How donors can deliver on the ‘leave no one behind’ commitment

Working and discussion papers
June 2019
Lars Engen, Anna Hentinnen and Elizabeth Stuart

The ‘leave no one behind’ (LNOB) commitment, a core element of Agenda 2030, states that those who are worst off should be reached first. Great strides were made on previous targets of reducing extreme poverty and other indicators, but the Sustainable Development Goals agenda targets eliminating poverty and improving outcomes for everyone rather than the average.

While the idea is conceptually simple, in practical terms this commitment raises a host of difficulties for donors. If the LNOB agenda is to be more than a lofty ambition, it must be translated into action – which requires a careful assessment of what donors specifically need to do to contribute to the objective. 

The purpose of this working paper is to discuss and highlight some of the important considerations a donor must make in order to improve its capability to meet the LNOB commitments.

Key messages

  • In order to realise the commitment to ‘leave no one behind’, donors must consider practical challenges related to data disaggregation and collection, assessing value for money, and rationalising larger expenditures and risk-taking.
  • The first step is to identify and define the individuals and groups who are at risk of falling behind. These groups include disadvantaged sections of society, such as women, people with disabilities and children, as well as poor and fragile countries and areas within countries.
  • Donors must then collect disaggregated data about these left-behind groups, working with national statistics systems as well as through their own monitoring and evaluation systems to ensure this data is collected in an ethical and sensitive way.
  • Broad proxy groups for left-behind individuals can be used as a first approach to assess whether donors are allocating aid according to the leave no one behind principle. Sectoral allocations can also be targeted specifically at left-behind populations.
  • To assess the relative costs of delivering targeted interventions that the leave no one behind approach requires, detailed analyses of the costs and benefits should be undertaken. Targeting marginalised groups tends to be more expensive on a unit cost basis, but donors need to make sure that the long-term and wide-ranging benefits of these interventions are also being measured. Assigning extra value to worse-off recipients – for example through equity weights – can shift the balance.