SubscribeSubscribe to this blog's feed
What do we mean by "poverty alleviation?"
Almost everyone agrees that poverty alleviation should be the paramount goal of development assistance. But what do we mean by poverty alleviation? Is it helping the very poorest of the poor achieve a better quality of life? Or is it enabling the largest number of people to get above the poverty line? Does it mean helping to improve people’s lives now, or laying the conditions for future improvements?
Owen Barder, of the Center for Global Development, has performed a useful service in a recent paper, What is Poverty Reduction? In it, he points out the implicit trade-offs between tackling current and future poverty, between helping as many poor people as possible versus focusing on those in chronic poverty, and between measures that tackle the causes of poverty and those which deal with the symptoms. In fact, notes the author, “poverty reduction actually encompasses many goals, some of which are contradictory.” If donor agencies do not explicitly recognize and account for these differences at the outset – unless it’s clear what measure for poverty reduction is going to be employed – confusion and disillusionment can and does ensue.
The conclusion the author draws is that each individual project or program cannot meet all the objectives of poverty reduction at the same time and to the same extent: “If the many different objectives are not recognized and valued in their own right, staff in aid agencies will endeavor to design and select programs that reflect what they perceive to be the dominant narrative of the day; or, even worse, they will attempt to meet a number of incompatible objectives at once. The resulting homogenization and compromises lead to ineffective project selection and poor project design, resulting in unsatisfactory progress towards all the objectives and a reduction in the effectiveness of aid.”
The on-going deliberations over US foreign assistance reform need to recognize the multiple objectives and trade-offs inherent in “poverty reduction” and the importance of precision in specifying poverty alleviation objectives.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What do we mean by "poverty alleviation?":
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.