BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Development aid from rich countries to some of the world’s poorest fell for a second year in a row in 2012, as big European donor countries hit by years of debt crisis cut their spending.
Data released by the Paris-based club of rich countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), on Wednesday showed a 4 percent fall in aid last year by its Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members to $125.7 billion.
DAC comprises 15 European Union countries, along with the United States, Australia, Japan, Korea, and others.
It is the first time since 1997 that aid spending has fallen for successive years, with a 2 percent drop in 2011.
Stung by austerity cuts to manage budgets, most EU countries cit their aid spending, with large cuts by countries hard hit by the crisis, such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland.
“It is worrying that budgetary duress in our member counties has led to a second successive fall in total aid,” said OECD Secretary-General Jose Angel Gurria.
Two years after the Arab Spring wave of uprisings in North African countries toppled governments and resulted in a surge in giving to the region, aid to Africa has trailed off.
Africa as a whole saw aid drop by almost 10 percent since 2011, to roughly $29 billion.
Some countries managed to maintain a U.N. goal of spending 0.7 percent of their total economic activity on aid, in spite of the European Union’s ongoing debt crisis. Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg exceeded that target.
Britain is set to begin spending at the 0.7 percent target in its 2013-14 budget, but British Prime Minister David Cameron has raised the possibility of diverting hundreds of millions of pounds from aid to defence spending.
European aid group CONCORD said that the dramatic drop in foreign aid by Spain, of almost 50 percent, meant that some Spanish NGOs had to pull out of projects in progress.
The European Union, collectively the world’s biggest aid donor, said that budget cuts made this year will not allow it to meet the 0.7 percent U.N. aid target.
Reporting By Ethan Bilby; editing by Ron Askew