Research and development of COVID-19 tools shouldn't count as ODA, says UK parliamentary report; disagreement sparks over international ODA rules

A new report by the UK parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC) on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries has called on the UK government to ensure that its finite official development assistance (ODA) budget is not used to support the general research and development (R&D) of COVID-19 tools which benefit all countries, and to rather reserve the ODA for supporting the distribution of tools to low-income countries and tackling the secondary impacts of the pandemic.  

This call is in line with the current international rules on ODA spending, set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which say that COVID-19 spending from the ODA budget must be on items that disproportionately support low-income countries and do not provide global public goods for all. However, the report stated that "not all members agreed with the Secretariat’s interpretation of the rules in this instance," and the rules could be changed this month, depending on what OECD DAC members agree to.

The IDC report noted that, to date, the UK has spent around £310 million (US$401 million) of the UK development assistance budget on R&D for COVID-19 tools so far, but the IDC can not yet tell whether or not this spending had breached the rules.

Press release - Devex

Report - UK Parliament