Management of the 0.7% ODA spending target in 2020

The government successfully met its aid spending target in 2020 through reprioritising programmes as the COVID-19 pandemic hit – but economic uncertainty and the government’s ‘cut once, cut deep’ approach meant that cuts to bilateral aid were ultimately more drastic than they needed to be.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 20 May 2021
  3. Type: Rapid review
  4. Subject: Government processes and systems
  5. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton

Initial review

We published our initial review of the UK government’s management of the 0.7% aid spending target from 2013 to 2019 last year, and made four recommendations. This review builds on our initial review, with a focus on the government’s management of the spending target during 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ICAI follow-up

Approximately one year after we publish our reports, we follow up on the steps the government has taken in response to our recommendations. This process is a key link in the accountability chain, providing Parliament and the public with an account of how well government departments have responded to ICAI reviews.

We followed up on both of our reviews of the government’s management of the 0.7% spending target together. We recognise the effort from the government to engage constructively with our recommendations. However, we have seen few changes to the way in which it manages the spending target in response to the thrust of our recommendations and the value for money risks identified in both reviews. As a result, we will be following up the recommendations again next year.

Read the follow-up review.

Further follow-up

In addition to following up a new set of ICAI reviews, we returned to both of these reviews as outstanding issues in 2023. We found that the government has made progress on recommendations related to taking a flexible approach to applying the aid-spending target. However, some challenges remain, especially on applying a floor to FCDO spending.

The government’s decision to allow FCDO to undertake additional spending over and above 0.5% in 2022-23 and 2023-24, as a result of pressures from domestic spending on refugees, has helped in setting an important precedent to reduce value for money risks by applying aid targets more flexibly. In addition, some progress has been made on using broader gross national income forecast information.

Next year’s follow-up to our review of UK aid to refugees in the UK will pursue further engagement with FCDO on the recommendation for an FCDO spending floor, given that this review highlighted the same issue.

Read the further follow-up.



Published 4 March 2021

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 20 May 2021

Government response

Published 16 August 2021

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2022

Further follow-up

Published 18 July 2023