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National ownership and donor involvement: an aid paradox illustrated by the case of Rwanda

Journal article
Authors Malin Hasselskog
Peter Mugume
Eric Ndushabandi
Isabell Schierenbeck
Published in Third World Quarterly
Volume 38
Issue 8
ISSN 0143-6597
Publication year 2017
Published at School of Global Studies
Language en
Keywords ownership, policy dialogue, donor involvement, Rwanda
Subject categories Peace and development research


A paradox in current international development cooperation is comprised by the simultaneous insistence on national ownership and far-reaching donor involvement through policy dialogue. In order to better understand this combination of a strong ownership ideal and extensive donor presence, this article explores how national and external actors portray the process of formulating and revising development policies and programmes in an aid recipient country. The study is based on original empirical material from national as well as external actors involved in the aid relation in Rwanda which, despite heavy aid dependence, is known to have achieved relative policy independence. Analysed in relation to three strands of critical thought in previous research, findings show that, in Rwanda, the very top political leadership is actively involved in initiating and formulating policies; that there are instances of negotiation as well as strong disagreements between national and external actors; and that, rather than donors seeking to retain control, Rwanda is depicted as setting its own agenda and effectively managing its donors. The paradox of an ownership ideal combined with donor involvement is thus met by an apparent tendency among national as well as external actors to emphasise national ownership while toning down donor influence.

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