Australia

Australia’s development co-operation efforts pivoted to address COVID-19 response and recovery, with a focus on health security, stability and economic recovery in developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia. Its official development assistance (ODA) as a share of gross national income (GNI) has declined in the past decade, and most ODA is channelled bilaterally. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is responsible for setting and implementing development policy. In 2020, Australia disbursed USD 82 million for health-related support in the COVID-19 response in partner countries.1

The 2018 OECD-DAC peer review commended Australia’s effort to focus its development co-operation programme, and its concerted effort to catalyse and support innovation across the Australian aid programme. It also recognised Australia’s international voice on behalf of small island developing states (SIDS). The review encouraged Australia to improve internal learning and external communications and restore its ODA levels. Learn more about the 2018 OECD-DAC peer review of Australia. The next OECD-DAC mid-term review of Australia’s development co-operation is planned for 2021.

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.

Australia’s policy Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response (2020) and the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper guide its development co-operation, which has pivoted to respond to health security, stability and economic recovery in developing countries in the wake of COVID-19. Australia continues to focus on its immediate neighbourhood, the Indo-Pacific region, particularly the Pacific, Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia, while remaining engaged in global relief and recovery effors to ensure these are effective.

Australia provided USD 2.6 billion (preliminary data),2 representing 0.19% of GNI in 2020. This was a decrease of 10.6% in real terms in volume, due to slowed spending as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining an overall commitment to an AUD 4.0 billion aid programme. In 2021, the Australian government has announced temporary and targeted economic and vaccine-related initiatives to supplement the ongoing ODA budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Total ODA on a grant-equivalent basis has the same value as net ODA under the cash-flow methodology used in the past, as Australia provides only grants.3 Technical co-operation made up 27% of gross ODA in 2019.

In 2020, Australia ranked 21st among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries when ODA is taken as a share of GNI (preliminary figures). Australia’s ODA has declined in the past decade in both volume and as a share of ODA/GNI. In line with its policy priorities, Australia’s ODA is strongly focused on SIDS and the Pacific. Australia commits over a third of its bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, with a growing share also focusing on climate, reaching a quarter of total bilateral allocable aid in 2019. Australia is also increasing its support for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean.

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In 2019, Australia provided over three-quarters of its ODA bilaterally. Gross bilateral ODA was 77.2% of total ODA, of which 22.8% was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). Australia allocated 22.8% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

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In 2019, Australia provided USD 1.2 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, a marginal increase of 0.7% in real terms from 2018. Of this, USD 660.3 million was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding earmarked to a specific theme and/or country accounted for 41% of Australia’s non-core contributions, while the remaining 59% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

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In 2019, Australia’s 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 85.0% of Australia’s total support to the multilateral system. The UN system received 34.6%, mainly through earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 405.3 million to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of Australia’s support (core and earmarked contributions) were the World Food Programme (USD 94.5 million), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USD 58.1 million) and the United Nations Development Programme (USD 43.3 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, Australia’s bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 2.2 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 8.8% in real terms from 2018. In 2019, Australia focused most of its bilateral ODA on addressing the gender equality, reduced inequality, disability, climate action and life on land goals of the 2030 Agenda.

In 2019, country programmable aid was 67.0% of Australia’s gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 48.0%. Australia does not report refugee costs as ODA.

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Note: NGO: non-governmental organisation.

In 2019, Australia channelled bilateral ODA mainly through multilateral organisations as earmarked funding and the public sector. A greater share was channelled through “other channels” in 2019, accounting for 40% of bilateral ODA.

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In 2019, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 265.4 million of gross bilateral ODA. Two per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 10.2% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). Between 2018 and 2019, core and earmarked contributions to CSOs slightly increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 10.3% to 11.9%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs and civil society engagement in development co-operation.

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In 2019, Australia’s bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Oceania and Asia. USD 819.5 million was allocated to Oceania and USD 704.4 million to Asia, accounting respectively for 36.6% and 31.5% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 130.5 million was allocated to ODA-eligible countries in the Middle East (5.8%). Bilateral allocations to Oceania are increasing as a share of bilateral ODA in line with government policy. Asia and Oceania were also among the main regional recipients of Australia’s earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, in line with Australia’s policy priorities. Twenty-three per cent of gross bilateral ODA was unspecified by region in 2019, including core contributions to CSOs.

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Bilateral ODA by recipient country

In 2019, 49.0% of gross bilateral ODA went to Australia’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are in the Asia-Pacific region, where Australia has programmes with 25 countries, in line with its focus on its immediate neighbourhood and its policy priorities. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 30.2%.

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In 2019, least developed countries received 25.1% of Australia’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 561.7 million). This is in line with the DAC country average of 24.6%. Australia allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (36.8%) to lower middle-income countries in 2019, noting that 30.2% was unallocated by income group. Australia allocated 34.8% of gross bilateral ODA to SIDS in 2019, equal to USD 779.4 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 937.1 million in 2019, representing 41.9% of Australia’s gross bilateral ODA. Sixteen per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 12.6% in 2018, while 21.1% was allocated to peace, similar to 21.7% in 2018. Four per cent (USD 35.1 million) went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, similar to 3.9% 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 for Australia. Investments in this area accounted for 41.8% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 932.3 million), with a focus on support to government and civil society (USD 418.1 million), health and population policies (USD 212.8 million), and education (USD 178.2 million). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled USD 229.6 million, with a focus on transport and storage (USD 75.2 million) and communications (USD 75.2 million). Bilateral humanitarian aid amounted to USD 222.4 million (10.0% of bilateral ODA). Earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused primarily on humanitarian aid and social sectors in 2019.

In 2019, Australia committed USD 17.4 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.9% of bilateral allocable aid. Australia also committed USD 392.5 million (19.2% of bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2019.

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In 2019, Australia committed 37.9% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment overall, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 44% in 2018),4 compared with the 2019 DAC country average of 41.6%. This is equal to USD 774.7 million 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 4.8%, compared with the 2019 DAC country average of 5.5%. A significantly higher share of interventions on social infrastructure and services addresses gender equality than those on economic infrastructure. Australia 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, Australia committed 25.5% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 520.2 million) in support of the environment and the Rio Convention, up from 17.1% in 2018 (the DAC country average was 35.3%). Two per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC country average of 9.7%. Twenty-five per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 515 million) focused on climate change overall, up from 13.3% in 2018 (the DAC country average was 27.1%). Australia focused slightly more on adaptation (25.2%) in 2019 than on mitigation (24.9%).

Data presented in this report only partially incorporate Australia’s ODA expenditure on climate change in 2019 due to limitations in capturing Rio Marker information within the database used to provide the annual OECD-DAC reporting. The majority of Australia’s assistance focused on climate change is directed to adaptation. Australia will revise its Rio Marker responses for this period and the result will be reflected in the 2022 Development Co-operation Profiles. Learn more about climate-related development finance.

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Estimates produced as part of the OECD Sustainable Ocean for All initiative show that in 2019, Australia committed USD 96.0 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean, recording a remarkable increase from USD 27.7 million in 2018 (an increase of 246% in real terms). The 2019 value is equivalent to 4.5% of Australia’s bilateral allocable aid. Find out more about ODA for the sustainable ocean economy on the new OECD data platform on development finance for a sustainable ocean economy.

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DFAT has overall responsibility for development co-operation policy and is responsible for most of Australia’s ODA budget. Within DFAT, development-related work cuts across several divisions, with geographic divisions and posts responsible for managing country and regional development programmes. The Aid Governance Board provides oversight and governance of the overall development programme, supporting the secretary and the departmental executive. Australia’s reporting includes ODA disbursed through all government agencies. The Australian Federal Police and the Department of Treasury, among others, contribute to Australia’s development efforts.

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DFAT’s Development Evaluation Policy, updated in November 2020, has a focus on maximising the use of findings and recommendations stemming from evaluations. The policy sets out why evaluations are undertaken and mandates the publication of all evaluations with management responses in a timely manner. In 2020, the Development Evaluation Unit in DFAT’s Office of the Chief Economist took on core functions of the former Office of Development Effectiveness, including co-ordinating DFAT’s Annual Development Evaluation Plan, and synthesising and disseminating evaluation findings for continuous programme improvement. Evaluations are initiated and managed by programme areas, such as country, regional, global and thematic programmes. Each programme undertakes an annual process to identify and prioritise evaluations to account for and improve their work. Each area can also undertake rapid management reviews to help inform immediate decisions. These reviews are similar to evaluations, but involve less time and resources, and are generally less rigorous. Read more about Australia’s evaluation system.

DFAT’s Annual Development Evaluation Plan is approved by the secretary and published on DFAT’s website. The 2021 plan outlines 46 evaluations commissioned by DFAT programme areas to be published in 2021. Read more about Australia’s evaluation plan.

Visit the DAC Evaluation Resource Centre website for evaluations of Australian development co-operation.

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

Australian Aid: https://dfat.gov.au/aid/Pages/australias-aid-program.aspx

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT): https://dfat.gov.au/pages/default.aspx

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 1966.

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.

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