt to be cancelled. Read the press release here.