The DED was founded in 1963 in the presence of Konrad Adenauer and John F. Kennedy. The first headquarters was at Wächtersbach in Hessen. In 1977 they moved to Berlin-Kladow. In 1999 the DED moved its headquarters from Berlin to Bonn (Tulpenfeld quarter) due to the Berlin/Bonn law. On January 1, 2011 the DED was together with Inwent absorbed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (German Society for Technical Cooperation/GTZ), which was then renamed to Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Society for International Cooperation/GIZ).
From 1963 to 2007, more than 15 000 development workers have committed themselves to improve the living conditions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The first 14 supporters for the so-called Third World went 20 August 1964 by plane to Daressalam (Tanzania).
Dr. Jürgen Wilhelm was the last Director General. They worked primarily in the following areas: Promotion of Economic and employment promotion, Promotion of democracy, Rural development and conservation of resources, Water, Civil conflict management and promotion of peace, and Health.