United Kingdom

Introduction

The United Kingdom’s 2015 aid strategy “Tackling Global Challenges in the National Interest” sets out a restructuring of the aid budget to tackle global challenges – from the root causes of mass migration and disease to the threat of terrorism and global climate change – in addition to retaining a focus on poverty reduction. Policy commitments include allocating 50% of official development assistance (ODA), which is disbursed through the Department for International Development (DFID), to fragile states and increasing the proportion of the ODA budget spent across government.

The 2018 DAC mid-term review of the United Kingdom’s development co-operation welcomed progress with DFID’s risk management and streamlined processes using “Smart Rules”, while noting the challenges associated with a whole-of-government approach. The United Kingdom is currently negotiating its departure from the European Union, which will impact on its ODA budgets and policy engagement. A DAC Peer Review of the United Kingdom will be conducted in 2019.

Official development assistance

The United Kingdom is unique in legislating for 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) to be reported as ODA. In 2018, the United Kingdom was the fifth most generous DAC donor in terms of proportion of GNI allocated to ODA and the third largest in terms of ODA volume. The United Kingdom is a strong supporter of civil society and the multilateral system. In line with its policy, a large proportion of the United Kingdom’s ODA addresses gender equality and fragility.

In 2018, the United Kingdom provided USD 19.4 billion in total ODA (preliminary data, current prices), using the new “grant-equivalent” methodology (see the methodological notes for further details) adopted by DAC members on their reporting of 2018 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. This represented 0.7% of GNI. Under the “cash-flow basis” methodology used in the past, 2018 net ODA was USD 19.5 billion, which represented an increase of 1.8% in real terms from 2017.

The United Kingdom’s share of untied bilateral ODA (excluding administrative costs and in-donor refugee costs) was 100% in 2017 (as in 2016), while the DAC country average was 82.1%. The grant element of total ODA was 95.5% in 2017. Non-grants represented 11.1% of gross ODA.

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In 2017, 63% of gross ODA was provided bilaterally, of which 30% was channelled through multilateral organisations (multi-bi/non-core contributions). The United Kingdom allocated 37% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations. Learn more about multilateral development finance.

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In 2017, country programmable aid was 46% of the United Kingdom’s bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 48% (see the methodological notes for further details on country programmable aid). Project-type interventions accounted for 62% of this aid.

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In 2017, the United Kingdom channelled 28.9% of gross bilateral ODA through the public sector (up from 27.5% in 2016). The share of bilateral ODA channelled through private sector institutions was 10.5%. In 2017, the United Kingdom channelled USD 822 million through universities or other teaching and research institutions, equal to 7.2% of its gross bilateral ODA, and USD 289 million through public-private partnerships, representing 2.5% of its gross bilateral ODA. See the methodological notes for further details on channels of delivery.

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In 2017, USD 2.3 billion of gross bilateral ODA was channelled to and through civil society organisations (CSOs). Between 2016 and 2017, ODA channelled to and through CSOs increased as a share of bilateral aid (from 19% to 20%). Learn more about ODA allocations to and through CSOs and the Civil Society Days.

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In 2017, bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa and Asia. USD 3.4 billion was allocated to sub-Saharan Africa, USD 1.2 billion to the Middle East, and USD 1.6 billion to South and Central Asia.

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In 2017, 29.2% of gross bilateral ODA went to the United Kingdom’s top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are fragile states in Africa and Asia. A third of the United Kingdom’s bilateral ODA is unallocated by region. Support to fragile contexts reached USD 5.2 billion in 2017 (45.8% of gross bilateral ODA). The focus on fragile states is in line with government policy. Learn more about support to fragile contexts.

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In 2017, 29.1% of the United Kingdom’s gross bilateral ODA (USD 3.3 billion) was allocated to the least developed countries (LDCs), noting that 44.9% was unallocated by income group. This is up from 28% in 2016. The DAC country average in 2017 was 23.5%. Lower middle-income countries received USD 2.1 billion of bilateral ODA in 2017 (18%).

At 0.23% of GNI in 2017, total ODA to the LDCs (including imputed multilateral flows) was above the UN target of 0.20% of GNI.

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In 2017, 42.5% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 3.1 billion) was allocated to social infrastructure and services, with a focus on health and population policy (USD 1.5 billion) and support to government and civil society (USD 1.1 billion). Humanitarian aid amounted to USD 1.3 billion (17.6%). In 2017, the United Kingdom committed USD 8 million of ODA to support developing countries to raise domestic revenue, amounting to 0.12% of bilateral allocable aid. The United Kingdom also committed USD 1.1 billion (17.1% of bilateral allocable aid) to promote aid for trade and improve developing countries’ trade performance and integration into the world economy in 2017.

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USD 3.1 billion of gross bilateral allocable ODA supported gender equality. In 2017, 46.6% of the United Kingdom’s bilateral sector-allocable aid had gender equality and women’s empowerment as a principal or significant objective (up from 45.5% in 2016), compared with the DAC country average of 36%. Learn more about ODA focused on gender equality and the DAC Network on Gender Equality.

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USD 1.6 billion of bilateral ODA commitments supported the environment. In 2017, 24.2% of its gross bilateral allocable aid supported the environment and 22.7% (USD 1.5 billion) focused on climate change, compared with the respective DAC country averages of 33% and 25%. Allocations supporting the environment rose from 22.8% in 2016, while those focused on climate change rose from 21.2% in 2016. The proportion of bilateral allocable ODA focusing specifically on adaptation fell from 16.1% in 2016 to 10.7% in 2017 and the proportion focusing specifically on mitigation rose from 9.2% to 16.8%. Learn more about climate-related development finance.

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Other financial flows and amounts mobilised from the private sector

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In 2017, the United Kingdom’s development finance institution – CDC Group, DFID, as well as the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) mobilised USD 851.2 million from the private sector. These funds were mobilised through shares in collective investment vehicles (CIVs), direct investment in companies and project finance special purpose vehicles (SPVs), guarantees, syndicated loans, and simple co-financing arrangements with the private sector.

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Of the country-allocable private finance mobilised in 2012-17, 85% targeted middle-income countries and 15% the LDCs.

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The United Kingdom’s private finance mobilised in 2012-17 mainly related to activities in the energy (35%); banking and financial services (34%); communications (12%); and industry, mining and construction (8%) sectors. Learn more about the amounts mobilised from private sector for development.

Institutional set-up

The Department for International Development (DFID) is the primary government department managing the United Kingdom’s ODA budget and the Secretary of State for International Development is a member of cabinet. The United Kingdom’s Aid Strategy aims to increase the proportion of the ODA budget managed outside of DFID, including through cross-government funds. In 2017, DFID managed 71% of the ODA budget. DFID supports other departments and cross-government funds to build capability to manage ODA in a range of different ways, and mechanisms exist to ensure a whole-of-government approach to managing ODA.

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Evaluation system

Each UK government department delivering ODA is responsible for its evaluation policy and evaluation function. DFID offers evaluation-related support to other aid-spending government departments. Within DFID, the Evaluation Unit, which is located in the Research & Evidence Division, supports the evaluation system, leading on the implementation of DFID’s evaluation policy and strategy. DFID Evaluation Policy 2013 guides the independence of its evaluation. DFID has a combined centralised/decentralised model, with evaluations commissioned both within the Evaluation Unit and spending units. The Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) plans and undertakes performance, learning and impact reviews of DFID and other government departments that spend ODA. Learn more about evaluation in the United Kingdom.

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

Performance against the commitments for effective development co-operation

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

Additional resources

2014 DAC Peer Review of the United Kingdom: http://www.oecd.org/dac/peer-reviews/peer-review-unitedkingdom.htm

2017 DAC Mid-term Review of the United Kingdom: https://www.oecd.org/dac/peer-reviews/UK-mid-term-review.pdf

Departement for Internarional Development (DFID): https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-international-development

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

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