The 0.7% aid target - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 10 June 2013 | Standard notes SN03714

Authors: Lorna Booth

Topic: International development, International economic relations, Public expenditure

In 2013, the Government aims to achieve the target of the UK contributing 0.7% of its national income in aid. In 2012, the UK’s total aid expenditure reached £8.6 billion, or 0.56% of national income. This represents a doubling of the aid to national income ratio since 1997 when it was 0.26% of national income. Providing that the UK achieves the target in 2013, it will join a very select group currently comprising only five countries within the Development Assistance Committee that spend more than 0.7% of their national income in aid: Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg.

This note examines the definition of the 0.7% aid target: ‘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. Critics of the target point out that workers’ remittances and governments’ domestic revenue outweigh aid flows in most developing countries, rendering a target which measures aid as a proportion of rich countries’ national income largely irrelevant. However, the target still continues to have the the support of the Government and most charities on the grounds that even now, aid plays a crucial role in improving the welfare of the world’s poor.

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