Equity in develpment

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Overseas Development Institute

Equity in development
Why it is important and how to achieve it
Harry Jones

Working Paper 311
Results of ODI research presented in preliminary form for discussion and critical comment

Working Paper 311

Equity in development
Why it is important and how to achieve it

Harry Jones

November 2009

Overseas Development Institute 111 WestminsterBridge Road London SE1 7JD www.odi.org.uk

Disclaimer: The views presented in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of ODI.

ISBN 978 1 907288 00 5 Working Paper (Print) ISSN 1759 2909 ODI Working Papers (Online) ISSN 1759 2917 © Overseas Development Institute 2009 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrievalsystem, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publishers.


Acronyms Acknowledgements Executive summary 1. 2. Introduction What is equity?
2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Grounding the ideas Three principles of equity Linkages among the three principles Other relevant issues What causesinequity? How widespread is inequity? Equity as having intrinsic value Equity as co-constitutive of progress Equity as causally central to long-term change Priorities for an equity agenda Barriers and challenges to promoting equity The role of donors and external actors The practical value of the equity concept The political, symbolic and normative value of the equity concept iv v vi 1 3 3 5 8 911 11 15 19 19 21 22 25 25 33 35 38 38 39 43 44


Inequity in developing countries
3.1 3.2


The case for promoting equity in developing countries
4.1 4.2 4.3


How to promote equity
5.1 5.2 5.3


The added value of equity
6.1 6.2




Box 1: Donor approaches to equity Box 2: Comparing principles – equity, aggregation andrights Box 3: Three principles of equity Box 4: International equity Box 5: Spatial poverty traps Box 6: Social mobility Box 7: Priorities for an equity agenda Box 8: Affirmative action: A necessary ‘evil’ Box 9: Impact of the Progresa programme Box 10: The World Bank definition of equity 1 5 8 10 14 17 26 29 30 40


CPRC CSO DFID ECCD ECLAC EFA GDP HIV INGO MDG NGO ODI OECD PSIA SDCSida SODEV UK UN UNCRC UN DESA UNDP UNESCO UNICEF WHO Chronic Poverty Research Centre Civil Society Organisation UK Department for International Development Early Childhood Care and Development UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Education For All Gross Domestic Product Human Immunodeficiency Virus International NGO Millennium Development Goal Non-governmental OrganisationOverseas Development Institute Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Poverty and Social Impact Analysis Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency Social Development Division (SDC) United Kingdom United Nations UN Convention on the Rights of the Child UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs UN Development Program UNEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UN Children’s Fund World Health Organization


The paper has greatly benefited from the thoughts, comments and guidance of Kate Bird and Kate Higgins of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), as well as their inputs into earlier drafts. Funding of this research was provided by the Social Development Division (SODEV) of theSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Any views expressed are those of the author and not those of SDC or ODI. Special thanks must go to Reto Wieser and Laurent Ruedin for their contributions to earlier stages of the research, as well as to their colleagues in SODEV for their comments and engagement. Thanks should also go to the peer reviewers, Dr. Alison Evans of ODI, Dr. Frances...
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