Given that concentrated poverty is deepening around the world, the international development community now has even more reason to address this issue. Development aid has ostensibly served as an important policy instrument for promoting the welfare of marginalized communities in the Global South. The effectiveness of such efforts can be evaluated from varying angles but the first test to pass is its relevance to the lives of the most marginalized. This dissertation evaluates the extent to which aid activity is suited to the needs and priorities of recipients using three lenses: 1) needs assessment at the global level, 2) the design of interventions at the country level, and 3) evaluations at the sub-national level. The first chapter identifies the salient dimensions of poverty from the monetary and capability perspectives, using a cross-country analysis for 188 developing countries. The second chapter introduces a framework for analyzing two community development models in Myanmar as a country case study. The third chapter explores whether community development projects reach the poorest villages. It combines satellite imagery with spatial analysis to evaluate sub-national aid distribution. This study suggests strategies to deploy aid resources in a way to maximize their impact on people living in absolute poverty and data-sparse contexts.
CHAPTER 1. THE DISCREPANCY BETWEEN TWO APPROACHES TO GLOBAL POVERTY: WHAT DOES IT REVEAL?
For decades, development communities have attempted to develop poverty measures that can be used to inform need assessment and aid allocation. Building on these efforts, this paper examines the discrepancies between global poverty measures and brings that analysis to bear on identifying the salient dimensions of poverty in developing countries. It first compares the monetary and capability approaches to poverty and identifies comparable indices from each approach: the poverty headcount ratio (P0) and the multidimensional poverty headcount ratio (H). This paper then describes the degree of overlap and discrepancy between P0 and H for 118 developing countries from 2000 to 2014, synthesizing the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), World Development Indicators, and OECD aid activity data. On average, there is a high correlation between the two poverty measures, but considerable discrepancies surface for some countries. I analyze the position of these countries with respect to the fitted line of the two measures, classifying them into income-poor and capability-poor countries. Countries such as Pakistan and Ethiopia, for example, are experiencing “capability poverty” while Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe are experiencing “income poverty.” I examine whether aid composition corresponds to the country’s relative income and poverty status, finding that capability-poor countries receive marginally higher social sectoral aid compared with economic sector aid. This study suggests that discrepancies between measures of international poverty can be used to target, monitor, and evaluate global aid distribution.
CHAPTER 2 ALTERNATIVE MODELS OF COMMUNITY-LED DEVELOPMENT: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY AND PRACTICE
Reconciling the dual imperatives of legitimate state building and efficient service delivery, Community-led Development (CLD) has been praised as “a new form of engagement” in providing aid to fragile states. However, whether or how the CLD represents a new model of practice remains poorly understood. The absence of an analytical framework for distinguishing alternative CLD approaches to development aid hinders both the design of context-specific interventions and the evaluation of their impacts. This dissertation aims to compare two alternative models of CLDs against a backdrop provided by the framework of community-led development. Using document reviews and stakeholder interviews, this paper analyzes two aid projects in Myanmar: the Korean government-supported Saemaul Undong (SMU, New Village Movement), which reflects the perspective of the developmental state, and the World Bank-supported National Community-Driven Development Project (NCDDP), which reflects the perspective of the revised neoliberalism. Next, this study proposes the Agency-Power-Dimension (APD) framework for use in describing donors’ general CLD aid policies in conjunction with specific CLD projects in Myanmar. The Agency-Power-Dimension (APD) framework is proposed to describe donors’ general CLD aid policies in conjunction with specific CLD projects in Myanmar. This study finds that the intervention strategies of SMU and NCDDP differ regarding the main agency of change, the handling of power, and the objectives of projects. SMU engages with government extension workers as the main change agent, and its accountability comes from the performance of projects that focuses on agricultural production. In contrast, NCDDP works with private facilitators, emphasizing the processes of inclusion in the context of public infrastructure development. Previously, impact evaluations of CLDs set hypotheses based on the logical progression of the projects whose indicators are diffused over broad socio-economic domains. The APD framework identifies the main facets of treatment arms in future experimental studies. Policymakers seeking development opportunities in other fragile states can compare East Asian/Southern and Western/Northern approaches and apply it to varying local conditions.
CHAPTER 3: MAPPING COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AID: SPATIAL ANALYSIS IN MYANMAR
Aid policy has the potential to alleviate global poverty by targeting areas of concentrated need. However, few aid-determinant studies have analyzed the characteristics of poverty at the sub-national level, and even those studies were conducted with their units of analysis at a high administrative level such as the state. This study intends to fill this knowledge gap by portraying poverty at the granular level, and promoting the evaluation of aid towards the most marginalized communities. The goal of this study is to explore the extent to which community-led-development (CLD) projects take place in poor villages, using the case of Myanmar. It also analyzes how two CLD models, National Community-Driven Development Project (NCDDP) and Saemaul Undong (SMU) target needs differently. To collect outcome variables, I develop web scraping algorithms to create comprehensive and up-to-date locations of CLD participating villages (n=12,282). As for exploratory variables, radiance values from nighttime satellite imagery are extracted to estimate wealth at the community level. In addition, I spatially interpolate the DHS wealth index to make inferences on poverty in aid sites. By geospatially matching aid and wealth related data, I test factors that explain variation in the distribution of CLD and different approaches to community development. The results show mixed evidence of poverty-oriented targeting. First, as each increment of the share of a vulnerable population rises, the likelihood of aid presence in that community declines by 4%. Next, the density of community development projects is higher in areas shining brighter. A one unit increase in the nightlight intensity increases the number of projects by 86 within a two-degree radius of a DHS village cluster. Among villages of similar levels of nightlights and population, however, aid goes to areas with lower assets. Last, NCDDP, which emphasizes inclusion and collaboration, supports poorer villages farther away from conflict events. In contrast, SMU, which considers competition conductive to performance, supports more established areas including villages near conflict zones. Unlike previous studies finding that state-level aid allocations favor the richest, this more fine-grained analysis suggests that a need-based allocation is also in place. The nuances captured in nightlight luminosity are also shown to improve predictions of aid distribution. Synthesizing new sources of data can be used to assess area-based interventions in the context of poverty and conflict where traditional survey is too costly.
This study draws attention to alternative forms of evidence-based targeting, design, and evaluation of aid from poverty-oriented perspectives. The first chapter reveals that there are 1.5 times more capability poor countries than income poor ones, and the capability poor countries receive marginally higher social sectoral aid relative to economic sector aid. The second chapter finds that the intervention strategies of the revised neo-liberal (NCDDP) and the developmental state (SMU) model differ in terms of the main agency of change, the handling of power, and the primary dimension of projects. The third chapter highlights that community development aid in Myanmar flows to villages with low assets but also with higher nightlight luminosity and a lower proportion of vulnerable populations. These three chapters also speak to the evolution of an aid landscape with a distinctive way of delivering aid and generating empirical evidence. This study concludes with a call for both research and practice to return to the basics, and to begin by considering client and user needs. Grounding development policy in more contextualized knowledge, the development community can better serve the “bottom billion.”