Despite budgetary constraints, the European Union and its member states have collectively managed to keep their place as the world’s largest aid donor. Below is a overview of six major European donors.
United Kingdom – One of the only major aid actors with a development ministry responsible for both policy and implementation, the United Kingdom is also the first country to enshrine in law the U.N. target to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid every year. U.K. aid is praised for its clear focus on the neediest. Out of the 28 countries it prioritizes, 21 are fragile and conflict-affected states.
Germany – These are promising times for the world’s third biggest bilateral donor. After undergoing major reforms in 2011, German foreign aid is seeking to be more selective and strategic in its spending priorities. But for the time being, Germany’s political commitment to focus on the poorest countries, especially in Africa, has yet to be reflected in its ODA allocations.
France – President François Hollande’s budgetary choices might have set the country back by more than a decade in reaching the 0.7 percent aid target, but France is expected to stabilize its aid budget. In the next few years, French ODA is further slated to increase the amount dedicated to climate change.
Sweden – Despite the global financial crisis, Sweden’s aid program has managed to stay the course. Since 2006, the Nordic country has maintained its ODA at around one percent of its GNI. In line with its strong poverty focus, most of Sweden’s bilateral aid resources are directed to low income countries and fragile states. Three specific priorities drive Sweden’s aid giving: democracy and human rights; environment and climate change; and gender equality and the role of women in development. Sweden has also been particularly reactive to the critical situation in the Middle East.
The Netherlands – The Netherlands was one of the first countries to meet the ambitious goal of spending at least 0.7 percent of its GNI on ODA, but Dutch aid has plummeted in recent years. Historically focused on social sectors, Dutch aid is now increasingly geared toward economic development and national interests.
Norway – Known for its long-standing commitment to high aid targets, Norway disbursed 1 percent of its gross national income in 2014 — making it the third most generous OECD DAC member in terms of its ODA/GNI ratio after Sweden and Luxembourg. In the future, ODA levels are likely to be maintained at this level. Norway is one of the world’s most committed donors to least-developed countries. Global education especially in conflict or disaster contexts — a topic which has been sliding off the aid agenda of many top donors — is another area where Norway is trying to lead the way.