Economic Progress

Foreign aid: These countries are the most generous

Indigenous Miskitos carry food aid distributed by the World Food Program in the village of Siksayari in Nicaragua, about 625 miles (1005.8 km) north of Managua, December 4,2005. The World Food Program is distributing food aid in indigenous communities after a plague of rats devoured their crops and food stores. Photo taken December 4, 2005. REUTERS/Antonio Aragon/Pool - RTR1A7ZB

Image: REUTERS/Antonio Aragon/Pool

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Economic Progress

Aid is an important tool for promoting economic development and welfare, and forms an important part of many governments’ foreign strategy.

But which countries are most generous? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

The most generous countries?

Looking at official development assistance (ODA), the OECD has calculated its members’ spending in 2015 – both in total and as a percentage of gross national income.

 Foreign aid: These countries are most generous

The US, unsurprisingly, comes top when looking at total spend. Last year, it gave over $30 billion either as bilateral aid or through international organizations such as the World Bank or UN.

Germany is second, with over $20 billion of ODA last year. This constitutes an increase of over $4 billion compared to 2014.

The list is dominated by European nations, but the UAE, Canada and Japan also feature.

A very different picture emerges, though, if we consider it as a percentage of gross national income.

 Foreign aid: These countries are most generous

Much like the US for total spend, Sweden emerges ahead of the crowd on this measure. Last year, Sweden’s net ODA was 1.41% of gross national income, and the country has committed to keeping this figure above 1%.

The UAE is second, with Norway just behind – both returning figures of over 1%.

The UN calls for economically advanced countries to spend at least 0.7% of gross national income on ODA. The OECD argues this is perhaps the “best known target in international aid”. However, as the chart above shows, few countries have met it.

As humanitarian crises continue around the world, aid remains as important as ever. But with few countries meeting the UN’s target, there’s plenty of work left to do to hit the 0.7% level.

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Joe Myers

April 12, 2024

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