How has UK aid spending for Palestinians changed in recent years?

13 November 2023
What was claimed

The UK is doubling its aid funding for Palestinian civilians.

Our verdict

It is true that recently announced aid for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) doubles the total amount in aid commitments for the OPTs this year. However this comes after aid commitments to the OPTs—and in general—have reduced substantially in recent years.

“It is right that the United Kingdom is doubling our aid funding for Palestinian civilians.”

During the debate following the King’s Speech in Parliament last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the UK is “doubling” aid funding for Palestinian civilians.

Since the 7 October attacks by Hamas on Israel and subsequent Israeli military offensive in Gaza, the UK government has announced an additional £30 million in aid donations to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). The OPTs refer to both Gaza and the West Bank.

In a press release, the government stated this is “more than doubling our existing aid commitment for this year (£27 million).”

Full Fact has asked the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to confirm whether this figure refers to total commitments for the calendar year, as it’s slightly lower than the total budget listed for the 2023/24 financial year.

Regardless, as others have pointed out, this claim would benefit from additional context. While the recent additional commitments may have doubled the total aid for the OPTs this year, even with the new commitments the amount of aid funding for the OPTs is still considerably less than in previous years before the UK’s overall aid spending target was reduced in 2021.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

UK aid for Palestinians has reduced in recent years

According to the FCDO’s Development Tracker, which breaks down overseas development aid (ODA) budgets, before the 7 October attacks, a total of £28.8 million in budgeted aid had been approved for the OPTs in the current 2023/24 financial year. This figure doesn’t include the most recent commitments.

This is substantially less than the amount approved in the previous financial year (£43.9 million), and around the same as was approved in 2021/22, after the overall aid spending target was reduced from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income—something the government described as a “temporary measure” in response to the economic and fiscal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prior to this reduction, aid commitments to the OPTs were far higher, at £93.5 million in 2019/20, having reached a peak of £106.5 million the previous financial year.

Since the Conservative party entered government in 2010, aid to the OPTs has averaged £70.8 million per financial year.

It’s important to note that this reduction is not unique to the OPTs—the House of Commons Library has noted that “almost all countries had large reductions in aid from 2020 to 2022” following the decision to reduce the UK’s overall aid target.

It adds: “[Overall] spending has fallen from its peak of £15.1 billion in 2019 to £14.5 billion in 2020, £11.4 billion in 2021, before rising to £12.8 billion in 2022. However, the 2022 rise did not result in an end to pressures on aid spending, as around 29% of the budget was spent in the UK meeting the costs of hosting refugees.”

Almost all of the aid budgeted by the UK for the OPTs has come under programmes operated by the FCDO, with much smaller amounts allocated under programmes operated by the (now defunct) Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Figures presented without appropriate context and caveats can damage public trust in both official information and politicians. MPs should use official information transparently and with all relevant context and caveats when a claim is first made.

Image courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.