As we enter 2017 there are some big questions facing the development community this year.
The most obvious is how Trump’s election will impact the development spending of one the world’s largest aid donor by volume. The proposed 2017 foreign aid budget for the U.S. put forward by the Obama administration stands at over $50 billion. However, perhaps more important will be how the debate regarding what does or does not constitute Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) spending plays out, particularly with regards to domestic spending and expenditure on security-related measures.
In 2016 the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreed changes to the guidelines on ODA in order to permit more peace and security-related costs such as those for countering terrorism, something the UK advocated but Sweden opposed. The organisation is yet to publish specific guidelines on this front however, leaving many concerned as to how this might be interpreted by governments looking to plug holes in tight budgets at home. There is also concern regarding the deployment of aid domestically, often on refugees – something that took up 9% of all development expenditure in 2015 according to OECD figures. Spending on this front has risen so high that in some European countries they risk becoming the number one beneficiaries of their own aid, with Sweden spending nearly 34% of its aid budget on in-donor refugee costs in 2015.
With further terrorist attacks in Berlin and Istanbul over the Christmas period security concerns are going to be high on the agenda in 2017 and this will no doubt impact development priorities and projects. Nevertheless, despite the pressure on aid budgets and heightened security concerns investment in aid for trade will continue to be championed by donor governments, including the UK, where the case is being made for aid projects that can clearly measure impact on the one hand and that support the recipient to move beyond aid on the other.