European Union institutions

The European Union (EU) – EU institutions and member states together – accounts for the largest share of total official development assistance (ODA) among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members and has a development co-operation presence in all regions and across all sectors. Among the EU institutions, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) manage funding. The European External Action Service co-ordinates foreign policy. The EU institutions’ total official development assistance (ODA) (USD 23.1 billion, preliminary data) increased by 30.3% in 2022, mostly due to support to Ukraine, some of which was in the form of loans.

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

In 2017, the EU and its member states adopted the New European Consensus for Development as a common strategic vision. The European Commission aims to be “geopolitical”, better aligning external and internal policies. While active across all regions and sectors, co-operation priorities include partnerships with Africa and the European neighbourhood, the European Green Deal, sustainable growth, migration, governance, and promoting the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. The Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 has established new instruments, including the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe, which has earmarked EUR 79.5 billion for co-operation for 2021-27. The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III incentivises political and economic reforms. The Global Gateway describes the joint EU approach to infrastructure financing.

The EU places a renewed importance on the multilateral system with the 2021 Joint Communication on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism. At the international level, it plays an important convening and leadership role in advocating for sustainable development. In 2022, the European Commission presented an EU Global Health Strategy. The EU is a leader in promoting policy coherence for sustainable development and supports coherence across member states. The 2021 Better Regulation initiative requires impact assessments to also consider the impact of EU regulation on developing countries.

The 2022 OECD-DAC mid-term review praised the EU’s major reform for establishing a range of new instruments with robust results frameworks and a focus on climate change, gender and poverty. The review also commended efforts to work closely with member states in organising a strong COVID response, including with “Team Europe”, and noted the important role the EU plays in supporting policy coherence for sustainable development. The EU could make further progress to address cumbersome procedures and pursue a more coherent financial architecture. The review noted the structural challenges in increasing resources to least developed countries (LDCs). Learn more about the EU’s 2022 mid-term review and the 2018 peer review.

The EU institutions provided USD 23.1 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2022 (USD 24.8 billion in constant terms). This was an increase of 30.3% in real terms in volume from 2021 due to support to Ukraine, including in the form of loans. The EU institutions and member states have committed to collectively achieve a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030. The bulk of the EU’s ODA over the next years will stem from the new “Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe”, with an envelope of EUR 79.5 billion for 2021-27. Within the EU institutions’ ODA portfolio in 2021, 69.5% was provided in the form of grants and 30.5% in the form of non-grants.1

The EU institutions rank third of all Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members in terms of ODA volume as a grant equivalent. The EU institutions provide almost exclusively bilateral aid. The EU institutions provided the highest volume of ODA for Ukraine in 2022. In 2021, the EU institutions had one of the highest shares of bilateral ODA allocated to Africa (37.1%). A high share of its ODA supports aid for trade (37.1% in 2021), for which the EU institutions are one of the largest providers.

The EU institutions is committed to several international targets, Development Assistance Committee standards and recommendations. Learn more about DAC recommendations.

The EU institutions provided most of its ODA bilaterally in 2021. Gross bilateral ODA was 99.9% of total ODA. Twenty-one per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). The EU institutions allocated 0.1% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2022, the EU institutions provided USD 10.6 billion of gross bilateral ODA to Ukraine to respond to the impacts of Russia’s war of aggression, of which USD 278.2 million was humanitarian assistance (preliminary data). In 2021, the EU institutions provided USD 1.2 billion.

In 2022, the EU institutions provided USD 4.8 billion in ODA for the COVID-19 response. In 2020 and 2021, the EU institutions’ total bilateral support for the COVID-19 response was USD 1.3 billion and USD 7.7 billion, respectively.

In 2021, the EU institutions provided USD 5.2 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, an increase of 4% in real terms from 2020. Of this, USD 34.1 million was core multilateral ODA, while non-core contributions were earmarked for a specific country, region, theme or purpose. Project-type funding earmarked for a specific theme and/or country accounted for 77.6% of the EU institutions' non-core contributions, and 22.4% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Fifty-six per cent of the EU institutions’ total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2021 was allocated to the UN system and the World Bank.

The UN system received 53.5% of the EU institutions’ multilateral contributions, mainly in the form of earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 2.6 billion to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of the EU institutions’ support (core and earmarked contributions) were UNICEF (USD 486.7 million), UNDP (USD 437 million) and WFP (USD 402.2 million).

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

In 2021, The EU institutions’ bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 24.1 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 5.2% in real terms from 2020. In 2021, the EU institutions focused most of its bilateral ODA on reduced inequality, no poverty and decent work and economic work goals of the UN 2030 agenda.

In 2021, country programmable aid was 52.9% of the EU institutions’ gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 45.2% (excluding the EU institutions).

The EU institutions disbursed USD 35.6 million for triangular co-operation in 2021. Its regional priority is Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on general environmental protection. Learn more about triangular co-operation and specific projects at the OECD’s voluntary triangular co-operation project repository.

In 2021, the EU institutions channelled bilateral ODA mainly through the public sector and multilateral organisations. Technical co-operation made up 11.5% of gross ODA in 2021.

In 2021, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 2.8 billion of gross bilateral ODA. Zero per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions and 11.3% was channelled through CSOs to implement projects initiated by the donor (earmarked funding). From 2020 to 2021, the combined core and earmarked contributions for CSOs increased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 9.5% to 11.4%. Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs, civil society engagement in development co-operation, and the DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society in Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Aid.

In 2021, the EU institutions’ bilateral ODA was focused mainly on Africa. USD 8.9 billion was allocated to Africa and USD 6.2 billion to Europe, accounting respectively for 37.1% and 25.9% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 2.5 billion (10.5%) was allocated to Asia. Africa was also the main regional recipient of the EU institutions’ earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations, in line with the policy priorities of the overall/multilateral strategy.

In 2021, 37.6% of gross bilateral ODA went to the EU institutions’ top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are mainly in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, 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 24.3%.

In 2021, the least developed countries (LDCs) received 18.4% of the EU institutions’ gross bilateral ODA (USD 4.4 billion). This is lower than the DAC average of 22.9%. The EU institutions allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (34.9%) to lower middle-income countries in 2021, noting that 24.3% was unallocated by income group. The EU institutions allocated 13.3% of gross bilateral ODA to land-locked developing countries in 2021, equal to USD 3.2 billion. The EU institutions allocated 1.5% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states (SIDS) in 2021, equal to USD 365.4 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 6.2 billion in 2021, representing 25.6% of the EU institutions’ gross bilateral ODA. Twenty-seven per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, increasing from 24.8% in 2020, while 18.1% was allocated to peace, decreasing from 19.4% in 2020. Seven per cent went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, which was the same as in 2020.

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

In 2021, over one-third of the EU institutions’ bilateral ODA was allocated to social infrastructure and services. Investments in this area accounted for 36.3% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 9.2 billion), with a strong focus on support to government and civil society (USD 3.3 billion), health (USD 2.9 billion) and education (USD 1.3 billion). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled 24.4% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 6.2 billion), focusing on banking and financial services (USD 2.1 billion), transport and storage (USD 1.7 billion) and energy (USD 1.5 billion). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 2.8 billion (11% of bilateral ODA). In 2021, earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused on emergency response, health and government and civil society.

In 2020-21, the EU institutions committed 60.4% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women’s empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (down from 60.5% in 2018-19, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 44.4%). This is equal to USD 9.9 billion of bilateral ODA in support of gender equality. The share of screened bilateral allocable aid committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal objective was 3.7% in 2020-21, compared with the DAC average of 4.5%. The EU institutions includes gender equality objectives in 12.9% of its ODA for humanitarian aid, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 17.5%. The EU institutions screens the majority of activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (71.9% in 2020-21). The EU institutions committed USD 34.2 million of ODA to end violence against women and girls and USD 55.7 million to support women’s rights organisations and movements and government institutions in 2020-21. Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality, the DAC Network on Gender Equality and the DAC Recommendation on Ending Sexual Exploitation in Development Co-operation.

In 2020-21, the EU institutions committed 26.7% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 6.1 billion) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (DAC average of 34.3%), down from 33.1% in 2018-19. Unpacking the environmental data further:

  • Nine per cent of screened bilateral allocable aid focused on environmental issues as a principal objective, compared with the DAC average of 11.3%.

  • Twenty-three per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 5.3 billion) focused on climate change overall (the DAC average was 29%), down from 27.9% in 2018-19. The EU institutions had a greater focus on mitigation (27.2%) than on adaptation (23.5%) in 2020-21.

  • Seven per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 1.1 billion) focused on biodiversity (compared with the DAC average of 6.5%), down from 9.4% in 2018-19.

Learn more about climate-related development finance and the DAC Declaration on Aligning Development Co-operation with the Goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The OECD initiative Sustainable Oceans for All shows that The EU institutions committed USD 48.6 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2021, down from USD 139.4 million in 2020. The 2021 value is equivalent to 0.2% of the EU institutions’ bilateral allocable aid. Learn more about development co-operation in support of a sustainable ocean economy and the data platform on development finance for a sustainable ocean economy.

In 2021, the EU institutions also:

  • Committed USD 24.9 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.1% of its bilateral allocable aid. Regarding the payment of local tax and custom duties for ODA-funded goods and services, the EU institutions do not typically seek exemptions on ODA-funded goods and services in partner countries and territories. It does not provide information on the OECD Digital Transparency Hub on the Tax Treatment of ODA portal to promote the transparency and accountability of tax exemptions.

  • Committed USD 8 billion (37.1% of its bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2021. The EU institutions is among the top 10 official providers of aid for trade globally.

  • Committed USD 734.3 million (3.4% of its bilateral allocable aid) to address the immediate or underlying determinants of malnutrition in developing countries across a variety of sectors, such as maternal health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) or agriculture.

  • Committed USD 7.3 billion (33.9% of its bilateral allocable aid) to development co-operation projects and programmes that promote the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

The EU institutions2 use leveraging mechanisms to mobilise private finance for sustainable development. In 2021, the European Commission mobilised USD 202.7 million from the private sector through direct investment in companies and special purpose vehicles, shares in collective investment vehicles, and simple co-financing.

In 2020-21, 84.6% of mobilised private finance by The EU institutions targeted middle-income countries and 2.9% LDCs and other low-income countries (LICs), noting that 12.5% was unallocated by income. During the same period, the top beneficiary region of this financing was Africa (80.3% of the total).

Mobilised private finance by The EU institutions in 2020-21 mainly benefited activities in the banking and financial services (89.1%) sector. Furthermore, over this period, 4.1% of The EU institutions’ total mobilised private finance was for climate action.

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

In 2021, the European Investment Bank (EIB) extended USD 1.2 billion in the form of private sector instruments. Of this, loans represented 86.1%, whereas equities accounted for 13.9%.

In 2021, USD 32.6 million (2.6%) of the EU institutions’ private sector instruments were allocated to the LDCs and other LICs, with 69.3% extended to middle-income countries and UMICs in particular (49.5%). Moreover, USD 350.8 million were unallocated by income.

The top three recipients included Brazil, Jordan and Georgia, together accounting for 32.8% of the EU institutions’ private sector instruments to developing countries in 2021.

In terms of sectoral distribution, 66.1% of the EU institutions’ private sector instruments were extended in support of projects in the banking and financial services sector, followed by energy (22.7%); agriculture, forestry, fishing (7.4%); and industry, mining, construction (2.2%). Health, education and other social sectors received USD 0.4 million through private sector instruments.

The EU institutions comprise two main actors: the European Commission (responsible for managing the majority of funds) and the EIB. Within the European Commission, the Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA, previously DEVCO) is in charge of formulating overall EU international co-operation and development policy, and covers co-operation with sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) manages co-operation with EU neighbours to the east and south. The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) is responsible for humanitarian assistance. The EIB operates with its own resources and through specific Commission mandates with EU development funds. The European External Action Service (EEAS) co-ordinates the EU’s foreign policy, participates in co-operation programming and manages the EU delegations. To co-ordinate their actions, all EU institutions as well as EU member states have signed “The New European Consensus on Development” and are working together as “Team Europe”.

DG INTPA has 3 600 staff, 1 250 (34.7%) of which are based in Brussels and 2 350 (65.3%) are in delegations in non-EU countries. DG NEAR has 1 650 staff based in Brussels. DG ECHO has 900 staff, half of which are based in Brussels and the other half in 45 offices abroad. The EEAS has 2 000 (46.5%) staff in Brussels and 2 300 (53.5%) in EU delegations globally.

An important mechanism for consulting stakeholders is public consultations on policy initiatives. The European Economic and Social Committee provides opinions on the EU’s external relations. The European Development Days are a large annual forum that brings together stakeholders across Europe to discuss challenges for sustainable development. CSOs active in development co-operation and global citizenship education co-ordinate through the umbrella body CONCORD and those for humanitarian assistance through the organisation VOICE.

Internal systems and processes help ensure the effective delivery of the EU institutions’ development co-operation. Select features are shown in the table below.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation monitoring exercise tracks the implementation of the effectiveness commitments. Following a reform of the exercise during 2020-22, the 4th global monitoring round (2023-26) has resumed. More detailed results for the EU institutions based on the 2016 and 2018 Monitoring Rounds can be found here. Monitoring profiles for other providers are available here.

2018 OECD-DAC peer review of the European Union:

European Commission, International Cooperation and Development:

European Commission, European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations:

European Commission, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations:

European External Action Service:

European Investment Bank (EIB):

CSO umbrella organisation Concord – European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs:

CSO umbrella organisation VOICE – Voluntary Organisations in Cooperation in Emergencies:

EU institutions’ practices on the Development Co-operation TIPs: Tools Insights Practices learning platform:

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.


← 1. Non-grants include sovereign loans, multilateral loans, equity investment and loans to the private sector.

← 2. At the time of compiling this profile, reporting on mobilised private finance for 2021 was still pending for the European Investment Bank.

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