Top 10 Aid Giving Countries

One of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates, is also known to be a fairly charitable individual; so far he has given away almost 50% of his Microsoft fortune, and plans to give 97% of his wealth back to society before his death. Gates' family aren't looking forward to any hefty inheritance; he's willed all his fortune to charity. What some people don't realise is the sheer number of dollars this translates into: Since its inception in 1997, Bill Gates’ Foundation has made over $28.3 billion in total grant payments ($3.4 billion in both 2011 and 2012) in support of work in 50 countries.

The most striking of his charitable efforts have been huge projects like the eradication of polio and malaria, but he's also involved in persuading the world's richest men and women to follow his lead and publicly pledge half of their wealth.  Thus far, the list of names include Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet and Barron Hilton, heir to the Hilton Hotel fortune.

Gates’ $28.3 billion is estimated to have saved over 5.8 million lives, a massive 3.4 million from Hepatitis B, and 1.2 million from measles, as well as a respectable 560,000 from HIB Bacteria, 474,000 from Whooping Cough and 140,000 from yellow fever. This works out at just under $5000 per life saved.

The below list takes a look at how the generosity of individuals like Bill Gates and those other billionaires compares to that of wealthy nations. While certain powerhouse individuals use their status and wealth to help their fellow man, these are the Top 10 aid-giving countries which use their wealth to help their fellow nations with international aid. The figures, as reported by the OECD International Development Statistics, look at aid given by an official sector, in order to promote economic development, at rates which are deemed concessional financial terms.

10 Norway – $4.75 billion

Along with Sweden, Norway is one of the countries which donates the highest percentage of its gross domestic income (GDI) to international aid, at 0.93%. Given that total international aid Donations fell by 4% in 2012, and 2% in 2011, the Scandinavian countries' level of contribution to international aid is particularly remarkable. Brazil, followed by Afghanistan, then various south-east African countries, were the largest beneficiaries of the Norwegian Krone.

Large percentages of the aid went towards the development of Energy and Environment (18%), Economic Development and Trade (12%), and Good Governance (14%). In the latest Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's annual letter, it is noted that transparency was of great importance to any successful developmental project, and Norway's dedicated Aid Statistics website, Norad, is a perfect example of easy-to-read interactive data maps on where the money is going - well worth a visit for any interested readers.

9 Sweden – $5.24 billion

Like Norway, Sweden is fairly low on this list, at No.9, but it's worth noting that, relative to its size, Sweden is giving more money than any other country in the world (aside from Luxembourg, which is a slightly more complicated case dues to its position as a haven for the world's tax dodgers). In the 1970s, Sweden was the first country which managed to reach the UN's target of donating 0.7% of its GNI to international aid. In 2012 the country’s aid budget represented 1.02% of their total GNI.

At the end of 2012, Sweden announced that it was going to be adding 5.8 billion Swedish Kronor to its aid budget, and that the bulk of this would be going towards international development and cooperation, including cooperative efforts towards democratic reform in the eastern European countries.

Large percentages of Sweden's aid go towards Humanitarian emergencies and collaborative projects with organisations like UNICEF and the Red Cross. Swedish aid also goes towards water and sanitation, pro-democracy efforts, and climate adaptation initiatives.

8 Australia – $5.44 billion

Despite making the top 10, at only 0.36% of its GNI (as of 2012) Australia is still a long way off the UN's target of 0.7%. According to official government sources, Australia’s aid program is focused on advancing five strategic goals: saving lives, promoting opportunities for all sustainable economic development, effective governance, and humanitarian and disaster response.

In January this year, it was announced that the Australian Government's annual aid budget for 2013/14 will be $5.042 billion, and will have a refocused aim of reducing poverty in the geographically local Indo-Pacific region. Their aid programs currently focus on preventing HIV, improving maternal and neo-natal health, as well as providing wider access to clean water. 

7 Netherlands – $5.52 billion

Around half of the 0.71% of GNI that the Netherlands gives goes to Africa, with a focus on water, food security, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. However, as with many countries the Netherlands is beginning to realise that 'simply giving money is not enough'; instead it's now their policy to focus on investment rather than aid, which will in theory lead to a greater amount of self-sufficiency.

The Dutch Government has also decided that their previous aid program was fragmentary, and have recently decided to focus on fewer forms of aid, in fewer countries, making use of the areas in which Dutch companies have expertise and interest.

6 Canada – $5.68 billion

Like the Dutch, the Canadians have recently made efforts to refocus their 0.32% of GNI aid program. A smaller number of themes have been prioritised within a smaller number of countries. The main areas are now Food Security, Children, and Economic Growth.

In addition to this more concentrated approach, many aid giving countries - like Canada - now follow a similar kind of aid program to the business model used by the Gates Foundation: Aid is distributed to causes which have specific aims, and measurable outcomes. This means that the Canadian Dollar is ensured to have the greatest impact possible.

5 Japan – $10.49 billion

Japan's aid Program peaked in 1997, when its percentage of GNI going toward international aid made the nation the number 1 aid giving country in the world, but since then it has been in decline. There has been an overall reduction of 47%, including a huge drop of 3.1% of GNI from 2011 to 2012. This places its percentage of GNI at only 0.25% of the UN target 0.7%.

This reduction is a result of economic constraints, as well as the growing threat to national security that Japan faces from east Asian countries, and an increasing focus on 'shoring up its struggling Japanese companies facing competition from cheaper goods manufactured in rising Asian economies.'

4 France – $12 billion

French aid is directed primarily towards Africa, which contains several ex-French colonies, as well as 14 other priority poor countries. As with most other developed countries, French aid focuses on a reduction of poverty, protection of the planet, and movements towards democracy. However, despite recent changes in government policy, and widespread lobbying by charitable organisations, France has failed to reach the UN target, with only 0.5% of its GNI going towards aid Programs.

3 Germany – $13.11 billion

Despite managing to maintain a fairly stable economy, in 2013 Germany's percentage of GNI going towards aid fell for the first time since 2005. As a result the country has slipped from its previous position at No.2.

There is some controversy over the levels of aid which go towards countries that are already designated as 'emerging' rather than going to the poorest countries which most need it. According to the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, there are five emerging countries which receive German aid: China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.

2 United Kingdom – $13.66 billion

The UK, though failing to reach the ideal UN target of 0.7%, manages to contribute a respectable 0.56% of their GNI to international aid. Like the Norwegians, the British Government maintains a comprehensive website that allows for a high level of transparency, where citizens can see exactly where their tax money is going internationally. The top three countries receiving British aid are Ethiopia, at £353 million, Pakistan at £238 million, and Nigeria at £277 million, with a particular focus on Health, Education, Disaster, and Government.

According to government sources some of the few positive results of British aid are: 33,400,000 people with choice and control over their own development, 30,300,000 people with access to financial services, and 19,600,000 people with access to a water, sanitation or hygiene intervention. Thanks, Britain!

1 United States – $30.46 billion

According to official US government sources "America extends help from the American  people to achieve results for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. That assistance does not represent a Democratic value or a Republican value, but an American value; as beneficiaries of peace and prosperity, Americans have a responsibility to assist those less fortunate so we see the day when our assistance is no longer necessary."

Due to America's position as an economic world power, in 2012 the US was the world's largest aid donor. Alongside defence projects and diplomatic relations, development is one of the three essential components of American foreign policy. Some of the largest recipients of American aid are Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Ethiopia, Haiti and Kenya.

However, despite this enormous budget, it's important to realise that America's aid Budget only accounts for a tiny 0.2% of its GNI in 2012 (compared to 4.2% on defence projects,) which is some way off the Bill Gates' 48%...

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