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The Evolution of Official Development Assistance: Achievements, Criticisms and a Way Forward


  • William Hynes

    () (Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin)

  • Simon Scott

    () (OECD)


The definition of Official Development Assistance (ODA) has for 40 years been the global standard for measuring donor efforts in supporting development co-operation objectives. It has provided the yardstick for documenting the volume and the terms of the concessional resources provided, assessing donor performance against their aid pledges and enabling partner countries, civil society and others to hold donors to account. Yet for all its value, the ODA definition has always reflected a compromise between political expediency and statistical reality. It is based on interpretation and consensus and therefore allows for flexibility. It has evolved over the decades, while preserving the original concepts of a definition based on principal developmental motivation, official character and a degree of concessionality. While agreement on the ODA concept was a major achievement, discussion of the appropriateness of this measure has never ended. The paper documents the evolution of the ODA concept and proposes a possible new approach to measuring aid effort.

Suggested Citation

  • William Hynes & Simon Scott, 2013. "The Evolution of Official Development Assistance: Achievements, Criticisms and a Way Forward," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp437, IIIS.
  • Handle: RePEc:iis:dispap:iiisdp437

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Renard, Robrecht & Cassimon, Danny, 2001. "On the Pitfalls of Measuring Aid," WIDER Working Paper Series 069, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
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    Cited by:

    1. Justin Yifu LIN & Yan WANG, 2015. "China’s Contribution to Development Cooperation: Ideas, Opportunities and Finances," Working Papers P119, FERDI.
    2. Cassimon, Danny & Renard, Robrecht & Verbeke, Karel, 2014. "How to account for concessional loans in aid statistics?," IOB Analyses & Policy Briefs 9, Universiteit Antwerpen, Institute of Development Policy (IOB).
    3. Domínguez, Rafael & Olivié, Iliana, 2014. "Retos para la cooperación al desarrollo en el post-2015 /Challenges for Development Cooperation in the Post-2015," Estudios de Economía Aplicada, Estudios de Economía Aplicada, vol. 32, pages 995-1020, Septiembr.

    More about this item


    Foreign Aid; Official Development Assistance; Development Finance; Aid Measurement and Statistical Concepts;

    JEL classification:

    • O2 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid

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