£3.252bn in UK international aid unspecified - accounting for 46% of the total budget. So where is it going?

20th February 2023

We can reveal that 46% of the UK’s annual international development and aid budget is currently classified as unallocated or unspecified when it comes to just where it’s being spent, amounting to £3.352bn. 

RIFT Tax Refunds analysed the nation’s international development and aid spend for 2022/23 to find where we’re sending the most aid and what good causes this money is going towards. 

The analysis shows that when it comes to the programme budget sectors benefiting to the greatest extent, it’s disaster relief that ranks top according to the government’s development tracker, receiving £689.7m in funding. This equates to 10% of the total estimated international development and aid budget of £7.231bn.

Health is also a primary area of focus, receiving £653.1m, equivalent to 9% of the UK’s total aid budget, with Government and Civil Society and Environmental causes receiving 6% of funding at £464.8m and £424.5m respectively. 

Education (5%), Multisector (5%), Industry (4%), Agricultural (2%), Banking and Finance Services (2%) and Other Social Infrastructure and Services (1.4%) also ranked within the top 10 areas of government focus. 

However, while these are the top listed sectors, further analysis of the data by RIFT Tax Refunds revealed that there is some £3.352bn of the UK’s international aid and development fund that is either unallocated, or unspecified - equating to a huge 46% of the UK’s total fund. In this case, the unallocated category represents flows or spend that cannot be allocated to a sector or location, with these typically including core funding to global programmes and multilateral organisations such as the UN, World Bank, WHO, and OECD.

In terms of where we’re sending the most specified money, Afghanistan sits top, receiving £287.7m, equating to 2.37% of the country's GDP, with the primary reason being to aid with disaster relief, accounting for 74% of all aid sent to the country.  

Nigeria receives £124.3m from the UK, with 28% of this aid going towards education, followed by Yemen (£93.5m) and Somalia (£88m), where again, UK aid primarily helps towards disaster relief. 

Ethiopia completes the top five nations to receive the greatest level of aid from the UK, where like Nigeria, the primary reason is education, accounting for 35% of the £87.9m given by the UK.

CEO of RIFT Tax Refunds, Bradley Post, commented:

The UK sends a great deal of aid to other nations to help across a variety of sectors such as disaster relief, education, health and more. 
While it’s great that there is a high level of transparency as to where most of this money is allocated, the UK public could be forgiven for wondering why almost half of this fund is unallocated or unspecified. Especially given the fact that their taxes will have contributed to some degree in forming it.
 Although the UK government provides no obvious and upfront explanation, the EU definition for these mystery funds largely classes them as core funding to multilateral organisations, or operational flows that are a part of global programmes.
This suggests that this money is being paid to third party organisations to better enable them to administer aid in certain regions. Given that this seems a wholly appropriate approach to reaching those who are most in need, it still begs the question as to why the government is failing to classify such a hefty proportion of foreign development and aid spent, when they seemingly know exactly where it is going.

Data tables and sources can be viewed online, here.


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