United States

The United States is the largest bilateral humanitarian and development co-operation provider of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). Total official development assistance (ODA) increased in 2020, representing 0.17% of the United States’ gross national income (GNI) and constituting 20% of DAC members’ total ODA in 2020. In total, 22 government agencies manage foreign assistance, with the majority of ODA managed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). In 2019, the United States mobilised USD 7.1 billion from the private sector. In 2020, the United States allocated upwards of USD 6.4 billion for the global COVID-19 response and disbursed USD 438 million in support of health-related expenses for the COVID-19 response in partner countries.1

The latest OECD-DAC peer review of the United States took place in 2016. The United States opted out of a mid-term review, and the next peer review is planned for 2022.

Please note that 2020 preliminary and 2019 data in the text are provided in current prices whereas the charts reflect all data in constant 2018 USD, in order for the data to be comparable over time. Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

The US government’s foreign assistance is guided by its Interim National Security Strategy, that establishes US priorities for joining with the international community to address shared challenges. US priorities for foreign assistance focus on combating the continuing threat posed by COVID-19 and improving global health and security; tackling the climate crisis; building back better our economic foundations; revitalising democracy while countering authoritarianism and corruption; addressing discrimination, inequity and marginalisation in all its forms; promoting global stability; and offering an alternative to predatory development models.

During 2021, the United States will continue its review and alignment of foreign assistance policy and programming with these foreign assistance priorities. The President’s FY2022 Discretionary Funding Request includes funding to advance key State Department and USAID priorities, including working alongside and in partnership with other countries to address these priorities. As of February 2021, the USAID administrator is a member of the National Security Council, and will play a more direct role in shaping US foreign policy and ensuring the development perspective informs critical national security decision making.

The United States provided USD 35.5 billion (preliminary data),2 representing 0.17% of GNI in 2020. This was an increase of 4.7% in real terms in volume, due to increased contributions to multilateral organisations. Its ODA/GNI ratio increased in 2020, ranking it 24th among DAC countries. Total ODA on a grant-equivalent basis has the same value as net ODA under the cash-flow methodology used in the past, as the United States provides only grants.3

ODA levels rebounded in 2020 after a three consecutive years of decrease. The United States is the largest humanitarian partner, and close to half (43%) of gross bilateral ODA went to fragile contexts in 2019. The largest share of gross bilateral ODA went to sub-Saharan Africa. The United States spends relatively little ODA in support of gender, climate and the environment and provides close to zero core support to civil society organisations (CSOs).

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In 2019, the United States provided more of its ODA bilaterally. Gross bilateral ODA was 87.6% of total ODA, of which 25.3% was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). The United States allocated 12.4% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

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In 2019, the United States provided USD 11.6 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 13.0% in real terms from 2018. Of this, USD 4.2 billion was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. All non-core contributions were reported as programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

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In 2019, the United States’ total contribution to multilateral organisations was mainly allocated to the United Nations (UN), the World Bank Group and regional development banks. These contributions together accounted for more than 81.1% of the United States’ total support to the multilateral system. The UN system received 63.7%, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 7.4 billion to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of the United States’ support (core and earmarked contributions) were the World Food Programme (USD 2.3 billion), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USD 1.7 billion) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (USD 583 million).

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See the section on Geographic and thematic focus of ODA for the breakdown of bilateral allocations earmarked through the multilateral development system. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

In 2019, the United States’ bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 29.5 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of -5.4% in real terms from 2018.

In 2019, country programmable aid was 42.6% of the United States’ gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 48.0%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 1.9 billion in 2019, an increase of 13.9% in real terms over 2018, and represented 6.6% of the United States’ total gross bilateral ODA.

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Note: NGO: non-governmental organisation.

In 2019, the United States channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector and multilateral organisations, followed closely by non-governmental organisations.

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In 2019, CSOs received USD 6.7 billion of gross bilateral ODA. Almost no gross bilateral ODA (0.02%) was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 22.5% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). Between 2018 and 2019, core and earmarked contributions to CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 22.3% to 22.5%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs and civil society engagement in development co-operation.

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In 2019, the United States’ bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa and Asia. USD 10.0 billion was allocated to Africa and USD 3.7 billion to Asia, accounting respectively for 33.8% and 12.7% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 3.2 billion (10%) was allocated to the Middle East. Africa and Asia were the main regional recipients of the United States’ earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations. Thirty-three per cent of gross bilateral ODA was unspecified by region in 2019.

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Bilateral ODA by recipient country

In 2019, 26.4% of gross bilateral ODA went to the United States’ top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are fragile and/or in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, in line with its focus on fragile contexts and the poorest countries. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 36.8%, in large part due to in-donor refugee costs.

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In 2019, least developed countries (LDCs) received 33.0% of the United States’ gross bilateral ODA (USD 9.6 billion). This is well above the DAC country average of 23.8%. The United States allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA to the LDCs and the second-highest share (20.2%) to lower middle-income countries in 2019, noting that 36.8% was unallocated by income group. The United States allocated 1.7% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states in 2019, equal to USD 496.1 million.

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Note: LDC: least developed country; LIC: low-income country; LMIC: lower middle-income country; UMIC: upper middle-income country; MADCTs: more advanced developing countries and territories.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 12.8 billion in 2019, representing 43.2% of the United States’ gross bilateral ODA. Thirty-seven per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 29.5% in 2018, while 13.8% was allocated to peace, an increase from 11.1% in 2018. Four per cent (USD 504.2 million) went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, representing an increase from 3.3% in 2018.

Learn more about support to fragile contexts on the States of Fragility platform.

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Note: HDP: humanitarian-development-peace. The chart represents only gross bilateral official development assistance that is allocated by country.

In 2019, social infrastructure and services was the largest focus of bilateral ODA. Investments in this area accounted for 41.5% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 13.1 billion), exhibiting a strong focus on support to health (USD 6.1 billion), government and civil society (USD 5.0 billion), and education (USD 1.4 billion). Ten per cent of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 3.0 billion) were for administrative costs. Bilateral humanitarian aid amounted to USD 9.3 billion (29.7% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused also on humanitarian aid in 2019.

In 2019, the United States committed USD 40.2 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.2% of bilateral allocable aid. The United States also committed USD 2.7 billion (10.1% of bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2019. The United States is among the top 10 providers of aid for trade globally.

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In 2019, the United States committed 22.7% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment overall, as either a principal or significant objective (up from 20.6% in 2018),4 compared with the 2019 DAC country average of 41.6%. This is equal to USD 6.1 billion of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. Out of this, the share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 4.0%, compared with the 2019 DAC country average of 5.5%. A significantly higher share of interventions on social infrastructure and services and production sectors address gender equality than those on economic infrastructure. The United States screens all activities against the gender marker (100% in 2019). Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality and the DAC Network on Gender Equality.

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In 2019, the United States committed 9.3% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 2.5 billion) in support of the environment and the Rio Convention, up from 7.2% in 2018 (the DAC country average was 35.3%). Five per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 9.7%. Three per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 931.3 million) focused on climate change overall, similar to 3.5% in 2018 (the DAC country average was 27.1%). The United States had an equal focus on mitigation (2.2%) and adaptation (2.1%) in 2019. Learn more about climate-related development finance.

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In 2019, the United States’ development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and USAID together mobilised USD 7.1 billion from the private sector through guarantees (78%), simple co-financing arrangements (11%), and direct investment in companies and special purpose vehicles (11%).5

Note: See the section on “Institutional set-up” regarding the United States’ institutional reform in 2019, merging the guarantee portfolio of USAID’s Development Credit Authority and OPIC under the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).

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Note: CIV: collective investment vehicle; SPV: special purpose vehicle.

Of this, in 2019, 61% of private finance mobilised targeted middle-income countries, 3% the LDCs and other LICs, and 4% for fragile contexts. Moreover, 35% was unallocated by income.

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Note: LDC: least developed country; LIC: low-income country; LMIC: lower middle-income country; UMIC: upper middle-income country; MADCT: more advanced developing country and territory.

Private finance mobilised by the United States in 2018-19 related mainly to activities in the banking and business services (59%); energy (15%); and industry, mining and construction (8%) sectors. Moreover, climate change mitigation and/or adaptation over 2018-19 accounted for 24% of its total private finance mobilised over the two-year period.

Learn more about the amounts mobilised from the private sector for development.

USAID is an independent agency of the US government that manages the majority of gross ODA and works closely with the State Department, receiving overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. The Department of Treasury has decision-making authority for multilateral development banks and key global funds. In 2019, OPIC and USAID’s Development Credit Authority were consolidated under a new DFC, which has expanded authorities under the BUILD Act of 2018. A smaller percentage of ODA is managed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an innovative US foreign assistance agency whose mission is to reduce poverty through economic growth. In total, 22 US government agencies manage foreign assistance.

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All US agencies implementing foreign assistance funding are required to meet monitoring and evaluation requirements of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act (FATAA) of 2016, the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act, and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget’s Monitoring associated guidelines. Four US government agencies – the US Department of State, USAID, the DFC and the MCC – manage and evaluate a significant share of US foreign assistance, and illustrate the implementation of the FATAA and Evidence Act guidelines.

The Evaluation Policy of the Department of State includes independence and integrity as one of its three standards for evaluation. Under the Department of State, the Office of US Foreign Assistance oversees and supports implementation of the department’s Program and Project Design, Monitoring and Evaluation Policy through provision of guidance, toolkits, templates and technical assistance. In USAID, the Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research oversees the implementation of programme monitoring, evaluation and learning requirements as part of USAID’s Program Cycle. USAID’s Evaluation Policy emphasises the principles of independence, transparency, relevance, rigor, local ownership, as well as the integration of evaluation into design. The DFC evaluates every project using its performance management tool, Impact Quotient (IQ), to measure, monitor and evaluate its development impact throughout the life of the project. Meanwhile, the Department of Policy and Evaluation manages the MCC’s rigorous independent evaluations. Lastly, the Office of the Inspector General reviews the integrity of the programmes and operations of the Department of State, USAID and the MCC, among others, including the work of the evaluation departments. Learn more on the United States’ evaluation system for foreign assistance at the Department of State, USAID, the DFC and the MCC, and the Office of the Inspector General’s oversight plan for FY 2021.

Visit the DAC Evaluation Resource Centre website for evaluations of the United States’ development co-operation.

Explore the Monitoring Dashboard of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

US Agency for International Development (USAID): www.usaid.gov

Millennium Challenge Corporation: https://www.mcc.gov

US International Development Finance Corporation: https://www.dfc.gov

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 1961.

The methodological notes provide further details on the definitions and statistical methodologies applied, including the grant-equivalent methodology, core and earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, country programmable aid, channels of delivery, bilateral ODA unspecified/unallocated, bilateral allocable aid, the gender equality policy marker, and the environment markers.

Notes

← 1. Data on COVID-19 related activities are preliminary and partial, as many donors are still in the process of collecting detailed information on COVID-19 related activities, especially sector-related ones. These data may differ from individual announcements made by countries due to the timing of payments and some may be reported in 2021 data. Detailed final 2020 data will be published in December 2021.

← 2. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 3. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

← 4. The use of the recommended minimum criteria for the marker by some members in recent years can result in lower levels of aid reported as being focused on gender equality.

← 5. In December 2019, OPIC, along with the Development Credit Authority (DCA) of USAID, were transformed into the DFC.

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