20% of EU and UK ODA fails to go to marginalised communities in majority world in 2022 as spending inflated by in-country refugee costs, CONCORD report finds 

Today, Wednesday 18 October, CONCORD, the European Confederation of NGOs working on sustainable development and international cooperation, has released its annual AidWatch report. 

The report reveals that reporting on Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending was inflated by the UK and across EU countries in 2022, with the staggering increase of in-country refugee costs taking up the majority of this inflation, and accounting for over EUR 13.9 billion across Europe. 

Despite record high ODA spending figures in 2022, AidWatch analysis has found that a significant proportion (over 22%) of UK and EU ODA is not meeting the most basic criteria of what qualifies as ODA.* This means close to EUR 20 billion – more than 1 euro in every 5 from the ODA budgets of the UK and EU Member States combined – never reached the intended communities in the majority world. 

In-country refugee spending trends: 

  • For the UK, nearly 30% of the UK’s ODA budget was spent on refugee costs in the UK in 2022 which made the UK the country receiving the largest proportion of UK bilateral ODA spend in 2022.  
  • Reporting in-country refugee costs in their ODA figures is a policy decision made by countries. Countries such as Luxembourg have consistently opted to keep these figures out of their ODA reporting, while Belgium, Hungary and Slovakia chose specifically to exclude costs for Ukrainian refugees. 
  • In 2022, only three countries, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Germany, met the collective commitment made in 1970 to allocate 0.7% of their GNI to ODA, as per reported figures. 
  • Denmark, for the first time in four decades, fell short of the 0.7% target in 2022. 

The AidWatch report calls for ODA inflation to be reduced by reforming the current ODA system to prevent certain items being counted as ODA including in-country refugee costs, student costs and debt relief.  

In response to the report, Bond’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Gideon Rabinowitz said:  

It is wrong that the UK and EU countries are prioritising their ODA budgets for their own domestic and geopolitical interests, rather than using ODA to support the needs of the most marginalised communities around the world. 

Skyrocketing in-donor refugee costs have made the UK the largest recipient of its own ODA for a second year running and shows that the UK government has lost its grip on the UK’s ODA budget. The government must stop uncontrolled spending of ODA by other departments like the Home Office and prioritise those who need it most.

Tanya Cox, Director of CONCORD said:  

The AidWatch 2023 report demonstrates how ODA can be a powerful tool for reducing inequalities if used strategically. It advocates for ODA allocations that prioritise partner countries’ needs and objectives, rather than responding to donor countries’ geopolitical or economic interests.


Notes for editors

  • *This includes in-country refugee costs, the overcounting of loans, the counting of student costs from partner countries and debt relief which has contributed to this inflation, which while can be reported within the OECD DAC rules, is based on CONCORD’S own assessment and definition of ODA. 
  • The AidWatch report also revealed that Estonia, Czechia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Poland spent 50% or more of their total reported ODA on in-country refugee costs, mostly due to the inclusion of the funding allocated to support refugees from Ukraine.   
  • The AidWatch report also concluded that by failing to comply with the internationally agreed-upon 0.7% target makes it more difficult to reverse the setbacks of the pandemic, geo-political conflicts and the climate crises, which could jeopardise four decades of progress made in global human development. 
  • Since 2005, CONCORD’s AidWatch reports have monitored and made recommendations on the quantity and quality of aid provided by the EU and its Member States.  
  • Although the UK officially left the EU in January 2020, Bond continues to represent the UK as part of the CONCORD network and contributed to this report. 
  • Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of nearly 400 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.  
  • For further information or interviews please contact Jess Salter at [email protected] or call 07392972411.