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Poverty is multidimensional: lack of income overlaps with deprivations in health, education, and living standards. That’s why poverty eradication requires multi-faceted, integrated, and holistic approaches.

Almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in multidimensional poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education, and living standards. The end of poverty can only happen when addressing these deprivations simultaneously.

Development challenges are complex are interlinked. Economic growth affects society and the environment. Interventions in one specific area should take into account many factors. Education affects job opportunities, political participation, health, nutrition status, and gender equality - to name a few. Multidimensionality facilitates longer-term results. When responses are integrated and engage cross-sectoral actors, their continuity is more likely. Multidimensional programmes are more frequently scaled up and expanded.

SDG Fund joint programmes: Putting multidimensional poverty indexes into practice

To look at these interconnections, research teams and development organizations have created multidimensional poverty indexes, such as the UNDP and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

But what is the best way to put these measurements to work on the ground? The SDG Fund works through joint programs that provide holistic, integrated, and intersectoral approaches. The SDG Fund adopts “intersectoral approaches,” where several specialized UN agencies, ministries, NGOs, and businesses from different sectors come together to craft and generate integrated joint programmes that address multidimensional poverty. By doing this, they also tackle intersecting inequalities.

The UN Development System is well prepared to address this challenge by leveraging their complementary expertise and networks of partners, but it requires coordination. With its specialized agencies and close ties with sectoral authorities, the UN Development System is especially fit to provide intersectoral initiatives.

The SDG Fund focuses on 3 policy areas that are particularly fit for integrated approaches: inclusive economic growth, food security and nutrition, and water and sanitation. Sustainable development goals in these areas can’t be achieved without cross-sectoral actions.

The case of nutrition and food security can serve as an example. By bringing together the expertise of various UN agencies, the SDG Fund programmes put in place multi-sectorial approaches that include nutritional education, gender equality and empowerment of women, agricultural production, and health.

Joint programmes, where different UN agencies and their national counterparts come together, are helping to overcome the limitations of the traditional sectoral, or "silo," approach to development initiatives.

Indeed, in a previous study, the SDG Fund demonstrated that intersectoral approaches have clear advantages, for example:

  • Avoid overlap and duplication among development programmes. By targeting multi-dimensional development challenges, SDG Fund programmes help to increase cross-sectoral government interventions.
  • Increase coordination among donors and line ministries. National counterparts acknowledge that joint programmes improve dialogue at the national level. When partners identify the dimensions that define a complex development issue, institutions and stakeholders work toward common solutions.
  • Can prevent competition for funds.
  • Make positive use of the comparative advantage of each specialized development agency and partner.