Chart of the Day: Does International Aid Target the Countries that Need it the Most?

Today’s chart comes from the One Campaign’s new 2014 DATA report. It shows “ODA to LDCs as a percentage of ODA and GNI.” That’s a lot of jargon, but it’s not terribly complicated. ODA stands for “Official Development Assistance” which is the amount of aid that donor governments (through agencies like USAID in the USA) allocate for international development programs.  “LDCs” stands for Least Developed Countries, these are the poorest of the poor countries. There are 48 of them. “GNI” is Gross National Income, which is similar to GDP in that its a measurement of a countries’ overall wealth.

So, in other words this graph shows is how much of donor countries wealth goes to international development assistance, and how targeted that assistance is to the countries that need it the most.  The size of the bubble represents the total amount of the country’s ODA to LDCs.

ODA chart

There are a few international benchmarks against which to measure these figures. The UN calls for 0.7% of a countries GNI to be devoted to development assistance. Also, the UN recommends that donors target at least 0.15% to 0.20% of their GNI to assistance to least developed countries. There is also a movement brewing that calls for donors to target 50% of their official development assistance to the least developed countries.

As you can see from the chart, there are only 7 countries that devote greater than .15% of their gross national income to the poorest of the poor countries. And there is only one country–Ireland — that targets over 50% of its official development assistance to the countries that need it the most.

Why does this matter? There are 48 least developed countries. This is the “bottom billion” of people who are the world’s most vulnerable. These countries depend on foreign aid to supplement tax revenue in order to provide basic services to their citizens and build infrastructure required to grow their economies. Basically, these countries need outside help to get their economies going so that they can graduate from “LCD status.”  The more targeted donor assistance is to those who need it the most, the quicker that these countries can graduate, and the sooner the world can move to eradicating extreme poverty.