Definition and administration of ODA inquiry launched

01 November 2017

The International Development Committee is holding an inquiry into the definition and administration of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Given that the UK is committed to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on ODA, key questions arise around:

  • its definition (what should count as UK aid?), and
  • its administration (who should be responsible, and accountable, for spending UK aid?

Scope of the inquiry

The International Development Committee invites written submissions on all aspects of these topics, and is particularly interested in the following:

The UK’s proposed changes to OECD/DAC rules on ODA

  • Is the Government right to seek changes to the OECD’s definition of Official Development Assistance (ODA)?
  • What is your response to the Secretary of State’s evidence to us on the areas where the UK is seeking changes:
    o small island states
    o climate change
    o resilience issues
    o transparency
    o gender equality, and
    o peacekeeping?
  • What is your response to the decisions of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee reported in the Secretary of State’s Written Statement (1 November, HCSW211):
    o establishment of processes for previous recipients of ODA to:
    a. re-admit them onto the ODA-eligible list if their per capita GNI falls low enough
    b. enable them to receive short-term ODA support in the event of catastrophic humanitarian crises even where their per capita GNI would normally rule them out
    o changes that increase the amount of the UK’s contribution to UN peacekeeping that may be counted as ODA, and
    o changes that allow 85% of the UK’s contribution to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to be counted as ODA?
  • Should humanitarian assistance/disaster relief always count as ODA, even if the recipient country/territory is High Income?
  • Should donors be allowed to direct ODA to poverty-stricken regions and communities within high income countries?
  • If the UK is unsuccessful in persuading the OECD to redefine ODA, what should the Government do?
  • Do you think changing the law to allow the UK to use its own definition of development spending when accounting for performance against its 0.7% per cent target is justifiable?
  • What are the prospects for other members of the OECD/DAC agreeing with the UK’s proposals for rule changes?
  • What mechanisms do other OECD/DAC members have for encouraging their own compliance with, or progress towards, the 0.7% target? Does any other DAC member have a domestic statutory requirement to meet this target?

The administration of ODA by departments other than DFID

  • How effective is the ODA spent by DFID compared with that spent by other Departments?
  • How effective is the ODA spent by cross-government funds?
  • How well-targeted can other government departments’ (OGDs), or cross-government, ODA be towards in terms of the principal aims of the UK Aid Strategy?
  • What level of oversight and/or influence should DFID have over ODA spend by other Departments?
  • Should DFID be solely responsible, and accountable, for all UK ODA spending?
  • How effective is the current system of scrutiny of ODA spent by departments other than DFID, including by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact?

Written Submissions

The deadline for written submissions is Friday 15 December 2017. The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of under-represented groups to submit written evidence.

Written evidence submitted should:

  • Have a one page summary at the front
  • Be no longer than 3000 words in length

The Committee considers requests for reasonable adjustments to its usual arrangements for taking evidence and publishing material, to enhance access. Please contact or telephone 0207 219 1223.


Definition of ODA

Official Development Assistance (ODA) is defined by the OECD of which the UK is a member. Domestically, the UK Government has a statutory duty for its ODA to amount to 0.7% of GNI each year. The Conservative Party’s 2017 election manifesto pledged to seek to redefine ODA or change UK law to allow a “better definition of development spending” while continuing to meet the 0.7% target.

The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean have highlighted this issue because UK disaster relief for the affected British Overseas Territories cannot be classed as ODA and count against the 0.7% target. In October, the Secretary of State told the Committee that she had proposed to the OECD a number of changes to the rules defining ODA (24/10/2017).

Administration of ODA

By 2020 the Government expects around 30% of UK ODA to be spent by departments other than DFID including via cross-government funds (up from 10.5% in 2011). The National Audit Office published a report on managing ODA in July 2017 which included analysis of this.

Further background is available from the Committee staff if required.

Further information

Image: Crown Copyright

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