Government of Canada

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

What is International Development?

What is a developing country?

A developing country is one with a much lower standard of living than Canada. For example, people in developing countries often have a shorter life expectancy than people in developed countries, sometimes do not have the same health care or education opportunities as we do, and usually have far less money as individuals and as a country. To find out more about the standard of living in countries around the world, visit A Developing World map.

Young woman 362-317 © ACDI-CIDA/David Barbour
A young woman at a market in Ethiopia.

International development is the term used to describe the activities that developed countries, called donor countries, like Canada, carry out to help poor or developing countries lift themselves out of poverty and raise their standard of living to one that is closer to the standard of living we have in Canada. About 2.6 billion people (about two out of five) live on less than $2 per day.

To reduce poverty, donor countries, like Canada, provide developing countries with technical expertise, goods and money. This is also called international development aid.

International development aid focuses on:

  • improving the health and education of the people in a country so that people do not die from lack of food, medical services or knowledge
  • creating a sustainable food supply so that people can feed themselves
  • boosting economic development so that people can get decent jobs and support their families
  • promoting safety, human rights, and law and order so that people can thrive

What are the MDGs?

In September 2000, at a special United Nations assembly to mark the turn of the century, the world's leaders agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals — known as MDGs — to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by 2015.

What is humanitarian assistance?

When a natural disaster like a flood, earthquake, or hurricane occurs, other countries and people often send help — food, equipment to make clean drinking water, shelter and technical experts. This is called humanitarian assistance and is also part of international development. Humanitarian assistance is also provided in situations of prolonged conflict where people must flee their homes.