Official development assistance (ODA) is defined by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) as government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries. The DAC adopted ODA as the “gold standard” of foreign aid in 1969 and it remains the main source of financing for development aid.
ODA from members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) rose to an all-time high of USD 161.2 billion in 2020, up 3.5% in real terms from 2019, boosted by additional spending mobilised to help developing countries grappling with the COVID-19 crisis. Bilateral ODA to Africa and least-developed countries rose by 4.1% and 1.8% respectively. Humanitarian aid rose by 6%. Excluding aid spent on hosting refugees within donor countries – which was down 9.5% from 2019 to USD 9.0 billion and mainly concerned Canada, Iceland and the Netherlands – ODA rose by 4.4% in real terms in 2020.
ODA data is collected, verified and made publicly available by the OECD.
OECD statistics are the only source of official, verified and comparable data on aid reported by 30 members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and about 80 other providers of development cooperation, including other countries, multilateral organisations and private foundations.
The OECD collects and publishes ODA data throughout the year:
April: aggregate level preliminary ODA data for prior calendar year and forward spending plans for year +3;
December: final detailed data including all individual project level data (CRS) for prior calendar year;
OECD Official Development Assistance (ODA) Statistics: Introducing the grant equivalent
In 2019, the grant equivalent system became the standard for measuring ODA. Although data on the grant equivalent measure were collected and published during a transition period from 2016 to 2018, in 2019 it became the standard: in April 2019, ODA headline figures applying this new standard were published for the first time, when the preliminary 2018 ODA statistics were released. Data on actual flows (i.e. disbursements and loan repayments) continue to be collected and published to ensure transparency.
Beyond 2019, the DAC continued to adjust its statistical systems to new realities and needs. In 2020, the DAC agreed on a method for accounting debt relief on a grant equivalent basis. Work will continue to make the reporting of private sector instruments also consistent with the new grant equivalent method. Work is also ongoing in relation to the methods for measuring the SDG focus of development co-operation (SDG focus, purpose codes, policy markers) in view of keeping the statistical classifications relevant and fit-for-purpose with the 2030 agenda.
The new statistical framework:
measures ODA loans more accurately and credibly, ensuring comparability of data across providers,
encourages more and better allocation of concessional resources to implement the SDGs,
promotes greater transparency and heightened accountability, helping to ensure that ODA goes where it is most needed and has the greatest development impact.