The SDGs can add the missing context to Poverty Analysis

by Karsten Weitzenegger, Member of PEGNet

Poverty, hunger, well-being, education, and ecosystem health are interrelated. The relationships are nonlinear, dynamic, and complex. The SDGs help analysts to understand the this interlinked context.

Recognizing the intrinsic linkage between poverty eradication and sustainable development, Agenda 2030 calls for global transformation that focuses on ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all. The entire set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) supports a transformational vision of a world of universal respect for human rights and dignity, equality, non-discrimination, democracy and the rule of law. The achievement of the SDGs will need to be supported by effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, sound policies and good governance.

Over the years, development cooperation has operated on the principle of promoting social justice through the transfer of resources to the poor. National governments and donor agencies have a long way to go in developing the ability to make transparent and evidence-based policies and decisions so that investments become more effective. This requires greater recognition of the various dimensions of poverty reduction, based on evaluation findings.

The methodological challenges facing the evaluation field in this new era are multiple and varied. The reframing of global development goals represents a conceptual shift in our approach to addressing issues of poverty and inequality, as we move from thematically silo-based thinking toward a greater understanding and acceptance of the complexity of the issues being faced. By making sense of the interrelationships and interdependencies among and across SDGs, interventions and evaluations must demonstrate sensitivity to and understanding of global systems dynamics.

Evaluators need to point out to policy makers and decision makers that what they promote with one hand, is more than sufficiently undone with a very active and much bigger other hand. This requires not simply evaluating micro level interventions in isolation, but also assessing the effects of other policies to either mutually support (or to undermine) poverty, inequality, and sustainability objectives

Poverty Analysis has to be put into context. To make it possible to say something about a program’s influences on poverty, data on those influences, and on poverty, need to be linkable. Also, poverty has to be defined in ways that are relevant to the specific context and conditions of the beneficial population.

Ensuring that no one is left behind means strengthening the voices and power of the most marginalized members of society—the disabled, the young, women, the poor—and challenging some of the most vested interests, such as those of energy producers.