Official development assistance is defined as government aid to developing countries designed to promote the economic development and welfare of recipient countries. Loans and credits for military purposes are excluded. The aid may be provided bilaterally, from donor to recipient, or it may be channeled through a multilateral development agency such as the United Nations or the World Bank.
Aid includes grants, "soft” loans, and the provision of technical assistance. Soft loans are those where the grant element is at least 25%. ODA is usually measured on a net basis, i.e. after subtracting loan repayments from the gross aid flows. Data on the geographical distribution of aid are presented on a gross basis to show the level of new aid provided during the period.
The OECD maintains a list of developing countries and territories, and only aid to these countries counts as ODA. The list is periodically updated and currently contains over 150 countries or territories which had per capita incomes of less than USD 10 066 in 2004 (by comparison, per capita income in OECD countries averaged over USD 35 000 in that year). Note that of the 30 member countries of the OECD, only the 22 shown in the table are members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), along with the European Commission.