United Kingdom

The United Kingdom’s development co-operation architecture and policy changed significantly in 2020 with the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union (EU). Its total official development assistance (ODA) increased to USD 15.7 billion (preliminary data) in 2022 due to an increase in gross national income (GNI) and additional funding for in-donor refugee costs. ODA represented 0.51% of GNI.

Find the methodological notes behind the profile here.

The 2022 UK Government’s Strategy for International Development sets out four priorities: 1) supporting sustainable growth; 2) women and girls; 3) humanitarian assistance; and 4) climate change, nature and global health. The strategy articulates several delivery shifts, including towards bilateral ODA and expanding the UK’s toolkit for development, including the use of British expertise. It sets out a “patient approach”, focused on long-term partnerships for development, and uses a whole-of-government approach to tackle development challenges.

While the strategy foresees the share of the United Kingdom’s ODA for multilateral co-operation to decline (to reach 25% of total ODA by 2025), it stresses that multilateral partnerships will remain essential, notably with the United Nations (UN) system; international financial institutions; global funds for health, education and climate; and the Commonwealth. Through its presidencies of the Group of Seven (G7) and COP 26 in 2021, the United Kingdom sought to garner international support for climate change, protect democratic values, and preserve the space for resilient and open societies to flourish. The Integrated Review Refresh 2023 re-iterates sustainable development as one of the UK’s priorities and central to its foreign policy. It sets out how the UK will “re-invigorate” global progress on the SDGs through work on seven specific initiatives over 2023 and 2024.

The 2020 OECD-DAC peer review of the United Kingdom was published as leadership for development co-operation moved to the new FCDO. The review commended the United Kingdom’s approach to learning and commitment to stabilisation and recognised its convening power and commitment to poverty reduction and gender equality. The review also highlighted the United Kingdom’s focus on fragile contexts, including through its development finance institution, the CDC Group (now British International Investment). The review encouraged more transparency and dialogue with partners beyond their role as implementers and encouraged the United Kingdom to continue to allocate at least 0.7% of its GNI to ODA and retain the legislative requirement to have a direct line of sight between ODA and poverty reduction. Learn more about the United Kingdom's 2020 OECD-DAC peer review.

The United Kingdom provided USD 15.7 billion (preliminary data) of ODA in 2022 (USD 16.8 billion in constant terms), representing 0.51% of GNI.1 This was an increase of 6.7% in real terms in volume, driven by an increase in GNI for 2022 and additional funding for in-donor refugee costs. The share of its ODA spent outside of the United Kingdom fell. After more than a decade of a steady increase in ODA volume, the last two years remain well below the 2020 peak. The United Kingdom’s 2022 ODA budget was in line with its temporary reduction to around 0.5% (0.51% in 2022), but did not meet the United Kingdom’s target, and international commitment, to spend 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio by 2030. The United Kingdom aims to return to a 0.7% ODA/GNI ratio when two fiscal tests are met.2 Within the United Kingdom's ODA portfolio in 2021, 92.5% was provided in the form of grants and 7.5% in the form of non-grants.3

The UK's ODA/GNI ratio ranked 12th among Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries in 2022. The decrease in ODA/GNI in 2021 was the first time that the United Kingdom did not meet the 0.7% target since 2013. It had the second-highest share of bilateral ODA unallocated by country (60.8%). Among DAC members, it provided the highest share of private sector instruments to LDCs and other LICs (14.3%). All of the United Kingdom's ODA to countries covered by the DAC Recommendation on Untying ODA was reported as untied in 2021.

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

The United Kingdom provided a higher share of its ODA bilaterally in 2021. Total gross bilateral ODA was 60.5% of total ODA. Nineteen per cent of gross bilateral ODA was channelled through multilateral organisations (earmarked contributions). The United Kingdom allocated 39.5% of total ODA as core contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2022, the United Kingdom provided USD 396.8 million of gross bilateral ODA to Ukraine to respond to the impacts of Russia's war of aggression, of which USD 190.9 million was humanitarian assistance (preliminary data). In 2021, it provided USD 42.9 million.

In 2022, the United Kingdom provided USD 327.2 million4 in ODA for the COVID-19 response. Regarding COVID-19 vaccines, donations of excess doses to developing countries accounted for USD 280.8 million of ODA. In 2020 and 2021, the United Kingdom’s total bilateral support for COVID-19 response was USD 2.1 billion and USD 841.6 million, respectively.

In 2021, the United Kingdom provided USD 8.4 billion of gross ODA to the multilateral system, a fall of 25.9% in real terms from 2020. Of this, USD 6.5 billion 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 24.6% of the United Kingdom's non-core contributions and 75.4% was programmatic funding (to pooled funds and specific-purpose programmes and funds).

Fifty-one per cent of the United Kingdom's total contributions to multilateral organisations in 2021 was allocated to EU Institutions5, World Bank, and UN funds and programmes (in descending order).

The UN system received 23.9% of the United Kingdom's multilateral contributions, mainly in the form of earmarked contributions. Out of a total volume of USD 2.0 billion to the UN system, the top three UN recipients of the United Kingdom's support (core and earmarked contributions) were WFP (USD 377.5 million), UNICEF (USD 312.9 million) and UNDP (USD 242.8 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 United Kingdom's bilateral spending declined compared to the previous year. It provided USD 10 billion of gross bilateral ODA (which includes earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations). This represented a decrease of 25.1% in real terms from 2020. In 2021, the United Kingdom focused most of its bilateral ODA on gender, peace, poverty and health.

In 2021, country programmable aid was 30.8% of the United Kingdom's gross bilateral ODA, compared to a DAC country average of 45.2%. In-donor refugee costs were USD 1.4 billion in 2021, an increase of 67% in real terms over 2020, and represented 14.5% of the United Kingdom's gross bilateral ODA.

In 2021, the United Kingdom channelled bilateral ODA through the public sector, multilateral organisations, NGOs and the private sector, as earmarked funding. Technical co-operation made up 8.3% of gross ODA in 2021.

In 2021, civil society organisations (CSOs) received USD 1.5 billion of gross bilateral ODA. Three per cent of gross bilateral ODA was allocated to CSOs as core contributions, and 11.5% 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 decreased as a share of bilateral ODA, from 16.9% to 14.8%. 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 United Kingdom's bilateral ODA was primarily focused on Africa. USD 2.4 billion was allocated to Africa and USD 1.3 billion to Asia (excluding the Middle East), accounting respectively for 24.1% and 12.5% of gross bilateral ODA. USD 609.2 million (6.1%) was allocated to the Middle East. Asia was also the main regional recipient of the United Kingdom's earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations.

In 2021, 16.4% of gross bilateral ODA went to the United Kingdom's top 10 recipients. Its top 10 recipients are in Asia and Africa plus Yemen and reflect its policy priorities. The share of gross bilateral ODA that was not allocated by country was 60.8%, with 23.9% of this unallocated bilateral ODA spent on refugees in the donor country.

In 2021, the least developed countries (LDCs) received 19.1% of the United Kingdom's gross bilateral ODA (USD 1.9 billion). This is lower than the DAC average of 22.9%. The United Kingdom allocated the highest share of gross bilateral ODA (19.1%) to least developed countries in 2021, noting that 60.8% was unallocated by income group. The United Kingdom allocated 10.2% of gross bilateral ODA to land-locked developing countries in 2021, equal to USD 1.0 billion. The United Kingdom allocated 0.7% of gross bilateral ODA to small island developing states (SIDS) in 2021, equal to USD 69 million.

Support to fragile contexts reached USD 2.6 billion in 2021, representing 25.6% of the United Kingdom's gross bilateral ODA. Thirty-four per cent of this ODA was provided in the form of humanitarian assistance, decreasing from 35% in 2020, while 11.7% was allocated to peace, decreasing from 13.8% in 2020. Six per cent went to conflict prevention, a subset of contributions to peace, representing an increase from 5.1% in 2020.

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

In 2021, over one-third of the United Kingdom's bilateral ODA was allocated to social infrastructure and services. Investments in this area accounted for 39.7% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 1.4 billion), with a strong focus on support to government and civil society (USD 570.6 million), health (USD 500.4 million) and education (USD 245.4 million). ODA for economic infrastructure and services totalled 14.8% of bilateral ODA commitments (USD 532.6 million), focusing on energy (USD 330.6 million), communications (USD 69.7 million) and banking and financial services (USD 60.7 million). Bilateral humanitarian assistance amounted to USD 593.6 million (16.5% of bilateral ODA). In 2021, earmarked contributions to multilateral organisations focused on emergency response, government and civil society and energy.

In 2020-21, the United Kingdom committed 68.6% of its screened bilateral allocable aid to gender equality and women's empowerment, as either a principal or significant objective (up from 56.6% in 2018-19, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 44.4%). This is equal to USD 3.1 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 5.1% in 2020-21, compared with the DAC average of 4.5%. The United Kingdom includes gender equality objectives in 73.7% of its ODA for humanitarian aid, compared with the 2020-21 DAC average of 17.5%. The United Kingdom screens the majority of activities against the DAC gender equality policy marker (96.2% 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 United Kingdom committed 31.3% of its total bilateral allocable aid (USD 1.5 billion) in support of the environment and the Rio Conventions (DAC average of 34.3%), up from 22.3% in 2018-19. Unpacking the environmental data further:

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

  • Twenty-eight per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 1.3 billion) focused on climate change overall (the DAC average was 29%), up from 19.8% in 2018-19. The United Kingdom had a greater focus on mitigation (29.9%) than on adaptation (11.2%) in 2020-21.

  • Four per cent of total bilateral allocable aid (USD 145.6 million) focused on biodiversity (compared with the DAC average of 6.5%), down from 5.8% 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 United Kingdom committed USD 79.4 million in support of the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in 2021, up from USD 21.9 million in 2020. The 2021 value is equivalent to 2.3% of the United Kingdom's 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 United Kingdom also:

  • Committed USD 7.6 million of bilateral ODA to the mobilisation of domestic resources in developing countries, amounting to 0.2% of its bilateral allocable aid. Regarding the payment of local tax and custom duties for ODA-funded goods and services, the United Kingdom has no general policy and makes information available on the OECD Digital Transparency Hub on the Tax Treatment of ODA.

  • Committed USD 845.8 million (24.2% 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 United Kingdom is among the top 10 official providers of aid for trade globally.

  • Committed USD 530.3 million (15.2% 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 866.7 million (24.8% of its bilateral allocable aid) to development co-operation projects and programmes that promote the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

The United Kingdom uses leveraging mechanisms to mobilise private finance for sustainable development. In 2021, its DFI, the British International Investment (BII), as well as the Department of Energy and the Climate Change, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy together mobilised USD 2.1 billion from the private sector through direct investment in companies and special purpose vehicles, syndicated loans, shares in collective investment vehicles, and simple co-financing.

In 2020-21, 52.1% of mobilised private finance by the United Kingdom targeted middle-income countries and 28.4% LDCs and other low-income countries (LICs), noting that 19.5% was unallocated by income. During the same period, the top region of mobilised private finance by the United Kingdom was Africa (49.6% of the total).

Mobilised private finance by the United Kingdom in 2020-21 mainly benefited activities in the communications (32.5%), energy (31.1%) and banking & financial services (16.5%) sectors. Furthermore, over this period, 37.6% of the United Kingdom's total mobilised private finance was for climate action.

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

In 2021, the United Kingdom's DFI British International Investments (BII) and, to a lesser extent also the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) extended USD 2 billion in the form of private sector instruments. Of this, loans represented 31.8%, whereas equities accounted for 56.5%. Other private sector instruments included other debt instruments (11.7%).

In 2021, USD 282.7 million (14.3%) of the United Kingdom's private sector instruments was allocated to the LDCs and other LICs, with a majority of 54.3% received by middle-income countries and LMICs in particular (44.6%). Moreover, USD 623.3 million was unallocated by income.

The top three recipients included India, South Africa and Ethiopia, together accounting for 33.9% of the United Kingdom’s private sector instruments to developing countries in 2021.

In terms of sectoral distribution, 40.9% of the United Kingdom’s private sector instruments were extended in support of projects in the banking and financial services, followed by energy (19.3%), communications (9.2%) and health (8.2%). Education, health and other social sectors received USD 190.4 million through private sector instruments. A share of 25.5% of this financing focused on climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

Since September 2020, the FCDO has managed the bulk of the United Kingdom’s ODA, following the merger with the Department for International Development. Under a dedicated whole-of-government approach, a number of departments are active in development co-operation and specific cross-government funds exist. The 2023 Integrated Review Refresh seeks to maximise the benefits of the merger of diplomacy and development into one department, notably with the Minister for International Development having a permanent place on the National Security Council, a new second Permanent Secretary in the FCDO to oversee development priorities, and a new FCDO-HM Treasury governance structure to improve the oversight of all ODA spending. The International Development Committee in parliament continues to be responsible for scrutiny of UK aid and ODA expenditure, including by the FCDO, and taking forward the work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.

The FCDO employs around 17,300 staff in its diplomatic and development offices worldwide. Roughly a third are UK-based civil servants, whose careers typically include roles both in the UK and overseas. Around two-thirds are employed locally in other countries.

The United Kingdom draws upon the expertise of the private sector, civil society and academia to advise and challenge its implementation of the International Development Strategy. CSOs active in development co-operation, humanitarian assistance and global citizenship education co-ordinate through the umbrella body BOND.

Internal systems and processes help ensure the effective delivery of the United Kingdom’s 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 United Kingdom based on the 2016 and 2018 Monitoring Rounds can be found here. Monitoring profiles for other providers are available here.

Integrated Review Refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/integrated-review-refresh-2023-responding-to-a-more-contested-and-volatile-world

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO): https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-development-office

British International Investment (former CDC Group), the United Kingdom's development finance institute: https://www.bii.co.uk

CSO platform Bond: https://www.bond.org.uk

The United Kingdom's practices on the Development Co-operation TIPs: Tools Insights Practices learning platform: https://www.oecd.org/development-cooperation-learning?tag-key+partner=united+kingdom#search

Member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee 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. DAC members adopted the grant-equivalent methodology starting from their reporting of 2019 data as a more accurate way to count the donor effort in development loans. See the methodological notes for further details.

← 2. The two fiscal tests are that, on a sustainable basis, the United Kingdom government is not borrowing to finance day-to-day spending, and that underlying debt is falling.

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

← 4. The FCDO’s preliminary COVID-19 figure consists of programmes specifically designed to address the pandemic, whereas in previous reports the figure also included spend of programmes which already existed but were adapted to respond to the crisis.

← 5. The UK has agreed to continue to contribute to the EU’s main overseas aid programme – the European Development Fund – until the current programme ends under the Brexit financial settlement as part of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

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