FAU was founded in 1982 at the initiative of a group of researchers affiliated with universities as well as the former Center for Development Research (now part of the Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS). The intention was to create a forum that could be used by researchers from various institutions and from different disciplines for joint discussions. At the same time the association contributes to a more coordinated approach with regard to the dissemination of development research. In 1985, the association's purpose changed to include development research within the humanities and natural science as well.

A key activity has been the Annual FAU seminar or conference. FAU has since 1990 organised an annual conference, where the key objectives have been to debate a pertinent, contemporary topic in an interdisciplinary setting bringing together researchers, students and practitioners. Since 2011 FAU has entered into a collaboration with the other Nordic Development Research Associations in organising joint Nordic conferences (read more here - link to conference page) .

FAU currently consists of approx. 150 members. This includes researchers, staff in government organizations, NGOs and consultants who work with developmental problems as well as students interested in development research.

FAU has a board consisting of 6 members elected at the regular annual meeting by the association's members. Furthermore the selected alternates for board members usually work alongside the elected members on the board (see the current list of Board members here).