Local Ownership as Global Governance

Ownership exists when they do as we want them to do but they do so voluntarily.

(donor informant, cited in Randel et al. 2002: 8).

Abstract

The ownership discourse has profoundly altered the management of development aid. Nominally, it seeks to instil greater freedom as well as responsibilities among aid recipients. Revisiting two ethnographic studies (the World Bank–Uganda partnership and NGO relations in Ethiopia), this article shows how ‘ownership’ practices also involve new forms of tacit governance mechanisms that enable the donor to retain control. By using ‘freedom’ as a formula underpinning governance at a distance, developmentality is made contingent on the donor’s ability to frame the partnership and the conditions under which the recipient exercises the freedom that has been granted.

Résumé

Le débat à propos de la propriété de l’aide développementale a profondément altéré la gestion de cette aide. Normalement, ce discours vise à susciter plus de liberté, aussi que plus de responsabilité, entre les récipiendaires d’aide. Dans cet article, on revient sur deux études ethnographiques (le partenariat entre la Banque Mondiale et l’Uganda, et les relations des ONGs en Ethiopie), et on montre comment les pratiques de « propriété » utilisent aussi des nouvelles formes de mécaniques tacites de gouvernance, qui permettent aux donneurs de maintenir le contrôle. En utilisant la « liberté » comme une formule qui garantit la gouvernance même à distance, la « dévelopmentalité » (en anglais : developmentality) est donc subordonnée à la capacité des donneurs à encadrer le partenariat avec les récipiendaires, et aussi les conditions dans lesquels le récipiendaire exerce la liberté qui leur a été accordé.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Before the Paris Declaration came the 2002 Rome Declaration. The Paris principles were later ratified in the fora of Accra in 2008 and Busan in 2011. See the ‘The High Level Fora on Aid Effectiveness: A History’, available at www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/thehighlevelforaonaideffectivenessahistory.htm. Accessed 26 November 2018.

  2. 2.

    The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it provides funding, quality assurance and policy guidance to Norwegian NGOs. NORAD provides roughly 90% of Norwegian NGOs’ budget. The high percentage of governmental funding to NGOs is subject to regular debate due to concerns over NGO autonomy and policy ownership vis-à-vis NORAD—indicating that ownership issues are also a concern within donor countries (de Carvalho and Lie 2015).

  3. 3.

    At the time, 40,000 birr was equivalent to approx. US $4500.

  4. 4.

    Taken from paragraphs 51 and 60 of the Ethiopian 2008–2011 Country Assistance Strategy, where the Bank, after having discontinued budget support since 2006, reflects on what it had lost out on, i.e. the advantages of the budget support mechanism and prior actions. Available at http://go.worldbank.org/ZBCG9IF761).

  5. 5.

    From April 2005 and throughout the year, most agencies withheld or reduced their bilateral aid. Britain first withheld £5 million in direct budget support due to concerns regarding the political transition and insufficient progress in establishing a multi-party system. Ireland soon followed, cutting €3 million, citing the government's lack of progress in introducing a multi-party system. In July, Norway cut one-third of its budget support—about US $4 million—because of the government's negative handling of democracy, human rights and fight against corruption. That autumn, The Netherlands reduced its aid by €6 million, Sweden cut US $8.3 million, and finally, in December, the UK cut another £15 million and withheld another £5 million pending the February 2006 elections, on which disbursement was made contingent. This reduced the British budget support by £20 million from the pledged £50 million, due to concerns over ‘the government’s commitment to the independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press and freedom of association following the events surrounding the arrest and trial of the [main opposition] leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, Kizza Besigye; delays in the government’s own road map for the political transition; the continuation of state financing for the ruling party in a new era of multiparty politics; and a significant overrun on public administration expenditure’ [see ‘UK cuts direct budget support to Uganda by £15 million, withholds further £5 million’; DfID press release (20 December 2005), available at www.dfid.gov.uk/news/files/pressreleases/uganda-reduction.asp].

  6. 6.

    World Bank press release no. 2006/239/AFR; available at http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2006/01/17/uganda-joint-assistance-strategy-and-world-bank-approval-of-us135-million-for-fifth-poverty-reduction-support-operation. Accessed 26 February 2019.

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Acknowledgements

This research has been undertaken as part of the project ‘Developmentality and the anthropology of partnership’, funded by the Research Council of Norway (Grant No. 262524).

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Correspondence to Jon Harald Sande Lie.

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Lie, J.H.S. Local Ownership as Global Governance. Eur J Dev Res 31, 1107–1125 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-019-00203-9

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Keywords

  • Developmentality
  • Ethiopia
  • Governance
  • Ownership
  • Partnership
  • Uganda
  • World Bank