Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the UK’s leading think tank on international development and humanitarian issues, celebrated its 50th Anniversary at the British Academy on Wednesday. Current leaders in the international development debate mingled with those who were at the forefront of ODI’s ground-breaking work in the 1960s.
The event underlined ODI's contribution to development and humanitarian policy over the past 50 years. Speaking of his time as an ODI Fellow in Kenya between 1966 and 1968, and later as ODI’s Deputy Director, the Rt. Hon. Vince Cable MP said:“One of the great achievements of ODI was transforming the way the British Government saw aid. We now have a situation where both the coalition government and the opposition are thoroughly committed to realising the target of spending 0.7% of GNI on development. Even with government funding overstretched, the government recognises the importance of aid.”
Current ODI Director, Dr. Alison Evans, paid tribute to her predecessors, John Howell and Simon Maxwell, and ODI Chair Adair Turner who joined her for the event. While acknowledging the achievements of ODI over the years, Dr. Evans underlined the challenges that lie ahead, saying:“The international development project is not finished. Many of the issues that our colleagues faced in 1960 are still on the agenda today, but there is a new geography. With the rise of economies such as China, Brazil, India and South Africa, development and trade are moving into a period of South to South relations. There is a need to build new alliances that reflect the changing centre of gravity in the world.“We have 50 years of experience, great leadership and great staff. We will continue to do what we do best; making sure that innovative research connects with policy makers and can improve peoples’ lives on the ground.”
A snapshot of ODI milestones:
- 1966 – ODI organises one of the first international conferences on aid effectiveness
- 1970 - ODI's lessons learned are summarised in the Pearson Report, which guides the UN’s strategy for the second development decade.
- 1980: ODI and the Institute of Development Studies produce the first survey of EEC policies that affect developing countries
- 1994 – ODI creates the Relief and Rehabilitation Network (Humanitarian Practice Network), in response to the Rwandan genocide, providing an independent forum for humanitarians.
- 2009 – ODI’s Development Charter for the G-20 is seen as required reading by leading policy makers and researchers.