An assessment of ODA in 2021: Rise in overseas aid still fails to meet needs of global crises
More than two years on from the outbreak of Covid-19, developing countries still have a long way to go to control the pandemic and its effects. Although in 2021 ODA reached a new all-time-high of US$178.9 billion, this is still insufficient to meet the mid-term and long-term challenges ahead of 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, in relative terms ODA remained at 0.33 per cent – far from the 0.7 per cent international commitment.
The year 2021 was a critical period for developing countries recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. Many of them benefit from Official Development Assistance (ODA, or aid) so it is important to analyse the quantity and quality of this vital resource. This briefing looks in detail at the 2021 ODA preliminary figures released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC) in April 2022 and highlights the main trends. We compare them with previous years and discuss quality issues arising from the analysis of the data, such as the reporting of Private Sector Instruments (PSIs) and debt relief as ODA. The briefing also raises key concerns around decisions made by the OECD DAC since 2014 on what should or should not count as ODA that are threating the integrity of ODA statistics.
This briefing shows that in 2021 ODA figures increased (compared to 2020), notably thanks to the response of DAC providers in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, these rising levels of ODA are still insufficient to meet the mid-term and long-term challenges ahead of 2030 and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In this briefing we look as well at the levels of inflated ODA - a total of US$16.2 billion within the 2021 figures can be considered inflated aid because the ODA reported includes recycled Covid-19 vaccine donations, in-donor country refugee costs, debt relief and allocations to private sector instruments.
The briefing concludes with a call on DAC providers to raise their ambitions for ODA quantity levels in 2022, while limiting ODA inflation, notably around in-donor refugee costs. ODA is a vital and unique resource that should target the countries and peoples most in need, which can have a long-lasting impact on the reduction of poverty and inequalities, and effectively contribute to achieving the SDGs. Without greater ambition in 2022 on the quality and quantity of aid, ODA will not reach those that the international community in 2015 promised not to leave behind.