By Elise Legault, research officer, Education for All Global Monitoring Report
New aid figures were released on Wednesday by the OECD, shedding for the first time some light on the impact of the financial crisis on development assistance. So how are things looking?
First the not-so-bad news. On average, aid from the richest nations did not decrease from 2008 to 2009 and even increased slightly – by 0.7%. Aid to sub-Saharan Africa rose by 5.1%. Some countries continued to increase their aid and surpass the UN target of 0.7% of gross domestic product, such as Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg and Norway. Others continue to make notable efforts, like the United Kingdom and Belgium, which increased their aid by 14.6% and 11.5% respectively.
Now the not-so-good news. If it were not for a few good performers, aid would have decreased in 2009, as several countries have started making cuts because of budgetary pressures. Italy cut aid by 31% in 2009. Ireland, Greece and Portugal all made cuts of over 10%. The United States and Japan – the two largest economies in the world – still give only 0.2% and 0.18% of their national income in aid to poor countries.
More important, rich countries seem likely to break the pledge they made at the Gleneagles Group of 8 summit in 2005. Estimates done by the OECD for the target year of 2010 show that sub-Saharan Africa will receive less than half the money it was promised. Given that the effects of the financial crisis on the budgets of many rich countries are only starting to be felt this year, things are looking bleak.
What does this mean for education? The 2010 Global Monitoring Report showed that even if governments from the poorest countries maximized their efforts to invest their own resources in education, there would still be a $16 billion gap in financing to reach the 2015 Education for All goals. The meager 0.7% increase in aid in 2009 is far from enough to fill that gap.