Regional development programmes and poverty reduction


What evidence is there of the performance or impact of regional development programmes in reducing poverty at the national level? What aid delivery channels have been most effective in this regard?


This report looks into the actual performance, and possibly impact, of regional development programmes on national-level poverty reduction and associated factors such as ‘good governance’.

The evidence base presents some strengths, such as the availability of diverse and rigorous evaluations, but also significant difficulties, most notably the lack of clear data on impact, the weak connection to poverty reduction, and the frequent lack of group-specific information (e.g. on gender). Crucially, effects on poverty cannot be attributed to regional programmes only, due to the large complex of variables that shape impact.

Nevertheless, the literature offers the following points:

  • Regional development programmes have generally yielded performance and impact that are average – on par with national programmes – and highly variable from one programme to another, in terms of relevance, effectiveness, sustainability and efficiency.
  • Identified obstacles to successful performance and impact have included:
    – Diverging incentives and interests.
    – A lack of national ownership and consultation.
    – A lack of coordination and gaps in national-regional connections.
    – Sectoral segmentation.
    – Limited capacities for regional support.
    – Poor programming and execution, in planning, implementation, resource levels and allocation, and knowledge management (including on baselines and monitoring).
  • Identified enabling factors that support successful performance and impact have included:
    – Broad consultations with national and regional actors (governments, international agencies, civil society), as well as national ownership.
    – Effective institutional arrangements, such as UNDP’s regional service centres, and effective policy arrangements (e.g. taking time to set up accountability structures).
    – Linkages between national and regional programmes.
    – Identifying the value-added of a regional approach and agencies’ comparative advantages.
    – Selecting the best funding modaliies, such as a blending of aid and loans for large projects.