Overall levels of official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries increased by 7 per cent between 2001 and 2002 and by 3.9 per cent between 2002 and 2003 (9). However, overall ODA still represented only 0.25 per cent of donor countries’ combined gross national income (GNI). Only five countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – have met the UN ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNI, though Belgium, Finland, France and Ireland have now set firm dates by which they will achieve it.
Aid flows to education have also shown a modest upturn. In 2002, ODA commitments to education exceeded $4 billion for the first time since 1999 (10). However, only about 23 per cent of this money is targeted specifically at basic education.
Some governments have already shown the way forward. The Government of Norway, in particular, contributed more than $51 million to UNICEF-supported actions in girls’ education in 2003-2004, and the Government of Sweden gave more than $22 million. The same governments, along with those of Finland, New Zealand and the UK, are also supporting the Education for All Fast-Track Initiative.
In January 2005, the Government of Spain agreed to cancel Argentine debt in the amount of $78 million, which will instead be invested in education. And in an extraordinary expression of solidarity with developing countries, the UK Government announced in 2005 that it plans to spend $2.68 billion over the next three years to help get more girls into school.
In February 2005, finance ministers of the G8 group of industrialized countries reiterated that the rates of increase in development assistance and debt relief hitherto are insufficient if the MDGs are to be achieved. Their recognition that a quantum leap is required is greatly welcomed, though the mechanism by which extra resources are to be raised has yet to be determined.