Addressing Urban Poverty: Relevance of Conditional Cash Transfers

10 Dec 2009


This paper from a two-day conference in New Delhi explores the relevance of CCTs in addressing entrenched issues of urban poverty even as across Asia there remain few social protection measures that provide safety nets in times of crisis.

South Asia is home to a majority of the world’s poor. Across the region, rural and urban poverty continues to be both pervasive and deep-rooted. While poverty alleviation policies and programmes have been devised to reach out to rural poor, enhancing human security of the urban poor is a pressing need. This is further accentuated by rapid urbanisation underway in the entire subcontinent.

Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) schemes wherein cash is provided directly to poor households or individuals in response to them fulfilling specific conditions have assumed importance as instruments that can entitle and empower the urban poor to gain access to merit goods and services such as schooling, nutrition and basic healthcare. To explore the relevance of CCTs in addressing entrenched issues of urban poverty, a conference on Addressing Urban Poverty: Relevance of Conditional Cash Transfers was held in New Delhi, India, on 10 - 11 December 2009. It was organised jointly by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India Country Office and the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).

The conference was a confluence of over 60 delegates. The participants included policymakers, representatives from multilateral and development agencies, researchers, practitioners and implementers of CCTs from across the globe. Also present were representatives of the Government of India as well as the state governments of the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Bihar. Both states have evinced strong interest in CCTs as a modality to combat urban poverty.

The participants from Latin America included practitioners from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Nicaragua where CCTs were initiated in the 1990s and have registered remarkable success in addressing poverty.

Participants also included representatives from several Asian countries such as Indonesia and Philippines which have introduced pilot projects on CCTs in the last two to three years.

The workshop was designed to facilitate discussion among those countries that have had nearly a decade of experience in implementing CCTs and those that were just embarking on such programmes.

Given that the economic conditions and poverty differ considerably across Latin America, a thorough discussion on the lessons of the Latin American experience was considered beneficial for Asian countries. The conference was seen as a platform to address pressing issues related to CCTs such as those of targeting, institutional coordination, monitoring and evaluation, sustainability, and fiscal implications.

The opening session on 10 December was graced by Arun Maira, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India; Ajay Chhibber, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific; Patrice Coeur-Bizot, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, India; and Rathin Roy, Director, IPC-IG, Brazil. The eminent speakers presented their views and set the tone of the two-day meet.

The inaugural session was followed by a panel discussion dedicated to presenting and discussing experiences from Latin American and other countries on implementing CCT initiatives.

The panel discussion was followed by three parallel sessions on:

i) Targeting and Conditionality in CCT Programmes;

ii) Convergence: Linkages with Complementary Programmes and Institutional Coordination; and

iii) Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Financing of CCTs

These sessions emerged as fora for vigorous experience-sharing on the successes, challenges, limits and failures of CCTs across the world. The discussions in the parallel sessions were captured on the second day of the conference in succinct presentations by each group to the plenary.

A special panel discussion on the concluding day captured the experience of introducing CCTs in Asia and the lessons learnt. Representing the Asian countries were participants from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines and Turkey all of whom are ahead in the learning curve of adapting CCT-type approaches in their respective countries. Representatives from countries that are keen on initiating similar programmes also participated in the conference. In addition, a special session on Indian schemes that have elements of CCTs was held before the summing up session that concluded the conference.

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