UK hits 40-year-old international aid target for first time

Sally Copley of Oxfam says the UK is showing real leadership, but it is shameful that some of the wealthiest nations fail to reach agreed minimum levels of aid

Sally Copley
Sally Copley

The UK has hit a 40-year-old target to donate 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to international aid for the first time.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show the UK met the target, first agreed by the wealthiest nations in 1974, for the first time last year.

Oxfam welcomed this year’s aid increase and praised the UK’s leadership, which it said had shown other countries it was possible to keep promises even during a period of austerity.

The 0.7 per cent figure was a key plank of the Make Poverty History campaign, which began in 2005 and sought to make good on the G7’s previous commitment to the 1974 pledge.

Although the US is the largest donor to international aid by volume, its figure for official development assistance – the measure of aid used by the OECD – as a share of national income was only 0.19 per cent.

The UK was the only member of the G7, which also includes Germany and Japan, to hit the target in 2013, the OECD figures show.

In Europe, non-G7 countries such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden continued to exceed the 0.7 per cent target, while the Netherlands fell below the target for the first time since 1974.

In total, wealthy nations gave £81bn in 2013, an increase of 6.1 per cent on the previous year and the first increase after two consecutive years of cuts to aid budgets, according to the OECD.

But the OECD said 2013’s uplift masked a drop in aid to the African continent, down 5.6 per cent to £17bn in 2013, and to sub-Saharan Africa in particular, down 4 per cent to £15bn in 2013.

"The UK is showing real leadership in helping the world’s poorest people," said Sally Copley, head of UK campaigns and policy at Oxfam. "But we cannot allow an increase in global development aid to obscure the fact that the neediest countries in other continents – like Africa – are losing out."

Copley said it was "shameful" that some of the wealthiest nations were still failing to meet the agreed minimum aid levels needed to reduce poverty.

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