Working Paper

BASIC Research Working Paper 12

Key Considerations for Targeting Social Assistance in Situations of Protracted Crises

Published on 29 March 2022

Targeting social assistance in situations of protracted conflict, protracted displacement, or recurrent climate shock, so that it reaches those most in need rapidly, effectively and without doing further harm, has historically been one of the most complex technical and political challenges for development and humanitarian programmes.

Trade-offs involving costs beyond the economic – such as risks of exclusion and concerns over protection – raise questions about who to target, how to target and whether to target at all (i.e. through universal coverage or lotteries) would lead to better impacts in contexts where systems of state provision are often damaged or non-existent. The multiplicity of actors involved in delivering social assistance in crisis situations, with their own targeting cultures and mandates, can result in uncoordinated patchy and limited assistance, often overlooking equity concerns.

Drawing on a range of literature, in this paper we examine the key considerations and dilemmas for targeting social assistance in protracted crises, including shock contexts, targeting methods, exclusion and protection risks, national and international actors’ politics, and technologies. Our purpose is to draw out lessons to better inform targeting of future social assistance programming across the humanitarian-development nexus.

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Sabates-Wheeler, R. and Szyp, C. (2022) Key Considerations for Targeting Social Assistance in Situations of Protracted Crises, BASIC Research Working Paper 12, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/BASIC.2022.012

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Image of Rachel Sabates-Wheeler

Rachel Sabates-Wheeler

Research Fellow

Image of Carolina Szyp

Carolina Szyp

Research Officer

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Institute of Development Studies


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