Key findings: The Saudi Arabian aid system is fragmented and complex, and much of it is privately and secretively channelled through the Saudi ruling families. The literature suggests that Saudi Arabia is an extremely generous donor, both in terms of humanitarian assistance and longer-term development aid. It has been the largest donor of overseas development assistance (ODA) in the world since 1973, as measured by ODA per gross national income (ODA/GNI), it is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance outside the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC), and it is a significant donor of aid and humanitarian assistance to fragile and conflict-affected states, including Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, the Republic of Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.
Saudi Arabia differs from OECD DAC donors in that:
- It is less interested in promoting good governance and transparency in the recipient countries and does not participate in international debates on these issues.
- Saudi Arabian aid is mainly channelled bilaterally, with the main beneficiaries of multilateral aid being Arab regional aid institutions, such as the Arab Fund, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa.
- Activities supported by Saudi Arabian aid are limited to those that are non-political, such as infrastructure, economic development, basic education and humanitarian assistance.
Motives that influence the dispersal of Saudi Arabian aid include humanitarian principles, religious imperatives, foreign policy and diplomacy, external security, internal security and cohesion, and commercial interests.