Development finance statistics

Official development assistance – definition and coverage



The DAC has measured resource flows to developing countries since 1961.  Special attention has been given to the official and concessional part of this flow, defined as “official development assistance” (ODA).  The DAC first defined ODA in 1969, and tightened the definition in 1972.  ODA is the key measure used in practically all aid targets and assessments of aid performance.


 Definition of ODA


The DAC defines ODA as “those flows to countries and territories on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and to multilateral institutions which are:

i.  provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and

ii.  each transaction of which:

a)  is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and
b)  is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25 per cent (calculated at a rate of discount of 10 per cent).”


For a detailed explanation of this definition, see What is ODA?



Over the years the DAC has continuously refined the detailed ODA reporting rules to ensure fidelity to the definition and the greatest possible consistency among donors.  The boundary of ODA has been carefully delineated in many fields, including:

  • Military aid: No military equipment or services are reportable as ODA.  Anti-terrorism activities are also excluded.  However, the cost of using donors’ armed forces to deliver humanitarian aid is eligible.
  • Peacekeeping: Most peacekeeping expenditures are excluded in line with the exclusion of military costs.  However, some closely-defined developmentally relevant activities within peacekeeping operations are included.
  • Nuclear energy: Reportable as ODA, provided it is for civilian purposes.
  • Cultural programmes:  Eligible as ODA if they build the cultural capacities of recipient countries, but one-off tours by donor country artists or sportsmen, and activities to promote the donors’ image, are excluded.