Since the early 1970s, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) has maintained a program of cooperation with and in support of mathematical institutions and individual mathematicians in the developing world. Support activities include reasearch travel and conference grants, as well as volunteer lectures, joint research projects and donations. In the past years, these activites were managed by the IMU's Commission for Development and Exchanges (CDE) and the Developing Countries Strategy Group (DCSG).

Within the last decade IMU has increased its attention to the mathematical needs of developing and economically disadvantaged countries. As part of this increased attention IMU and its adhering organizations decided in August 2009 to merge the CDE and the DCSG into one commission, the Commission for Developing Countries (CDC).

The newly formed CDC has the mandate to manage all IMU initiatives in support of mathematics in the developing world and, in particular, to continue the successful work previously carried out by CDE and DSCG.

At the meeting of the General Assembly in Bangalore 2010 the CDC Terms of Reference were approved and the CDC leadership 2011-2014 was elected, which activated the CDC on 1st January 2011 and led it to hold its first meeting on the 30th and 31st January 2011 in Berlin, Germany.

Besides administering the Grants Programs for Mathematicians as well as the Volunteer Lecture Program, the CDC takes part in the following types of activities in accord with various aspects of its mission:

- Research
- Support of local initiatives
- Support of Educational and Local Capacity Building Programs
- Implementation of IMU member contribution programs destined for support of mathematics and mathematics teaching in developing countries.
- Exploration of funding and grant opportunities of new and existing sponsors.
- Development of proposals and joint activities with partner organizations.
- Identification of inexpensive and free online mathematics research resources and advertise these to mathematicians in the developing world.
- Service as a "cleaning-house" for the activities of individual countries and mathematics societies in support of mathematicians in the developing world.
- Encouragement of proposals and support projects from mathematical organizations or individual mathematicians in the developing world

CDC welcomes all initiatives in support of mathematics in the developing world. There are vast untapped resources of mathematical talent in the developing world. The desire of students to learn mathematics, and also to become mathematics professionals is growing. At the same time economic resources available to those who want to study advanced mathematics and who have the capacity to excel are woefully inadequate.