Poverty and Development Division
last updated : 20 December 1999
|Contents||Introduction||Preface||SAARC project||Annex (user's guide)|
The Asia-Pacific region has, in recent years, achieved remarkable economic and social progress. Developing countries of the region have recorded some of the highest growth rates in the world. There have also been improvements in the poverty level situation, with the number of poor as a percentage of the population coming down in most of the developing countries. However, despite those achievements, the absolute number of poor is now higher in South Asia where per capita economic growth has remained quite low.
There is no doubt that slow economic growth has been primarily responsible for the perpetuation of poverty in South Asia. Therefore a major step in efforts to eradicate poverty in a sustainable manner would be to accelerate the growth rate. But it is widely recognized that while economic growth is necessary, it is not the only precondition necessary for the alleviation of poverty. The beneficial impact of economic growth on poverty alleviation can take an inordinately long time to materialize. In addition, large numbers of people may remain marginal to the growth processes. Governments are thus obliged to adopt remedial measures, including the implementation of target-oriented programmes designed to supplement income, provide employment or enhance access to basic necessities.
With regard to the implementation of various types of anti-poverty programmes, a large number of experiments are being carried out in the member countries of SAARC. Initially, poverty alleviation programmes were mainly initiated by Governments. However, the pervasive and endemic nature of poverty in the SAARC countries, and the overwhelming general concern about the urgency of its early alleviation, have also stimulated numerous non-governmental, community and self-help interventions in the subregion. Most of those interventions have been conceived at the national level, but they have generally been implemented and administered locally. In a poverty stricken area it is not uncommon to find a large number of diverse agents (government agencies, national and international NGOs and local self-help groups) involved in the implementation of programmes intended to benefit the poor.
Against this backdrop two issues appear crucially important to the efficiency of such programmes. First, a diversity of agents calls attention to the need for coordination, not only for preventing the agents from acting at cross-purposes or duplicating efforts, but also for effectively exploiting complementarities between them. Second, without a particularly conscious effort it is possible that poverty alleviation programmes will turn out to be agent-driven without the beneficiaries having any voice in the design and implementation processes, and thus will not necessarily address the real concerns of the poor. In fact, lack of beneficiary participation has often been cited as a major factor responsible for the failure of poverty alleviation programmes. The need to find an appropriate modality to address such concerns in a practical manner gave rise to the formulation of the SAARC Seven Sisters: District Development Coordination and Improved Poverty Project Design scheme.
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