A Palestinian woman waits to receive aid at a United Nations food distribution center in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City July 1, 2018. Picture taken July 1, 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ MOHAMMED SALEM
A Palestinian woman waits to receive aid at a United Nations food distribution center in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City July 1, 2018. Picture taken July 1, 2018. Picture: REUTERS/ MOHAMMED SALEM

London — As global refugee flows fell in 2018 , so did aid from rich countries, official data showed on Wednesday, tumbling for the second consecutive year, and hindering efforts to end poverty.

Major donors spent $149.3bn  on aid in 2018, a decrease of 2.7% compared with the year before, according to preliminary figures released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This was mostly due to a 28%  drop in spending on hosting and processing refugees, which cost about $10.6bn  in 2018, the Paris-based think-tank said.

About 116,000 refugees and migrants entered Europe in 2018, said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the lowest since more than a million arrived in 2015, when the continent experienced its largest influx since World War 2 .

Rich countries need to increase aid spending if the world is to achieve 17 global development goals, seeking to end poverty and hunger and tackle climate change, which were agreed in 2015 by UN member states and estimated to cost $3-trillion a year.

Yet bilateral aid to the world’s poorest countries fell by 3% to $27.6bn while humanitarian aid dropped by 8% to $15.3bn, data showed.

“Donor countries are not living up to their 2015 pledge to ramp up development finance and this bodes badly for us being able to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría said.

Only five of the 30 major donors who make up the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) — Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Britain — met a UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on development aid in 2018.

“It’s a travesty that in 2019, so many world leaders are turning their backs on people stuck at the bottom, leaving them without any way to even escape poverty,” said Claire Godfrey, head of policy at Bond, the UK network for development agencies.

“Poverty, inequality, climate change and injustice are all set to increase globally unless other political leaders step up to the plate,” she said in
e-mailed comments.

Overall, the DAC countries spent just 0.31% of their combined gross national income on aid, the same figure as 2017.

The OECD said the US remained the largest donor in 2018 giving $34.3bn, followed by Germany, Britain, Japan and France.

Thomas Reuters Foundation