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Emerging Markets

Agenda 2030: The Impact of Aid

 5 min read / 

Many commendable things are happening around the globe today. The world’s population is increasing at an accelerating rate, while unemployment is only decreasing sluggishly. The share of global GDP enjoyed by developing countries is rising but their real annual growth compared to rich countries continues to remain low. Health expenditures have barely increased, but while life expectancy continues to rise, deaths by diseases are growing every year. Climate change continues to remain the elephant in the room full of more discussed issues. One major achievement has been the measurable decrease in world population living in extreme poverty with a complimenting reduction in the percentage of people without basic education. These milestones have all been reached with the help of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out by the UN. These were used as a way to measure overall global development, as well as focus attention on the things which really mattered and could lead to improvements for those living in the most impoverished countries on earth.

The implementation of the MDGs in 2000 and their replacement by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 has led to many achievements. Yet, the pace of change has not reached its full potential and lags behind the ambitions of global and local leaders.

INDICATORS 2000 2015
World Population 6.05 billion 7.35 billion
Extreme Poverty 29.09% 9.59%
Population without basic  education 20% 14%
Health expenditure/ GDP


9.01% 9.92%
Healthy life expectancy 58.38 years 62.83 years
Deaths by cancer 6.97 million 8.75 million
Reported natural disasters 526 396
Average Temperature Change (Median) 0.29 C 0.76 C
Annual real GDP growth in poor
4.1% 1.3% (in 2013)
Annual real GDP growth in  rich countries 2.9 5.8 (in 2013)
Share of Global GDP  by developing countries



43.07 57.54
Share of Global GDP by
advanced countries
56.93 42.47
Unemployed population 6.315% 5.451%

Goals are set, policies are formed, headlines are made, and projects are implemented. So why are these goals not met or the results not as good as projected?

The Fundament Flaw

When a development project ends, it essentially starts. To make it effective, continuous evaluation and monitoring (M&E) of its impact needs to be done. Though an obvious step, most national governments, NGOs and international institutions fail to acknowledge this as the final phase of the project and there are barely any resources left to carry such evaluations forward. In 2014 alone, $137bn were spent on development projects and only 1% of the projects have been evaluated for sustainable impacts (Valuing Voices, IFRC presentation).

The importance of evaluating impacts

The impact of a project is its most important measure of success. While all the metrics can be hit, unless they make a real impact on lives on the ground, then they are for nothing. The question of what happens to community well being once the project is completed and aid workers pack up is often overlooked.

There are several ways of measuring impact. One can be involving the considered community in the designing of the project in order to understand their requirements. Involving the community in impact assessment is key; often they will know what will outlast the projects end date and improve their lives. One example if from Ethiopia, where the Red Cross and Red Crescent developed a project to help farmers and rural communities. The NGOs wanted to provide self-sustaining assets, those that were not contingent on on-going aid participation to provide and assumed that oxen, dairy products and honey bees would be the best assets to focus on. However, the community instead highlighted that it was poultry and pigs which were the easiest and best assets which were provided. It is clear that this type of increased community dialogue is needed in other aid projects.

Another example is one of the biggest social security schemes in India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee which guarantees 100 days of work to rural unemployed population and payment for the job within 15 days of the application. The program has been applauded for increasing the number of rural jobs as well as creating rural infrastructure and assets. Of late, there has been a decline in jobs created by the scheme. Most believe that this is because the central government has decreased funding it, but field studies have shown that the demand for work has decreased as the workers have not been receiving the guaranteed payment within 15 days.

These projects have been relatively well monitored and evaluated for sustainable impacts after they were introduced in the communities, and allowed for a realisation of the faults and benefits of the plan. Without such evaluations, resources could be spent on provisions that were not effective, and processes would continue to be in place that does not benefit people. Adding M&E as a required phase for all development projects would accelerate the effectiveness of their agendas and hence make SDGs more achievable by 2030. Without well thought through M&E there is an increased chance of it of these projects failing to achieve their central goal, lifting people out of poverty and improving their lives. It would only result in repeated attempts by each generation to help the least well-off, which would end, once again, in failure.

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