Official development assistance at the antipodes of solidarity

6 April 2018 by Jérôme Duval

Tondo slum in Manila, Philippines (2014). Crédit : Dewald Brand / Miran for Oxfam.

On the 11th of April, 2017, at the end of its report [1], the OECD OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OECD: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, created in 1960. It includes the major industrialized countries and has 34 members as of January 2016.
proudly announced an increase in official development assistance ODA
Official Development Assistance
Official Development Assistance is the name given to loans granted in financially favourable conditions by the public bodies of the industrialized countries. A loan has only to be agreed at a lower rate of interest than going market rates (a concessionary loan) to be considered as aid, even if it is then repaid to the last cent by the borrowing country. Tied bilateral loans (which oblige the borrowing country to buy products or services from the lending country) and debt cancellation are also counted as part of ODA. Apart from food aid, there are three main ways of using these funds: rural development, infrastructures and non-project aid (financing budget deficits or the balance of payments). The latter increases continually. This aid is made “conditional” upon reduction of the public deficit, privatization, environmental “good behaviour”, care of the very poor, democratization, etc. These conditions are laid down by the main governments of the North, the World Bank and the IMF. The aid goes through three channels: multilateral aid, bilateral aid and the NGOs.
for the past year: “In 2016, net official development assistance ODA) of the member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) [2] OECD reached a new high of USD 142.6 billion. This represents an increase of 8.9% compared to 2015, taking into account exchange rates and inflation Inflation The cumulated rise of prices as a whole (e.g. a rise in the price of petroleum, eventually leading to a rise in salaries, then to the rise of other prices, etc.). Inflation implies a fall in the value of money since, as time goes by, larger sums are required to purchase particular items. This is the reason why corporate-driven policies seek to keep inflation down. rates. Net ODA also increased as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) to 0.32%. ”DAC President Charlotte Petri Gornitzka hastened to add: “I am delighted to see that DAC donor support for development made another annual increase, and I hope that this upward trend will continue.” [3]

Fortunately, the CNCD report on Belgian Development Aid [4] adds to the pile of studies that put pressure on those who still believe in the generosity of ODA donors to the so-called developing countries (DCs). Because behind this display of generosity - which is supposedly rising - lies a growing diversion of aid to the donor countries themselves for the implementation of restrictive migration policies that, incidently, violate international law. This aid diversion mechanism, which also works to the benefit of the private sector of the DAC’s western member countries, turns rich countries into the first recipients of their own aid, to the detriment of the populations of the poor countries that are supposed to be the first beneficiaries.

Global ODA reached $142.6 billion in 2016, but for whom?

A celebration of the OECD that must be qualified immediately in light of the figures, first and foremost because the poorest countries, called “least developed countries Least Developed Countries
A notion defined by the UN on the following criteria: low per capita income, poor human resources and little diversification in the economy. The list includes 49 countries at present, the most recent addition being Senegal in July 2000. 30 years ago there were only 25 LDC.
” (LDCs) in Western institutional jargon, do not benefit from this increase but instead register a decrease of 3.9% of the aid allocated to them between 2015 and 2016 [5]. Second, because the overall donor average of 0.32% of GNI remains far too low, representing less than half of the 0.7% of GNI target, an objective officially recognised by a UN resolution... in October 1970! Only five out of 29 countries have reached this milestone set more than forty-seven years ago [6]: Norway, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark, joined this year by Germany.

In addition, despite this increase in ODA, UNESCO warns that international aid for basic education, a first priority development, has decreased by 6% compared to 2010. Sub-Saharan Africa received half as much aid for basic education between 2002 and 2015, while the region accounts for almost half of all out-of-school children in the world.

Finally, note that erasures of debts are also recorded in ODA, but they do not correspond to a real transfer of resources but are simple accounting operations that allow donors to “inflate” ODA figures. In 2005 and 2006, debt relief for Iraq and Nigeria accounted for a large part of the increase in aid. In 2008, in service of the geostrategic stakes of the United States, the main recipients of aid were Iraq (12% of total ODA) and Afghanistan (4%) [7].

Reception expenses for asylum seekers accounted for in ODA

This rebound in ODA in 2016 is partly explained by a shift in aid that is increasingly mobilised to curb migration flows. Immigration flows from countries in crisis (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, many African countries beset by wars and famine [8] and other established dictatorships...), to which some of the largest contributors of ODA sell their weapons and send armed contingents, swell the ranks of asylum seekers, which results in an increase in “reception expenses”. However, a 1988 Development assistance committee rule authorises donor countries to record in the ODA certain expenditures on refugees during the first year following their arrival [9], such as expenses to ensure their transfer to the host country, reception centres for asylum seekers, emergency accommodation, social support services, food and training, even if these people are deported at the end of the process. Some states, like Greece, even include amounts allocated to control their borders!

Costs associated with taking care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. of asylum seekers increased by 27.5% between 2015 and 2016 to reach $15.4 billion, or 10.8% of total ODA in 2016. The share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. of aid to refugees thus averages 2.1% of net aid from DAC countries in 2008 to 10.8% in 2016 [10]. The explosion of these budgets, obviously spent in donor countries, turns the majority of European contributors into the first beneficiaries of their own aid. For eleven countries, migration management expenditure accounted for more than 10% of their ODA. Germany, Greece, Italy and Austria devoted more than 20%, still counted as ODA. For example, Germany, which in 2016 joined the club of countries that have reached the UN threshold of 0.7% of GNI, saw a doubling of the cost of refugees in the country compared to 2015, which artificially inflated its ODA budget. In Belgium, the “reception expenses” of asylum seekers included in ODA amounted to €349 million in 2016, or 17% of Belgian public aid as a whole. And this amount now exceeds the sub-total of government cooperation. With regard to France, the amount of definitive ODA declared to the DAC for the reception of refugees amounted to 422 million Euro in 2016 [11].

If the money mobilised does not contribute to the goal of poverty reduction and does not serve the development of the countries that ODA is supposed to help, the hardening of the asylum policy thus contributes towards artificially inflating the share of aid from the donor country. As the very height of cynicism, this deviation of aid benefits Western companies in the field of migration management, largely in the process of being privatised [12].

In comparison with other cash flows, this aid, which boasts of working towards development, represents very little. Despite the inconsistency of ODA in terms of migration policy, those who actually contribute more effectively to development, are the migrants who send three times more money than ODA to their country of origin. Indeed, despite a decrease for the second year in a row in money sent from migrants from developing countries to their countries of origin, this still reached $429 billion in 2016 (compared to $440 billion in 2015) [13], a sum 3 times larger than the ODA (142 billion). Without these contributions of migrants from Western countries to their families, the survival of a large part of the population of the developing countries would be even more compromised.

Original French version online: Politis
Translation: Jenny Bright


[2Organisation within the OECD established to centralise information concerning ODA.

[4CNCD, “Aide belge au développement”, 2017 report.

[5Already in 2002-2003, only 41% of global ODA was directed to the 50 least developed countries (LDCs).

[6See the list of 29 countries in addition to the European Union DAC members hereand there.

[7Gérard Perroulaz, Claudie Fioroni and Gilles Carbonnier, “Évolutions et enjeux de la coopération internationale au développement”, Graduate Institute, Geneva, 2010.

[8In March 2017 the United Nations announced that in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia, four countries at war, 20 million people were at risk of starvation. In Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, 3 million people are in need of emergency food aid, according to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). Read the WAEMU press release, 8 June, 2017. See also “Afrique de l’ouest : 3 millions de personnes en urgence alimentaire selon l’UEMOA”, Jeune Afrique with AFP, June 9, 2017.

[9The term “refugees” as used by DAC covers the concept of asylum seekers.

[10Gérard Perroulaz, Claudie Fioroni and Gilles Carbonnier, ibid.

[11See the notice registered at the Presidency of the Senate on 23 November, 2017 by Mr Jean-Pierre VIAL and Mrs Marie-Françoise PEROL-DUMONT, Senate,

[12Benoit Coumont, Jerome Duval, Ludivine Faniel, “À qui profite la gestion des migrations ? ”, CADTM, 27 October, 2017.

Jérôme Duval

member of CADTM network and member of the Spanish Citizen’s Debt Audit Platform (PACD) in Spain ( He is the author, with Fátima Martín, of the book Construcción europea al servicio de los mercados financieros (Icaria editorial, Barcelona 2016) and he also co-authored La Dette ou la Vie (Aden-CADTM, 2011), which received the award for best political book in Liège (Belgium) in 2011.




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