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Global Development Institute

Antipoverty cash transfers in the global South

We have led global research into direct cash transfers to the extreme and chronic poor, finding them to be financially feasible and politically sustainable. Our findings have shaped development policy, influenced national governments and informed practice in several countries.

$2 per month has been pledged to all children born after the 2006 Peace Accord in Southern Sudan as a direct result of our research

Colourful buildings with washing hanging out at the top of the frame. '40%' appears as a text graphic in white.
Research led to a 40% increase in government funding for DFID’s ‘Chars Livelihood Programme’ for the chronically poor.

Our book ‘Just Give Money to the Poor’ was instrumental in persuading the UK government to expand its support for antipoverty transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Subsequently, the key message of the book received extended media attention from publications such as the New York Times and the Economist, and the BBC World Service.

Shaping international policy and practice:

  • Collaboration with organisations such as HelpAge and United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
  • Written reports for the International Labour Organisation and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth
  • Citation in the European Community Development Report
  • Direct consultation for The UN High Level Panel Report on the post 2015 development agenda
  • Discussion via contributions at various high level conferences including the UN Commission for Social Development’s 50th Session

Shaping national policy and practice:

  • Implementation of a pilot antipoverty transfer programme in Uganda
  • Review of Uganda’s largest social assistance programme
  • Reform and reorganisation of Bangladesh’s existing social protection system
  • Informing design and implementation of the Department for International Development (DFID) funded ‘Chars Livelihood programme’ with a budget increase of 40%
  • Implementation of a plan to give US$2 per month to every child in Southern Sudan born after the 2006 Peace Accord
  • Engagement with the Church of Sweden which helped to inform the Swedish Government in its work on social protection

Our research

A sandy Ugandan street with people and traffic. 600,000 is overlaid in white text
600,000 people have been targeted by cash transfer programmes in Uganda.

Our research, carried out by Professor Armando Barrientos and colleagues in the Chronic Poverty Research Centre, initially examined the impact of non-contributory pension programmes on poverty amongst older people. Our focus was extended to all forms of direct transfer to poor households. The research showed direct antipoverty transfers to be a practical, politically sustainable and financially feasible means to address extreme and chronic poverty in low and middle income countries. Additionally and significantly, we have generated wider policy-relevant knowledge on our areas of study.

Key findings:

  • Properly designed and implemented antipoverty transfers strengthen the productive capacity of households, address long term structural and persistent poverty and allow households to allocate their resources
  • Direct antipoverty transfers to older people reduce poverty and help address challenges of rapid population ageing
  • Antipoverty transfers are essential to support sustainable development and are best promoted in the context of emerging social contracts and fiscal pacts

Key people