For the first time in more than a decade (excluding years of exceptional debt relief), global levels of development assistance decreased in 2011Preliminary figures released by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) last week show that global official development assistance (ODA) dropped by $3.5 billion between 2010 and 2011, representing a 2.7 percent decrease. ONE’s analysis (which is in constant prices and excludes debt relief) shows that G7 members accounted for 55 percent of this decrease—particularly Japan and the US, which both cut their ODA by more than $1 billion. Only Germany and Italy reported increases in ODA from 2010 to 2011.

The effects of the financial crisis and ongoing recession in Europe are starting to show, as the majority of the EU 15 countries decreased ODA in 2011. Spain reported the largest decrease in terms of volume at $1.7 billion. Belgium and Sweden were the only non-G7 EU countries to increase development assistance.

Despite drops in global development assistance, spending in sub-Saharan Africa continued to increase in 2011. ONE’s analysis shows that development assistance to sub-Saharan Africa increased by 4.0 percent ($1.7 billion) between 2010 and 2011. The largest increases (over $300 million or more) came from Germany, Japan, Sweden and the UK. Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK and the US all decreased their global ODA, yet increased ODA to sub-Saharan Africa in 2011, indicating their prioritization of the region. However 10 donors still decreased aid to sub-Saharan Africa, including Canada, Norway, and eight EU countries.

While the Gleneagles commitments ended in 2010, the member states of the EU still have commitments to reach ODA levels of 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) by 2015. For the EU, excluding debt relief, total net ODA was 0.44 percent of combined GNI in 2010 and down to 0.43 percent in 2011, as measured against the collective target of 0.7 percent by 2015. Countries will have to make significant increases over the next three years to meet their targets.

In June, ONE’s DATA Report will show the EU’s progress towards meeting these commitments. This year’s report will also assess the quality of EU development assistance and analyze the European Commission’s spending as well as the proposed increases to development assistance in the EC’s budget for 2014 to 2020 (called the multi-annual financial framework).

We applaud countries that are holding the line on development spending, and continue to work towards their targets despite the tough fiscal environment. These countries know that smart investments in health, agriculture, and education can mean millions of lives saved and improved for those in developing countries—results that will translate into global benefits and build self-sufficiency so that one day, the world’s poorest countries no longer need outside assistance.

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