The 0.7% aid target - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 28 July 2014 | Standard notes SN03714

Authors: Lorna Booth

Topic: International development, International economic relations, Public expenditure

In 2013, the Government achieved the target for the UK to contribute 0.7% of its national income in aid for the first time, when the UK’s total aid expenditure reached £11.4 billion, or 0.72% of national income. This is more than double the aid-to-national-income ratio that was achieved through most of the 1980s and 1990s. The UK has joined a very select group – as well as the UK, only Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates spent more than 0.7% of their national income in aid in 2013.

This note examines the definition of the 0.7% aid target, which applies to ‘Official Development Assistance’, or ODA. It also outlines the origins of the 0.7% of national income as an aid target and examines the UK’s historic performance on this measure and its performance compared to other countries. It summarises recent attempts to enshrine the target in legislation.

Finally, the note looks at criticisms of the target. Some argue its usefulness is limited because it does not take into account the effectiveness of aid, its theoretical foundation is out-dated and aid is no longer the key financing mechanism for investment in developing countries. Some argue that aid money would be better spent elsewhere. However, the target still continues to have the support of the Government and most charities on the grounds that aid plays an important role in improving the welfare of the world’s poor.

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