The ownership paradox : the politics of development cooperation with Bolivia and Ghana
Since 1999, multi- and bilateral donor agencies have based their development cooperation with heavily indebted poor countries on the elaboration of poverty reduction strategy papers that should be ‘country-owned’. This thesis explores this concept of ownership and analyses the power relationships between aid donors and recipient governments involved in efforts to promote ownership. It employs a political sociology perspective and draws on institutional theories and theories of organisational change to argue that ownership is a normative, not an analytical concept. Using the two ‘model recipient’ case studies of Bolivia and Ghana, it analyses two different tools of development cooperation: direct budget support mechanisms and the fostering of civil society participation in national policy-making. It places these two cooperation tools in their socio-political context to investigate in how far informal political processes represent factors that determine national politics, and ultimately the likelihood of success of political reform. The empirical research is centred around 140 qualitative semi-structured interviews with donor agency, governments and civil society representatives in both countries. The dominance of ownership questions in current development debates are explained with reference to the historical evolution of development cooperation, particularly the structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s and the criticisms and revisions they evoked. The author argues that two different types of ownership should be distinguished: ‘government’ and ‘national’ ownership. The thesis demonstrates that direct budget support mechanisms are intended to foster government ownership, while the promotion of civil society participation is aimed at fostering national ownership. Donors’ attempt to foster ownership of formalised reform agendas is an almost impossible task because informal political processes largely shape the realm of national politics at the state level and determine the type and degree of societal participation in national policy-making. The thesis concludes by suggesting that international donors, pursuing these policies, risk destabilising representative democratic systems of recipient countries in undesirable ways.