Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the biggest war in Europe since WWII. It has cost thousands of lives, caused an estimated 5,903,191 people to flee Ukraine (as of 05 December), intensified a global food crisis, and risks setting back the clean energy transition. Donors have already committed US$165 billion in humanitarian, financial, and military support to Ukraine, and further reconstruction costs are estimated at US$527 billion.
This tracker monitors donor countries’ support to Ukraine and estimates future in-donor refugee costs. Our analysis highlights the scale of official development assistance (ODA) needed to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. Huge ODA increases are necessary to ensure the global community can provide adequate support to Ukraine, while also continuing to support development priorities in the rest of the world.
Preliminary data shows that global in-donor refugee costs totalled US$29.3 billion in 2022, which is 14.4% of total ODA. Our analysis shows that and an estimated US$31.56 billion could be spent in 2023, which would be 15.5% of total ODA spent in 2022. This analysis is updated regularly as new data is available.
Assistance for Ukraine is crucial. Although many expected the conflict to last only weeks, fighting has continued since February 2022 with no end in sight. As the war rages on, Ukrainian refugees need safe haven in other countries, which requires billions of dollars in support from those countries (see more on “in-donor refugee costs” below). To meet their basic needs, Ukrainians unable to leave the country need life-saving assistance in the form of humanitarian support. The Ukrainian government requires additional economic assistance to protect its people and keep the country going throughout the war.
Ukraine is eligible for ODA. While military support and loan guarantees do not count as ODA and are usually financed from outside of donor governments’ development budgets, much of the humanitarian and financial support given to Ukraine will be drawn from donors’ ODA. Donors can also count costs associated with refugees they host within their own countries as ODA. So far in 2022, preliminary estimates suggest bilateral ODA flows to Ukraine were US$16.1 billion.
Unless countries increase their aid budgets, ODA support for Ukraine will put unprecedented pressure on already stretched ODA budgets, which have barely risen in recent years, despite the increasing costs of COVID-19, climate change, and a food security crisis.
Under OECD DAC rules, donors can count assistance provided to refugees in their own country for the first year after their arrival (known as “in-donor refugee costs”) as ODA. However, many organisations, including The ONE Campaign, believe that these costs should be additional to ODA, and not competing for, or diverting, scarce aid resources for other humanitarian and development challenges.
At the height of the conflict in Syria in 2016, about 1.3 million Syrian refugees were in Europe, causing in-donor refugee costs to double to US$16 billion, representing 11% of total ODA. So far in 2023, there are more than 5,903,191 Ukrainian refugees in Europe, and that number could increase further. Preliminary data shows that US$29.30 billion were spent in 2022, which is 14.4% of total ODA spent in 2022. This is unprecedented. Based on the number of refugees recorded in each donor country over time, and their historical average costs for hosting refugees, our analysis estimates that total refugee costs – including other humanitarian crises – could total US$31.56 billion in 2023, and counting.
The burden across countries is not equal. Many refugees fleeing Ukraine are in the neighbouring countries of Poland (1,583,563 refugees) and Slovakia (113,509 refugees), or in particularly welcoming countries such as Germany (1,056,628 refugees) and the Czech Republic (504,352 refugees), according to the latest UNHCR data.
Furthermore, different countries account for refugee costs in different ways. Australia, for instance, opts not to report any refugee costs as ODA. Germany, one of the largest hosts of refugees in Europe, pays for refugee costs outside of its traditional development budget (although still reporting them as ODA costs), while the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands have chosen to divert aid resources from other development programs to cover the costs of increased refugee assistance.
So far in 2022, at least 10 donor countries had in-donor refugee costs equivalent to more than 20% of their total ODA: The UK (28.9%), Italy (22.9%), Ireland (51%), Spain (20.2%), Finland (25.4%), Czech Republic (65.4%), Poland (64.6%), Lithuania (25.2%), Austria (20.1%), and Switzerland (28.2%).
Donor governments have acted swiftly, pledging billions of dollars in vital aid to Ukraine. In 2021, Ukraine received US$918 million in total ODA from Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors. In 2022, bilateral ODA flows to Ukraine totalled US$16.1 billion – almost 8% of total net aid (in flows). The Kiel Institute estimates that governments have contributed over US$89 billion in humanitarian and financial support since the start of the Ukraine war, so this total is sure to rise. Although not all of this will count as ODA, much will, and aid budgets are constrained in the current economic climate. The increased financial assistance to Ukraine and increased in-donor refugee costs mean that donor countries will need to come up with billions more in aid to support the crisis. Otherwise, they risk diverting ODA from other crucial life-saving programs and countries in need.
Tracking exactly how much ODA is being pledged to Ukraine in real time is complex, as not all economic aid will count as ODA (non-concessional loans, guarantees, and military support do not qualify as ODA). Furthermore, there is little transparent data available when pledges are made. The following Donor Tracker articles, however, present the latest announced pledges by governments.
This analysis uses data from the OECD DAC databases, the UNHCR Refugee Statistics Data Portal, UNHCR’s Operational Data Portal for Ukrainian Refugees, and data collected from government sources and press releases.
To estimate 2023 (and beyond) in-donor refugee costs for Ukrainian refugees, we multiply estimated per-refugee costs for donor countries by the number of recorded refugees in each country each month. For each donor, we estimate per-refugee costs using official asylum applications and total reported in-donor refugee costs averaged for the 2018-2021 period. Donor countries can claim in-donor refugee costs for the first year a refugee is in the country, so depending on the arrival date, the costs for one year will likely be split between calendar years. To roughly account for arrival date, we track UNHCR records of refugees in the country each month, and assume any increase represents new arrivals. For all caveats and assumptions see the full methodology.
For more information on our methodology, including scripts to reproduce the analysis, please visit this project’s GitHub repository.
This is a joint project from The ONE Campaign and SEEK’s Donor Tracker.
 Our methodology was updated on 22 March 2023. Instead of counting approved applications for Canada, we now focus on arrivals. This reduced our 2023 estimate at the time of the change, given that there are currently more approvals than arrivals.