After generating considerable momentum in the period 2005–2011, policy debates on the aid effectiveness agenda – including the core principle of ownership – witnessed a sharp decline. Current trends raise questions about the continuing relevance of ownership as a fundamental principle for development cooperation.
This article analyses how approaches to managing development cooperation have evolved in Rwanda and Liberia, two aid‐dependent post‐conflict states that were previously at the forefront of the aid‐effectiveness agenda. It presents new evidence on how ownership features and is promoted in development cooperation relations.
Approach and Methods
The article draws on 48 semi‐structured interviews, complemented by a review of academic literature, policy documents and grey sources concerning the two countries and the broader subject matter.
Recent years have shown considerable drift in Liberia’s approach to development cooperation management, while Rwanda retained its established system to manage its external partnerships and incentivise donor behaviour. Both cases illustrate challenges in promoting ownership among all relevant stakeholders, with a key shift being that donors increasingly favour the ‘what’ of cooperation over the ‘how’.
In view of the importance of ownership for the sustainability of development cooperation, policy‐makers should consider re‐invigorating and re‐positioning a self‐standing development effectiveness agenda. Such an international initiative should adjust to new cooperation trends, notably the increased practice of predetermining cooperation themes and the promotion of multi‐stakeholder approaches.
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