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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Alain Kilajian

A Critical Study of International Aid and Global Development Goals in Addressing the Aspirations of the Poor

With the arrival of the new millennium, the international community, driven to make
globalization a positive force, agreed upon new development goals, the MDGs. They
highlighted the importance the need for global partnerships in the form of international aid
in overcoming society’s most pressing challenges. Yet, many academics and practitioners
continued to criticise the role of aid and its effectiveness in addressing the needs of the
world’s poor. The introduction of the SDGs two years ago changed the aid landscape
further, leaving us to reflect once again on its effectiveness in addressing the needs of the
The aim of this work was thus to explore potential gaps between current goals and
strategies of international development aid agencies, and the needs and wants of the poor.
The research also looked at the relationship between international aid and global
development goals in addressing the aspirations of the poor.

Seven development aid agencies and research institutes were selected for study. Semistructured
interviews of development practitioners and strategy documents from the
selected organisations were compared with literature articulating the voices of the poor.
The data was analysed using a conventional coding exercise. The analysis revealed that,
while the goals included in the strategy papers of the studied organisations aligned with the
needs of the poor, their practices often did not. Seven challenges were identified to address
the main nonalignment between the intent and practices of international development aid
organisations. A systems diagram was developed to understand the relationships between
the challenges, and three case studies were explored. The needs assessment process was
revealed as the leverage point of the system, having the stronger influence on the rest of the

This study offered recommendations to overcome the challenges identified based on four
main criteria: co-creation (not simply collaboration), mutual accountability, capacity
building, and local actors and leadership. This dissertation also proposed a move away
from aid through the introduction of ‘enter to exit’ development strategies and the
investment of country-based enterprises.