UK development aid dropped dramatically in 2021

By Susanna Gevorgyan

UK development aid dropped dramatically in 2021

UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) decreased by 20.6% in 2021 compared to 2020 according to a recent report by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). This sharp decline is due to the UK Government’s 2021 decision to reduce the country’s aid commitments. As a result, while still suffering from the impacts of the pandemic, regions around the world received less UK ODA with Africa in receipt of the lowest amount of aid over the last decade.

Following the government’s decision to reduce the UK’s commitment from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5% of GNI, UK Official Development Assistance decreased to £11,496 million in 2021 compared to £14,478 million in 2020. Overall, in 2021, UK bilateral ODA amounted to £7,086 million, 25.7% less compared to 2020 while multilateral ODA declined by 10.8% compared to 2020, reaching £4,411 million. Of the total bilateral ODA, £744 million was in the form of humanitarian assistance.

At the same time, the FCDO decreased its share of UK ODA and accounted for 72.3% of the total (£8,308 million). For comparison, in 2020, the FCDO’s share of total UK ODA was 73.7% (£10,664 million). Non-FCDO contribution decreased its share as well, accounting for only 27.7% or £3,189 million compared to £3,815 million in 2020.

In general, the level of UK ODA increased gradually from 1970 to 2019, with a sharp rise in 2005 and 2006 due to debt relief, and again in 2013 when for the first time the UK reached the 0.7% ODA GNI ratio target. The highest level was recorded in 2018 but for the last two years, the level of UK ODA has dropped. While in 2020 this decline was driven mainly by the contraction of the economy caused by the pandemic, in 2021 the sharp drop was a result of the government’s decision relating to the ODA GNI ratio. Overall, in 2021, the UK spent £550 million of its ODA on activities related to the pandemic including the donation of excess vaccine doses amounting to £100.4 million.

Fig.1. UK ODA levels (£ millions) and ODA: GNI ratios (%), 1970 to 2021

Source: Provisional UK Aid Spend 2021

At a regional level, the FCDO allocated 52.2% of its bilateral ODA, or £1,365 million, to Africa. This amount decreased by £864 million compared to 2020. Despite this drop, Africa still receives the largest share of bilateral ODA, however, the amount received in 2021 was the lowest over the last 10 years. For comparison, in 2020 Africa received 55.4% of the FCDO bilateral ODA.

The UK allocated 41% of the FCDO’s bilateral ODA, or £1,073 million, to Asia, reducing the amount by £506 million less than in 2020. The Americas, Europe, and the Pacific recorded the lowest decline in UK ODA. However, these regions historically receive only a small share of UK ODA. Interestingly, the UK spent 41.8% of the FCDO’s bilateral ODA on “non-region/country-specific” programs. While it is clear that there are programs that are not linked to specific regions, however, this percentage is high according to BOND, a British development NGO network.

“The aid cuts left millions of women in Ukraine with no control over their bodies, their futures, or their lives, just as it did in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Sudan, and Syria. Today, the role of the UK in building a better, safer world is more critical than ever if there is any hope of reversing the impacts of the cuts and the government must return to the 0.7% as soon as possible – the lives and futures of people depend on it,” said Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General for IPPF, a global healthcare provider.

Fig.2. FCDO’s Country/Region-Specific Bilateral ODA: 2021

Source: Provisional UK Aid Spend 2021