The impact of Area-Based Programming


What is the evidence to support the theory that area based programming will achieve greater impact in an environment such as DRC as opposed to sectoral/issue based approaches?


Area-Based Development (ABD) approaches use the geographic ‘area’ as the main entry point for intervention, rather than a sector or target group. Area-based programming is widely used in conflict-affected parts of Europe, the Middle East, South and Central Asia. ABD has been less commonly used in Africa, and where it has been applied, the programmes tend not to be as comprehensive and ambitious. Examples of impact from ABD programmes provided in the report include:

  • Area Based Early Recovery (ABER), South Central Somalia
  • PRODERE Area Development and Peacebuilding in Central America
  • ELS/ABD programme, Uzbekistan
  • Local Area Development Programme (LADP), Iraq
  • Sida-Amhara Rural Development Programme (SARDP), Ethiopia
  • Decentralisation, Local Governance and Rural Development, UNDP Assistance in Ukraine
  • National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP), Afghanistan
  • Batken Area-Based Development Programme, Kyrgyzstan

The report also looks at how different programmes have been clustered together to promote real synergies and finds the main types of ABD interventions are:

  • Economic recovery and diversification;
  • Conflict resolution;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Basic services, such as education, healthcare, and WASH;
  • Agriculture and natural resources management;
  • Development of the energy sector (particularly rural renewable energy); and
  • Local governance mechanisms.

Several programmes also incorporate cross-cutting issues into their strategies, for example: gender; HIV/AIDS; environmental protection; and early warning systems.

Evaluations of ABD programmes implemented by international organizations suggest that they are often very effective in responding to complex conflict characteristics on sub-national levels across the world, although they are not without their limitations. With regard to the application of sector wide approaches (SWAps) in post-conflict contexts, there is ‘a notable paucity’ of studies, although there is recent evidence from DRC, Timor Leste, and Sierra Leone that health SWAps in fragile states are frequently challenged by the existence of diverse aid modalities, weak government leadership and capacity, and unpredictable donor policy and behaviour. No comparative studies of ABD vs. sectoral/issue based approaches were found during this query.