On the 1 May 2011, Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was killed by United States (US) Special Forces on a raid in Abbotabad, Pakistan. So came to an end the life of the worlds’ most wanted man, nearly a full ten years since the events he planned or inspired, the 9-11 hijackings and the subsequent destruction of the twin towers. Yet the work of Bin Laden did more than dominate global affairs for much of the decade it also greatly affected the pattern of aid.
This can be seen in the aid profiles of many countries but in Afghanistan and Iraq in particular. This is unsurprising given that both countries were invaded by the US and allies as a direct result of those events in New York in September 2001. Back in 2000 both of these countries were very low priority for official development assistance (ODA). Iraq was ranked as 83rd in volume, receiving US$163.8 million and Afghanistan was ranked 73rd, receiving US$220 million and most of that money for both countries was humanitarian (86% for Iraq and 75% for Afghanistan). These amounts still guaranteed a top ten ranking in terms of volume of humanitarian assistance, however, with Afghanistan placed 5th and Iraq 9th.
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Table 1: Top ten humanitarian recipient countries, 2000 and 2009; (Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC.)
An examination of these top ten recipients a decade apart reveals much. Firstly it highlights how countries in the top ten have changed. In 2000 the last major war in ex-Yugoslavia (the conflict over Kosovo) made Serbia a major recipient of humanitarian aid, more than double the next highest. Other conflicts leading to significant humanitarian need were Mozambique, Angola and Timor Leste. None of these countries are in the top ten in 2009. Indeed the 2009 ranking is dominated by countries that are arguably very much connected to the Global War on Terror. This includes aid not only Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Afghanistan’s fragile neighbour Pakistan, Somalia and its neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia, Osama’s old country of residence Sudan and also OPT/Palestine, often a focus of tension between Muslim countries and its neighbours. Secondly volumes of humanitarian assistance have increased significantly. Only the top placed country in 2000 (Serbia) would make it into the top ten in 2009. Volumes of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2000 would have placed only down at the bottom of the top 20 in 2009. Taken as a whole the top ten recipients of humanitarian assistance in 2009 received nearly three times the amount of those ten years earlier.
During the decade humanitarian assistance to both countries follow a reasonably similar trend. There is an initial jump in aid in the year of invasion and the one after, followed by dropping amounts over several years and then an increase again. The increase is particularly evident in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009 where a UN appeal helped push up funding to close to US$800 and US$600 million respectively.
The most dramatic impact Afghanistan and Iraq have had on aid flows over the decade can be seen in total ODA rather than the humanitarian subset.
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Table 2: Largest recipients of ODA, 2000 and 2009; (source: OECD DAC)
As mentioned, back in 2000 neither country was in the top ten of ODA, both registering less than US$250 million. By the end of the decade Afghanistan had accounted for US$28.8 billion of aid and Iraq US$33.6 billion, more than 9.3% of the total aid allocated by country over the entire decade. The two peak years for both countries were 2005 for Iraq (US$8.9 billion) and 2009 Afghanistan (US$6.2 billion) – both are the two highest figures for any recipient country in a single year.
Figure 3: ODA to Afghanistan and Iraq 2000-2009, (Source: OECD DAC)
The aid trends are considerably different over the decade. ODA to Afghanistan has risen slowly but steadily from invasion-year amounts of US$0.2 billion to the huge US$6.2 billion in 2009 community. Iraq’s trend on the other hand has been very different, with a huge rise over three years from almost nothing during the oil-for-food period to more than US$8.9 billion in 2005, the year in which the Iraqi insurgency was at its peak. Volumes of aid have then fallen just as dramatically though the US$2.8 billion in 2009 means that Iraq is still ranked 6th for total ODA.
The presence of oil, or in the case of Afghanistan the absence of it, surely has a part to play in the trend over the decade. Iraq’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 was US$65.2 billion, largely driven by oil income, and was more than 23 times the volume of ODA received. Afghanistan’s GDP was in comparison only US$12.5 billion, only just twice as much as the ODA it received in the same year. Both countries have very similar population levels, with Afghanistan just under 30 million people in 2009 and Iraq just more than 31 million. The GDP disparity is therefore particular evident when analysed per person; in Iraq it was US$219 in 2009 whilst in Afghanistan it was US$40.
Clearly Iraq has considerably more money available for long-term reconstruction. Aid to Afghanistan appears likely to stay at these remarkably high levels whilst with the international community having realised that turning the country into a stable state is going to need continual and substantial support for a number of years. Some of the major donors have suggested even more funds to the country in the future.
Ten years from now Iraq will likely slip down the rankings of volume of ODA. Afghanistan will remain at the top, joined in the very least by Libya.
 The data in this article is taken from the OECD DAC and in particular ‘all donors reporting to the DAC’.