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History of ODA

1940-1950s: The Beginning of ODA

In 1945, the UN Charter affirmed the organization's commitment to advancing international cooperation in order to solve international problems of economic, social, cultural or humanitarian issues, and to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and this gave rise to the specialized agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This international activity marked the beginning of ODA. With the increasing provision of emergency relief to newly independent countries in the 1950s, foreign assistance gained momentum, which laid the foundations for multilateral assistance. Provision of bilateral ODA took off as well, as the U.S. and the Soviet Union aggressively provided bilateral assistance to support post-war recoveries in Europe.

1960s: Emergence of a New ODA Regime

In 1961, the UN announced that the 1960s would be ‘the Decade of Development’ and called on every developed country to spend 1% of its GNP on aid. The growing international interest in development led to the creation of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the same year. During the 1960s, a significant part of ODA was allocated to infrastructure and industrialization projects.

1970s: Rights-based Approach to ODA and Emergence of Development NGOs

The UN declared the 1970s as the ‘Second UN Development Decade,’ urging developed countries to spend 0.7% of their GNI on ODA. Due to the two oil shocks and ensuing global recession, however, poverty in developing countries was exacerbated. In this context, economic growth-centered aid came under criticism, and a new aid strategy highlighting fundamental human rights as a key indicator to measure development gained traction. The 1970s also saw the emergence of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as new players in development cooperation.

1980s: Decrease in ODA and Enhanced Capacity of Development NGOs

The global economic downturn, which lasted until the first half of the 1980s, forced a number of donor countries to slash or freeze their aid budgets. Furthermore, the national debts of developing countries increased explosively, and their economies suffered despite the World Bank and IMF interventions. In the meantime, numerous NGOs continued to strengthen their expertise and functions.

1990s: Diversification of ODA Issues

With rapid globalization after the end of the Cold War, the realm of development cooperation expanded to cover environment, health, labor, women’s rights, and migration. The 1990s also saw the emergence of new concepts such as good governance, sustainable development, ownership of partner countries, and aid alignment.

2000-2010s: Golden Age of International Development Cooperation

In 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted at the UN General Assembly. The MDGs were particularly meaningful in that they were specific goals and targets on which global consensus was reached. Also, the DAC launched the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF), providing a venue for international dialogue on aid effectiveness. In the 2000s, three HLFs were held in 2003, 2005, and 2008, respectively resulting in the endorsement of the Rome Declaration, the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action.

In 2011, the Korean government convened the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4), leading to the signing of Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. As a host country, Korea played a pivotal role in leading a paradigm shift of development cooperation and in creating a more inclusive development partnership. In 2015, the UN declared the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as a guiding compass for development efforts after the MDGs.