House of Commons Library

The 0.7% aid target

Published Monday, June 20, 2016

The UK Government has met the 0.7% aid target since 2013. Since 2015, the target has been legally binding. The UK Government says that meeting the target is in the national interest. However, in recent months, opponents of the target -- and of foreign aid spending more broadly -- have waged a campaign against it.

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The 0.7% aid target is a target for donor countries to contribute 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA). It was adopted as a target by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1970.

Countries’ proximity to the target and their commitment to achieve it is regarded by the international community as being an indicator of the generosity of individual countries’ aid policies. The OECD monitors and also provides data on countries’ ODA as a proportion of GNI.

In 2013, the Government achieved the target for the UK to contribute 0.7% of its GNI in aid for the first time.

In 2015 a Private Members’ Bill sponsored by former Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore was passed into law with the support of the then Coalition Government. The International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act put the 0.7% aid target into legislation – in other words, it became legally binding for governments to meet it each year.

In each year from 2013 to 2015, the UK’s total aid expenditure was at or around 0.7 % of national income. In 2015, it reached 0.71%. The 2015 figure is not yet a final figure – it is possible that it could be revised either upwards or downwards.

The 0.7% aid target has long had opponents in Parliament. Their opposition has been reinforced by its enshrinement in law. Sections of the media have also mobilised against the target more recently. In March 2016, John Wellington of the Mail on Sunday sponsored a petition calling on the Government to “stop spending a fixed 0.7 per cent of our national wealth on Foreign Aid”. After the petition passed the 100,000 signature threshold qualifying it for consideration for debate by the Petitions Committee, the Committee scheduled a Westminster Hall Debate for 13 June, which duly took place.

A series of stories alleging that UK aid is being spent wastefully and ineffectively, and is going to corrupt governments, appeared in some newspapers between March and June.

Commons Briefing papers SN03714

Authors: Lorna Booth; Jon Lunn

Topics: International development, International economic relations, International organisations, Public expenditure

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