Official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of a country’s Gross National Income (GNI) is the most commonly used measure to assess the generosity of a country’s foreign aid. In the Trends section, we looked at how Australia’s ODA as a percentage of GNI had changed over time. In the chart below, you can see how Australia’s contributions have compared to those from other countries between 1995 and 2017. As you can see, Australia was the 14th most generous DAC member in 2015, contributing 0.29% of GNI as aid. In 2017, its ranking has dropped to 19th, with 0.23% of GNI for aid. Many European countries contribute much larger ODA/GNI shares, including the UK, which enshrined a commitment to provide 0.7% of its GNI as aid in the law.
There have been times when Australia was relatively more generous. In 1995, we were ranked the 9th most generous donor. Australia’s ranking then fell, reaching a low of 19th in 2005. It showed some improvement during the aid scale-up, which began in the mid-2000s, but plateaued from 2011 at 13th, declining to 14th in 2015 and 17th in 2016. It then returned to the low of 19th again in 2017. The chart below shows how Australia’s ranking among OECD DAC donors, based on ODA as a percentage of GNI, has changed over time.
Aid per capita is another measure of a country’s aid effort. It measures the amount of ODA provided per head of the donor country’s population. In 1995, Australia’s aid per capita rating was 8th. Again, this slipped, falling to 15th by 2005. Following the aid scale-up, our aid per capita rating in 2014 was 11th. In 2015, it dropped to 13th, and down to 14th in 2016, and to 15th in 2017.
While measures such as ODA/GNI and aid per capita provide a good way to assess a country’s aid effort, based on the size of its economy or population, it is still interesting to see how the overall volume of Australia’s aid compares to that of other DAC donors. From this, we can gain some insight into the importance and prominence of Australia as an aid donor in a global context.
In 2017, based on total volumes in current prices, Australia was the 12th largest donor in the OECD DAC. The US is by far the largest donor. Four other donors also have very large aid budgets — Japan, France, Germany and the UK. Australia is in the next group of medium-sized donors, alongside countries such as Sweden, Canada, The Netherlands and Norway.
In 2014, the size of our aid was roughly equivalent to that of Canada’s, and accounted for 2.45% of the total volume of DAC country ODA. In 2017, it was closer in size to Switzerland or Spain’s aid, and was 2.02% of total DAC country ODA. Below, you can see our aid volume compared to other OECD DAC donors between 1995 and 2015. Below that, you can see how our ranking among donors has changed over time. You can also see our percentage share of the total DAC country ODA contributions each year.
You can see that Australia’s importance as a donor increased during the scale-up period, not only because we were increasing our aid (most other donors were as well) but also because the Australian dollar gained in strength. In 2017, we are the 9th largest OECD economy, but the 12th largest donor.
The chart below shows our rankings among DAC members on three aid measures (aid volume, ODA/GNI and aid per capita). The chart shows that our ranking among aid donors has dropped ten places lower than it was 22 years ago on generosity (from 9th in 1995 to 19th in 2017). On aid per capita, it is the same as it was 20 years ago (15th), and on total aid volume we have returned to 12th place.