Cyprus Mail

2023 figures show EU aid keeps failing human development and equality

migrants wait at a fishing shelter in paralimni
Migrants wait at a fishing shelter in Paralimni (Yiannis Kourtoglou)

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) unveiled early figures for 2023 Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending by donor countries. The numbers reveal donor countries are yet again failing to meet the original objectives of ODA to promote human development and fight inequalities in partner countries.

In 2023, ODA increased to $223.7 billion. This represents 0,37 per cent of OECD DAC members’ Gross National Income (GNI) and a weak increase of ODA by 1.8 per cent in real terms compared to 2022. Unfortunately, there is little to celebrate. This so-called rise in EU ODA is largely driven by inflated figures, a trend that was already highlighted in the 2023 AidWatch report.

Last year, aid continued to be inflated by allocating public funds to cover the costs of hosting refugees within donor countries’ borders, referred to by the OECD as in-donor refugee costs. This results in the majority of EU Member States being the recipient of a substantial portion of their own ODA allocations. CONCORD – the European Confederation of NGOshas already highlighted this trend on several occasions, including in April 2023.

Yet the issue persists: in 2023 $30.96 billion was allocated to in-donor refugee costs. Although this represents a slight decrease compared to the $31 billion allocated in 2022, the share of ODA going to in-donor refugee costs still represents 13,8 per cent of DAC member countries’ total ODA. While hosting refugees is a human rights obligation, donor countries have the financial capacity to fulfil this duty without diverting ODA resources intended to enhance economic development and welfare in partner countries.

ODA levels to least developed countries (LDCs) have not recovered from the cuts in 2022. Despite a modest 3 per cent increase in bilateral aid from DAC members to LDCs, it is crucial not to be misled by this figure. The increase of 3 per cent is not comparable to the significant cuts of 6.2 per cent implemented in 2022. DAC members need to substantially improve their support in a global scenario characterised by increasing inequalities, more conflicts, and record-high levels of debt repayment from countries ranking at the bottom of the Human Development Index (HDI). The current aid levels fall short of addressing these urgent challenges.

In 2005, the EU and Member States committed to allocate at least 0.7 per cent of their GNI to ODA by 2015. Since then, CONCORD has held them accountable for their commitment through its AidWatch reports. Nineteen years later, EU donors keep failing to meet the targets and to defend the quality and integrity of ODA by diverting it from its core goals and using it for domestic interests. This contradiction undermines the EU’s credibility globally.

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