Sustainable Development by 2030 Requires Community-led Development

“For us, then, to reach our twin goals, three things have to happen—inclusive economic growth, investment in human beings, and insurance against the risk that people could fall back into poverty. Grow, invest, and insure: that’s our shorthand for it…We reject “trickle-down” notions that assume that any undifferentiated growth permeates and fortifies the soil and everything starts to bloom, even for the poor.  We need to find an economic growth model that lifts up the poorest citizens rather than enriching only those at the top.”

-Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group address at the 2015 WB/IMF Annual Meetings

At the United Nations on September 30, over a dozen INGOs and other likeminded development stakeholders officially launched the Movement for Community-led Development during UNGA70. The motivation for this Movement stems from the need to push for an exponential increase in bottom-up development initiatives that mobilize and empower citizens as the key agents of change for their own development.

Co-hosted by the Government of the Philippines, featuring local representatives from the Kalahi-CIDSS program, the Movement launch yielded provocative discussion around the inefficiencies of prioritizing top-down development approaches and resource provisions [in the absence of humanitarian needs]. On the heels of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, there are already sobering concerns around the realistic capacity and resources to achieve all of the goals and targets by 2030. Experts from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Restless Development, Institute for State Effectiveness and Heifer International explained how the sweat equity from community-led development, notably youth and women, would undoubtedly provide crucial capacity to achieve the goals at all levels. 

The discussion included two prominent elements: 1) strengthening good, local governance for effective partnerships with communities, and; 2) integrated strategies to build the whole of communities and individuals.

Using the example of rebuilding infrastructure and effective service delivery in his community after Typhoon Haiyan, Mayor Pelagio R. Pecson Jr, of Tanauan, Leyte in the Philippines, one of Kalahi-CIDSS’ operational areas, explained how strides in community-led development built significant resilience to trauma and devastation in the wake of disaster. The accountability and leadership skills of citizens and their responsive local government meant shorter crisis and less costly crisis management to rebuild.

Heifer International’s Partnerships and Business Development Manager, Kamil Madanat, spoke specifically about the crucial need for integrated programming at the community level in order to break the cycle of poverty. Strategic interlinkages between sectors such as health, education, sanitation, improved agricultural techniques and food storage results in increased income due to healthier living standards and overall improvement in livelihoods. This includes decreasing time poverty, and expanding local economies through better market access and new value chain entry points. Kamil explained that the key implementers of these interventions were few others than trained community leaders and grassroots volunteers. He stated that “empowered communities will make better decisions,” defending that investment in human capital is greater than resource or monetary investments. John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project added to this, saying that the “2030 agenda demands that people work together.”

While continuing the unveiling of the Movement for Community-led Development, Clare Lockhart, Founder and President of the Institute for State Effectiveness gave examples of how [at least] millions of crucial donor dollars are wasted as they “trickle down” from high-level and managerial positions through resources spent on program design without input or leadership from community members. Implementation and monitoring is then not only carried out in shorter time frames than from which significant impact can occur, but it often fails to fulfill intended goals due to poor applicability to the community and a lack of community ownership to ensure sustainability. One such example was the distribution of logs to repair and strengthen clay homes in rural Africa. The logs did not fit the existing home structures and time did not allow for complete reconstruction of the homes. The time and money intended to repair homes became fuel for local stoves; the people were still essentially homeless and the project did not yield a sustainable outcome.

Civil society and its most important partners – the local citizens for whom our work is intended – are increasingly demanding community-led prioritization from donors, bi-laterals and government funding agencies. This includes multi-sectoral funding streams, longer funding windows and flexible funding to ensure community ownership and leadership. This global call for action begins with the Movement for Community-led Development.

If your foundation, organization or company wants to join the Movement, please visit the site and submit your inquiry:

Integrated and Multi-sectoral Rural Development


“Interdependence between different sectors means that poor health, food insecurity and poverty cannot be tackled effectively by addressing one sector in isolation. Influencing sustainable and positive change means adopting a holistic, multi-sectoral approach to development.” (MDG Center, East and Southern Africa, 2007).

Almost half of the world_over three billion people ,live on less than $2.50 a day and most of them live in rural areas. (World Bank, 2013). According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2010, 75 percent of the world’s poorest people including 1.4 billion women, children, and men live in rural areas, and they depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood. 842 million people – or one in eight people in the world – do not have enough to eat. (FAO, 2013). The above numerical figures suggest that eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development in rural areas should be a priority if we want to improve the livelihood of the majority poor who live in rural areas .  Despite the large number of the poor population living in rural areas, official development assistance (ODA) to rural and agricultural development around the world has been declining as compared to other sectors. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD’s) development assistance committee (DAC),  the share of the total ODA to agriculture and rural development (ARD) was almost 43% in 1980s,   and in 2011, only  about 7 per cent (of the total aid commitment ($133.5 billion in 2011) went to activities that relate directly to agriculture, food security and rural development. (OECD, 2012). Though interesting and promising seeing growing number of the private sector, civil society organizations (CSOs), and bilateral and multilateral organizations over the past years, the lack of co-ordination between development players and the lack of integration of projects have constrained what could be achieved. (ECOSOC, 2003).

Suggestions on Sustainability and Inclusiveness of Integrated Rural Development (Adopted from ECOSOC):

  • For development to be sustainable, it must be inclusive, both in terms of the people who serve as active designers and participants and also the ultimate beneficiaries.

  • At the macroeconomic level, pro-rural pol should encompass exchange rate, fiscal, and credit policies as well as the promotion of agricultural research and rural infrastructure.

  • Access to science and technology also needs to be included in rural development strategies in order to improve the nutritional value of crops, reduce production fluctuation and increase productivity on small-scale farms in a manner appropriate to the ecosystem in which they operate.

  • Development efforts should promote environmental sustainability.

  • Empowering rural populations includes by definition a large number of vulnerable groups, including women, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, member of low castes, and ethnic minorities. Women in particular are responsible for a vast majority of food production, household work, and care work, and they must be included in designing and implementing the programmes that will enhance the security of their livelihoods.

To read more on aid for agriculture and rural development in the global south, click here.

Addressing most of today’s development challenges require an integrated and sustainable multi-sectoral development approach centered around rural and agricultural development. A publication by the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) shows that eradicating poverty and achieving rural development goals can be effective when there is a cooperation between development players and development projects follow a holistic, integrated and multi-sectoral approach. Without  a holistic approach to development, “well-intentioned reforms and investment in one sector risk being squandered because they are not supported by measure in other sectors.Pouring money into schools, for instance,without concomitant efforts in HIV/AIDS support and treatment, will not help the girl isolated at home, caring for her sick parents.” (ECOSOC, 2003).

To download and read a pdf version of ECOSOCs publication on Integrated Approach to Rural Development, Click here.

A publication on Rural Development Experience in Malawi by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) East and Southern Africa Center shows experience of multi-sectoral development approaches in Malawi. The summary of the multi-sectoral rural development projects indicates how cooperation between development players, multi-sectoral development programmes and  empowering local community are effective ways of addressing the multifaceted and interdependent problems in rural areas. The  multi-sectoral rural development programmes reviewed in Malawi included projects on  improving rural livelihood by improving health, ensuring food security, improving nutrition, empowering vulnerable communities with labor saving techniques, and etc.

To read more about an integrated approaches to rural development, click here.

A related example of integrated multi-sectoral development in Sub-Saharan Africa can be accessed here.


Admos Chimhowu. (2013). Aid for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Global South: A changing landscape with New Players and Challenges. Retrieved on 14 February, 2014 from

ECOSOC. (2003). An Integrated Approach to Rural Development Dialogues at the Economic and Social Council. Retrieved ON 14 February 2014 from

Pronyk, Paul M & et al. (2012).The effect of an integrated multi-sector model for achieving Millennium Development Goals and improving child survival in rural sub-Saharan Africa: a non-randomised controlled assessment. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

UNDP, MDG Centre East & Southern Africa. (2007). Rural Development Experience in Malawi. Analysis of Multi-Sectoral Rural Development Experience in Malawi: Towards identification and scaling up of best practice. Retrieved on 14 February 2014 from

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division (2009). Urban and Rural Areas 2009. Retrieved on 16 February 2014 from