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

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

Non-IDS publication

Struggles in Paris: The DAC and the Purposes of Development Aid

The European Journal of Development Research 25.1 (2012)

This article historicises the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Development Assistance Committee (DAC) as a site where the meanings of development and the purposes of aid were contested and where gradually a more diverse set of actors were invited to engage in the argument. More details

Non-IDS publication

Fellow Travellers in Development

Third World Quarterly 33.8 (2012)

Although what has been called 'the people-centred development decade' of international aid in the 1990s can be explained at the systemic level by the end of the Cold War, such an account does not tell us how it actually came about. This article argues that a contributory factor can be identified through the life-histories of a generation of development semi- professionals, women now in their sixties who were caught up and part of two great emancipatory moments in the second half of the 20 century: freedom from colonialism and women's liberation. More details

Non-IDS publication

The Future of Afghanistan: Development Progress and Prospects after 2014

This paper responds to a number of the issues specified by the House of Commons International Development Committee for its inquiry on development progress and prospects in Afghanistan after 2014. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Reframing Aid in a World Where the Poor Live in Emerging Economies

International Development Policy (2012)

This special issue of International Development Policy analyses the major shifts affecting traditional development assistance, particularly with regard to global public policy and the emerging economies. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Aid: A Survey in Light of Changes in the Distribution of Global Poverty

The contours of the landscape of foreign aid are shifting. There has been talk of a ‘triple revolution’ in official development assistance (ODA) in terms of goals, players and instruments – all of which are mushrooming – and a questioning of the validity of the current definition of ODA. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Poverty in Middle-Income Countries

This paper describes a shift in the global distribution of poverty from low-income countries to middle-income countries and how the role of external development actors might have to change to meet the challenges that this new distribution of poverty represents. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Global Health and the New Bottom Billion: What Do Shifts in Global Poverty and the Global Disease Burden Mean for GAVI and the Global Fund?

CGD Working Paper 270 (2011)

This paper examines the implications of this for global health efforts and recommends a tailored middle-income strategy for global health funders. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Where Do The Poor Live?

World Development (In Press) (2011)

This paper argues that the distribution of global poverty has changed and that most of the world’s poor no longer live in countries officially classified as low-income countries (LICs). It is estimated that the majority of the world’s poor, or up to a billion people, live in middle-income countries (MICs). More details

IDS Working Paper

'A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep'? Understanding Support for Aid

Draft IDS Working Paper (2011)

Despite considerable interest in the level and nature of public support for aid to developing countries, there has been relatively little academic research in this area. More details

This is the image for 'What Does the Public Think, Know and Do about Aid and Development?'

What Does the Public Think, Know and Do about Aid and Development?

The UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM) is a longitudinal panel of approximately 6,000 people from across the UK that is broadly representative of the demographic make-up of the UK population by gender, age, level of education and region. More details

This is the image for Time to Reimagine Development.

The Faith Factor in Development

IDS Bulletin 42.5 (2011)

Many faith-based organisations engaging in development are contesting not only the practical implications of reductionist development policies, but also questioning the very political and ideological assumptions behind them. More details

IDS Research Summary

The Politics and Policy of Aid in Spain

IDS Research Summary of IDS Research Report 65 (2011)

In the last years the international community has moved aid effectiveness forward while some debate on aid effectiveness has focused on donor's behaviour and development agencies' practices. More details

Donor Proliferation and Co-ordination: Experiences of Kenya and Indonesia

Journal of Asian and African Studies 46.2 (2011)

One of the main problems associated with aid is the proliferation of donors and projects, and one of the main solutions is thought to lie in greater coordination between donors. This paper examines whether progress has been made in recent years, comparing two countries (Kenya and Indonesia) and two sectors. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Adventures in Aid Land: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development

Anthropological interest in new subjects of research and contemporary knowledge practices has turned ethnographic attention to a wide ranging variety of professional fields. More details

This is the cover of The Politics and Policy of Aid in Spain

The Politics and Policy of Aid in Spain

IDS Research Report 65 (2011)

Spanish aid policy is changing: official development assistance (ODA) doubled between 2004 and 2008 reaching almost €5 billion annually (ODA/GDP 0.45 percent). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Poor Countries or Poor People? Development Assistance and the New Geography of Global Poverty

Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Working Paper (2011)

Two decades ago, 93% of the world's poor lived in countries officially classified as Low Income. Now, 72% of the world's poor live in Middle Income Countries (MICs). More details

IDS Research Summary

Aid for AIDS How do Community Groups and Other Stakeholders Negotiate the New Financial Architecture in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia?

IDS Research Summary of IDS Research Report 66 (2011)

In the past decade global health resources for AIDS have increased dramatically. What have these investments meant to responses of communities affected by HIV and AIDS? More details