Policy paper

Official Development Assistance

Published 23 November 2015

Official development assistance (ODA) – commonly known as overseas aid – is when support, expertise or finance is supplied by one government to help the people of another country.

The UK government is the only G7 country to have met the UN’s target to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas aid. This is not just the right thing to do, but firmly in our own national interest as well.

Read the UK’s strategy for meeting this target: UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest

1. What is ODA?

Official Development Assistance (ODA), often referred to as aid, is the internationally agreed criteria for funds provided to developing countries or multilateral institutions to fight poverty and promote development.

To count as ODA, an activity must promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective.

The ODA criteria are set by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which is a group of 29 donors, including the UK.

2. What is the UK’s commitment to ODA?

The UK first delivered on its pledge to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income as ODA in 2013, becoming the first G7 country to meet this longstanding commitment. Then in 2015 the UK Government made it the law that 0.7% of GNI must be spent as ODA. This came as part of The International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015.

At the September 2015 United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, the UK was the only country with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council to commit to a 2% defence budget and a 0.7% aid budget.

These achievements clearly demonstrate Britain’s global leadership in these areas.

3. Who spends ODA?

In the UK, the 0.7% commitment on ODA spend applies across government. Within each spending review Her Majesty’s Treasury allocates an ODA budget to a number of departments. Departments are then responsible for ensuring that their own ODA budgets are allocated optimally and spent well. Where other departments have activity that meets the ODA criteria, this can and does count towards the 0.7% target.

While DFID is by far the largest contributor of UK ODA, other departments with ODA budgets include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

DFID will remain the UK’s primary channel for aid. But to respond to the changing world, more aid will be administered by other government departments, drawing on their complementary skills.

4. Why has the UK made this commitment?

Investing less than one percent of our national income in aid is creating a safer, wealthier and more secure world. This is something British people can be proud of and is firmly in the UK’s interest. We believe in being a country that shapes the world.

Aid matters for our own security because the root causes of many of the challenges we face in Britain lie elsewhere. From migration to terrorism, disease pandemics to climate change – the more we can do to tackle these issues upstream and overseas, the better we can protect ourselves here at home.

We are investing 1.5p in every pound of public spending on UK aid – this is not more than we can afford. The UK was the fastest growing G7 economy in 2014, employment has reached record levels, and wages are rising above inflation. The commitment to spend 0.7% means any increase to the aid budget is relative as our economy grows.

5. Find out more

You can find out more about ODA from:

‘Is it ODA?’,OECD

National Statistics on UK ODA