2017 Organisation and Management of Aid Analysis

Making Waves: Implications of the Irregular Migration and Refugee Situation on Official Development Assistance Spending and Practices in Europe

Anna Knoll, Andrew Sheriff

Increasingly high numbers of refugees and migrants have come to Europe over the past five years seeking protection. Reception systems for migrants and asylum seekers have increasingly been under strain.

To investigate the response of European donors to the migration and refugee situation, this study has
been initiated by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) and commissioned by the Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA).

The study draws on five case studies of the aid responses by Denmark, the European Union institutions, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The synthesis paper analyses the key aspects of ODA responses in recent years. It further explores how current changes and deliberations are likely to affect the use of ODA in the medium to longer term. It concludes by considering possible implications and future practices.

The report was presented during the seminar Migration and Foreign Aid.

Main findings 

  • The strategies deployed are to some extent linked to specific budget systems of donors.
  • Inflows of asylum seekers and resulting in-donor refugee costs are hard to forecast and create uncertainty over available ODA resources.
  • New fiscal arrangements seeking to take into account the unpredictable nature of migration flows and associated costs come with their own risks and challenges.
  • Short-term political pressures in response to the migration crisis have already undermined donor agencies’ own aid effectiveness in a number of instances.
  • Due to the absence of comparable reporting on such public expenditures in partner countries, including through the use of ODA, it is difficult to assess clear funding trends.
  • One of the most progressive part of current discussions is the concrete effort being made to link humanitarian and development approaches in refugee situations more closely and to determine how work in fragile contexts can be improved.

Anna Knoll, Head of Program, European Center for Development Policy Management

Andrew Sherriff, Head of Program, European Center for Development Policy Management