Evidence on how cash transfers can reduce poverty has made them the new hot topic in both development and relief circles. Some development agencies have gone so far as to make them the central plank of their social protection strategies.
However, cash transfers are far from a panacea, and new research at ODI drawing on a number of country case studies will examine questions of affordability and sustainabililty, administrative capacity, targeting and conditionality, preconditions and sequences, and the role of cash transfers in progressions from relief to development contexts.
Notable successes have been achieved by targeted and conditional cash transfers in Latin America, which have helped not only in raising and smoothing consumption but also in longer term investments in human capital.
But they raise as many questions as answers: can the kinds of conditionality found in Latin America be adapted to countries having much weaker delivery mechanisms? How far can cash transfers substitute for transfers in kind, and how far do these have to complement each other?
These and other questions drive the new ODI research programme. Working closely with national partners in the collection and analysis of new field evidence from Africa and from Asia, this programme will ask how and how far the design of cash transfer programmes there will have to differ from those in Latin America, and what different outcomes might be expected.
A particular strength of the programme is that it will bring together perspectives from development and humanitarian experience. The programme is funded by a small consortium of interested bilateral donors, and ODI will be working closely with them to explore how approaches to cash transfers can be best harmonised across humanitarian and development departments within their own organisations.