By Magdalena Mis
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rich countries' development aid hit a record high in 2014 but the share that reached the world's poorest countries was the lowest since 2006, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said on Tuesday.
Official development assistance (ODA) reached $137.2 billion in 2014, $2 billion more than in 2013, the Paris-based international think-tank said.
But ODA to the poorest countries fell for the second year, dropping by 9.3 percent in real terms from 2013 levels as some funds were diverted to other countries, the OECD said.
"It's been a worrisome trend that's been going on for a number of years now," Yasmin Ahmad, manager of the body's data collection unit, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from France.
"The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is trying to highlight this issue and is very much focused on putting the least developed countries as prime focus again."
The least developed countries together received $43.7 billion in ODA in 2014 - 30 percent of the total and their lowest share since 2006.
The OECD said that aid to the poorest countries had fallen - by $4.5 billion in 2014 - partly because of lower levels of debt relief to Myanmar.
"This news must act as a wake-up call to world leaders who should urgently commit 50 percent of their aid to the world's least developed countries," Adrian Lovett, Europe executive director for advocacy group ONE Campaign, said in a statement.
Afghanistan, which received $4.8 billion, was the largest recipient of net ODA, followed by Vietnam, Syria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey.
"It's good to see a slight increase in aid in these difficult times globally, but unfortunately the OECD presents a very one-sided picture," Matti Kohonen, the charity Christian Aid's adviser, said in a statement.
Developing and emerging countries lost an estimated $1.1 trillion in illicit financial flows in 2013, Kohonen quoted the Washington-based research and advocacy group Global Financial Integrity as saying.
"The OECD needs to take these figures into account if a balanced picture is to be drawn," he said.
The OECD said it does not measure illicit financial flows or corruption but some of the development assistance it does measure goes into fighting such flows.
"Within the ODA there are activities that combat the illicit financial flows and corruption, so there is assistance given to the developing countries to go against these ... flows," Ahmad said.
Of the 28 members of the OECD's DAC, the United States remained the largest donor by volume in 2014 with $33.1 billion, followed by Britain with $19.2 billion, Germany, France and Japan.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)