Development thinking has moved a long way from the theory that broad economic development is good for all – few today would argue that the “trickle down” theory works in practice. Pro-active approaches addressing poverty may focus on one or more aspects of the phenomenon, depending on the context and the theory of change of the intervening agency. All these aspects may be addressed at different levels, from social protection measures at policy and legislative level to micro-interventions.
Examples of Pro-Poor Measures
• Addressing economic poverty: facilitating access to affordable credit (micro-credit, group banking, etc.); promoting income generation-generating opportunities (one specific approach being Making Markets work for the Poor, M4P); supporting dignified employment (including equal pay for equal work); and the increasingly popular measure of cash transfers.
• Building human capacities: promoting access to education for all – often entailing targeted scholarship for girls or other disadvantaged children; vocational skills training, and a wide variety of other long or short term training schemes, possibly targeted to particularly disadvantaged groups.
• Addressing political aspects of poverty: informing disadvantaged people of their rights and providing access to legal support; facilitating collective action; and building public speaking and negotiation capacities.
• Addressing socio-cultural aspects of poverty (this can require particularly carefully tailored interventions): facilitating the full and equal representation of different groups of people in community decision-making processes; working with both men and women to combat gender-based violence and mutilation; and supporting discriminated groups and individuals to claim their human rights.
• Building protective capacities: these measures concern the ability of people to withstand domestic and external shocks such as a severe illness or accident of a family member, or the loss of possessions following a flood or war. Insecurity and vulnerability are crucial aspects of poverty and may be particularly relevant in humanitarian crises in which identifying the most vulnerable can be a matter of life or death.
Should development organizations act more like venture capitalists and less like providers of ‘stuff’ and ‘technical assistance’? This was the argument advanced by leading development economist Esther Duflo during her recent lecture on ‘Effective poverty reduction beyond the MDGs’, part of the Kapuscinski Development Lectures series. Duflo is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab. Amongst other publications, Dulfo is well known for her book, co-authored with colleague Abhijit Banerjee, entitled “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty”. In this book Duflo and Banerjee argue that so many anti-poverty policies have failed over the years due to an inadequate understanding of poverty and a lack of willingness to systematically and coherently generate and learn from evidence. The book explores the economic lives of poor people, arguing that they have to be skilled economists just to survive, and yet face daily barriers such as access to information, education, political institutions, etc. In other words, just being poor changes one’s set of opportunities. Banerjee and Duflo suggest that: “It is not easy to escape from poverty, but a sense of possibility and a little bit of well-targeted help (a piece of information, a little nudge) can sometimes have surprisingly large effects. On the other hand, misplaced expectations, the lack of faith where it is needed, and seemingly minor hurdles can be devastating. A push on the right lever can make a huge difference, but it is often difficult to know where that lever is. Above all, it is clear that no single lever will solve every problem”. Read more »
In August 2013, the lower house of the Indian National Assembly approved a controversial Food Security Bill that aims to provide subsidized food to two thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion people. Its promoters argue that the Bill will be a major advancement in efforts to eradicate the hunger and malnutrition widespread in India. However, the Bill has attracted criticism on all sides, from its being insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem to the pressure its spending will place on the economy. The Bill has also been critiqued as merely a political ploy in view of next year’s national elections, with an opposition politician arguing "It's not food security, but a vote securing bill". This begs the question: can it not be both? Read more »
From Noise to Signal: The Successful Turnaround of Poverty Measurement in Colombia
Joao Pedro Azevedo, May 2013, The Economic Premise Notes - World Bank
In the mid-2000s, poverty measurement in Colombia was at a standstill. A dated poverty measurement methodology was clashing with improvements in the national household survey system. As a result, official poverty rates showed volatile trends, and a weak communication strategy produced an unconvincing storyline, which further resulted in the rapid deterioration of indicator credibility. This happened during a period of high and sustained growth that also included a number of poverty reduction interventions, such as the flagship program Familias en Accion and the Unidos strategy. This note summarizes the main lessons learned from government efforts, supported by national and international experts, including the World Bank, to restore credibility to the official methodology for poverty measurement in Colombia. Read more »
Pro Poor Policy Briefing Paper: How development cooperation can support pro-poor policy processes
Kate Bird, March 2009
This discussion paper provides an overview of the elements that are of importance for pro-poor policy processes and how donors are able to influence such processes. For each stage of an (idealized) policy cycle, the author presents possible responses. The paper further argues that for achieving tangible results, there is a need to translate evidence from relevant sources, which is often accessible for donors, into clear policy-related messages and to tailor this information to the target audience.
Pro Poor Policy Briefing Paper - Kate Bird (PDF, 211 KB)
Pro-Poor Policies: An Overview
Kate Bird and Stefanie Busse, November 2006
This discussion paper on pro-poor policy provides an overview of the debates around pro-poor policy and raises some important issues about the nature of pro-poor policy. It identifies what types of policies might be considered pro-poor and highlights some of the challenges in policy formation and implementation.
Pro-Poor Policy: A Selected Annotated Bibliography
Karishmah Bhuwanee, July 2006
The Annotated Bibliography on Pro Poor Policy covers the most of the relevant up-to-date literature on this theme. The first part of the bibliography lists resources in regard to various sectoral policies such as health, education, social policy and food security, and continues with policies on anti-discrimination, rights, culture and empowerment, and utilities. Further, the bibliography compiles extensive resources regarding policies on Pro Poor Growth and on the barriers and opportunities in pro poor policy formation.