Official bilateral and multilateral aid to developing countries is known as Official Development Assistance (ODA) and is defined and measured by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD reported that in 2016 worldwide development aid stood at a record high of $142.6bn, which was a nine percent increase on the previous year. Despite the overall increase in aid however, the amount of bilateral (country to country) aid to the least developed countries in 2016 actually decreased. 

UN peacekeeping soldiers collect supplies from Tebnine hospital to deliver to people in Lebanon. Credit: Jenny Matthews / Panos

In the UK the Government committed to meeting the United Nations target of spending 0.7 percent of the country’s GNI on aid and passed a bill in 2015 that enshrined the target in law. However how this 0.7% is spent is important, particularly as it is disbursed across a greater number of Government Departments.  The focus of spending should remain poverty alleviation.  According to the OECD, other countries that met the UN’s 0.7 percent target in 2016 also included Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden.

Aid and its effectiveness is a hotly contested issue, particularly around how countries best use ODA to tackle the unprecedented and interconnected challenges that the world currently faces - poverty, inequalities, environmental degradation and climate change, mass migration, pandemic diseases, instability and conflict - and in building resilience to crisis.

IDS aims to provide research for evidence-based policy making for international aid and development, and contribute to innovation, practice and transparency regarding aid, working with global research partners.


Brazil and International Development Cooperation

Brazil is a founding member of the BRICS group, Latin America's largest economy and the world's sixth-largest economy. The Rising Powers in International Development (RPID) programme is looking at Brazil's growing role in the field of international development cooperation. More details

China and International Development Cooperation

China is now the African continent's biggest trading partner, and also involved in a wide range of development cooperation projects including in agriculture, health and social policy. The Rising Powers in International Development Programme is looking at the growing role of China in the field of international development cooperation. More details

Critical Research Social Justice and International Aid

Seminar series for inter-disciplinary discussions on the relationship between research, aid and social justice More details

Digital Development: IDS and DFAT InnovationXchange collaboration

This six month collaboration between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's InnovationXchange (iXc) and the Digital and Technology cluster will strengthen DFAT’s capability to appropriately use technology to more effectively deliver aid outcomes, building on its existing expertise and experience. More details

Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Anthropologists from around the world providing advice on how to engage with crucial socio-cultural and political dimensions of the Ebola outbreak and build locally-appropriate interventions. More details

Ebola: Lessons for development

IDS researchers argue that there is an urgent need to look beyond the immediate, on-the-ground concerns of disease control and containment to consider the bigger and broader questions about international development. More details


GSDRC provide high quality, timely knowledge products to support international development planning, policymaking and other activities area. This includes a document library, a research helpdesk and email bulletins More details

HEART (Health and Education Advice and Resource Team)

HEART is a consortium of leading organisations in international development, health, nutrition, education, social protection and WASH. More details

India and International Development Cooperation

Trade and investment linkages between India and the African continent have been growing rapidly, and recently, its role providing foreign assistance has become more prominent. The Rising Powers in International Development Programme is looking at the growing role of India in the field of international development cooperation. More details

Public Perceptions of International Development in the UK

With the world economy in a major downturn, the stakes for developing countries could not be higher. Public support for international development and aid will play a key role. But is there a domestic consensus on the UK's role in international development and what are its contours? More details

Russia and International Development Cooperation

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was redefined as an aid recipient, but in 2007, it officially signalled its intention to reverse this role. The Rising Powers in International Development Programme is looking at the growing role of Russia in the field of international development cooperation More details

Strengthening the Capacity of the International Poverty Reduction Center in China for South-South Cooperation

This project, funded by the Chinese Government's Ministry Of Commerce, is aimed at addressing how IDA is given to developing countries (particularly Africa) and if there are ways of improving China's development assistance to create opportunities for independent development. More details

The New Bottom Billion

New IDS research shows that the global poverty 'problem' is changing. There is a new 'bottom billion' of 960m poor people or 72 per cent of the world's poor who live not in poor countries but in middle-income countries (MICs). More details

View all Research Theme's publications

Use this search to display this theme's publications and filter by journal, author, country and much more.

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Programme Aid as an Appropriate Policy Response to Drought

IDS Working Paper 34 (1996)

The traditional international response to drought has been to provide humanitarian relief, in particular food aid for direct distribution. The drought of 1991-92 in Southern Africa, however, saw a change from a response that was preoccupied with direct relief, to a response that incorporated both programme food aid and programme financial aid. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Ownership in the Finnish aid program, Evaluation Report, Helsinki

Department for International Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland More details

IDS publications on international development research

Fifty Years On: The UN and Economic and Social Development

IDS Bulletin 26.4 (1995)

Published to mark the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, this IDS Bulletin assesses the present and future role of the UN system in such areas as global governance, development thinking, relations with the Bretton Woods institutions, food security, environment and other matters. More details

IDS Policy Briefing

Can Aid Promote Good Government?

IDS Policy Briefing 2 (1995)

The promotion of 'good government' has become an explicit objective of most aid donors. This has raised suspicions in developing countries, particularly when the threat of withholding aid has been used to force multi-party elections. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Strengthening Civil Society in Africa: the Role of Foreign Political Aid

IDS Bulletin 26.2 (1995)

Strengthening civil society through the provision of financial resources and technical assistance is viewed by aid donors as an effective means of fostering political pluralism and consolidating fragile democracies in developing countries. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Does Aid Work? Report to an Intergovernmental Task Force

This book is the result of a 1984 World Bank/IMF commissioned study on the effectiveness of aid. It finds that most aid succeeds in terms of its own objectives and obtains a reasonable rate of return. It compares unsuccessful aid projects with other forms of investment and proposes measures for improving aid-effectiveness. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Counterpart Funds and Development

IDS Bulletin 23.2 (1992)

Counterpart funds play an important, growing and often controversial role in developing countries. The IDS Bulletin reviews the issues and connects counterpart funds to wider themes in development: poverty targeting, aid conditionality, the management of the budgetary process — and many others. New guidelines are presented. The first priority is to narrow the gap between best and usual practice. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Economic Development and World Debt

This book contains a rare selection of divergent theoretical and practical views on the acute problem of international debt and its repercussions on world economic growth at large and the developing countries in particular. More details

IDS Classics - publications from the past

Introduction: Aid-effectiveness, Prisoners’ Dilemmas, and Country Allocation

IDS Bulletin 17.2 (1986)

In theory – and in project and country experience – aid has proved its potential to stimulate growth, and sometimes to reduce poverty. But the record has been worsening, for four reasons. More details

IDS publications on international development research

China's New Development Strategy

In this book internationally recognized experts on China describe and evaluate recent changes, relating them to earlier policies and experience, the problems of developing countries generally and the process of change in other socialist countries. More details

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BLOG: Defending UNCTAD’s dissenting voice

01 May 2012
By Carlos Fortin

Aid: Cheap tricks or Compelling evidence?

23 Apr 2012
By Mick Moore
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