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ODA Funding

Official development assistance (ODA) is defined as government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Read the OECD definition of ODA funding

In the UK, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) uses ODA, also known as its overseas aid budget, to support and deliver the government’s 2015 Aid Strategy. 

ODA Compliance

To be ODA-eligible, the OECD requires that research projects are 'directly and primarily related to the problems of developing countries'. ODA must be embedded in your project from the beginning, and not added as an afterthought.

Is my application ODA Compliant?

Applicants should always ensure they have considered existing advice on ODA eligibility.

Proposals made for ODA funding must make it clear that the research project’s primary purpose is to promote the economic development and welfare of a developing country or countries.

Applicants should:

  • Seek to investigate a specific problem or seek a specific outcome which will have an impact on a developing country or countries on the DAC list;
  • Provide evidence as to why this is a problem for the developing country or countries;
  • Address the issue identified effectively and efficiently
  • Use the strengths of the UK to address the issue, working in collaboration with others as appropriate;
  • Demonstrate that the research is of an internationally excellent standard;
  • Identify appropriate pathways to impact to ensure that the developing country benefits from the research.

Any benefit to the UK or other developed countries has to be the secondary consideration and should not lead to a project being funded if it doesn’t primarily deliver the development objective.

Is a project always ODA compliant if the research is based in a country on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list?

No - it is the purpose of the research that drives compliance not the location. Only research directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA.

Is a project ODA compliant if it supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Not necessarily. SDGs are relevant to all countries. Only research directly and primarily relevant to the problems of developing countries may be counted as ODA.

Ensuring Ongoing ODA Compliance

Applications for ODA funding are required to include an ODA compliance statement. However, there are a number of external factors that can cause a project to become non-compliant over time, so investigators will need to monitor ODA compliance throughout the life of a project, and provide evidence of continued compliance in the final project report. Examples of risks to ODA compliance include:

‘Mission Creep’
The research question changes incrementally from that which was originally funded (and approved as ODA compliant). For example, there is an underspend on one part of the project, so funding is increased in another area, which alters the primary benefit.

Beneficiary country drops off DAC list
If the beneficiary country is the sole DAC listed partner on a project, and they graduate from the list, the project would cease to be ODA compliant. The DAC revises the list every three years. Countries that have exceeded the high-income threshold for three consecutive years at the time of the review are removed. The next review of the DAC List will take place in 2020. There is a note at the bottom of the DAC list, which indicates the countries that are expected to graduate at the next review, provided they remain high income countries until 2019.

Project loses an ODA recipient partner
From time to time, a partner may have to pull out of a project. If that partner’s contribution is essential to the project’s ODA compliance, then it may be compromised.

Partners have a different understanding of the research aims
ODA research promotes autonomy and equity within partnerships, but there is also an expectation that the ODA compliance will be assured by the UK partner. To promote transparency and avoid misunderstandings further down the line, it is important that partners are aware of the ODA requirements prior to the commencement of the award.

Additional Guidance

Useful Links

SIN teams are a good first point of contact for science and innovation opportunities in the UK and internationally through events, networking activities and direct contact.

Work for and with universities, national research and extension institutions, development agencies, the private sector, national and local governments, charities and foundations, farmers and non-governmental organizations.

LCEDN brings together researchers, policy-makers and practitioners from across the UK to expand research capacity around low-carbon development in the countries of the Global South.

Tropical Health and Education Trust runs the Health Partnership Scheme, a six year, £30 million DFID programme that supports Health Partnerships in the UK to deliver effective health worker training projects in collaboration with overseas partners. HPS provides grant funding, advice & support to partnerships