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What happens to local participation when national ownership gets stronger? Initiating an exploration in Rwanda and Cambodia

Journal article
Authors Malin Hasselskog
Published in Development Policy Review
Volume 38
Issue S1
Pages O91-O111
ISSN 0950-6764
Publication year 2020
Published at School of Global Studies, Peace and Development Research
Pages O91-O111
Language en
Links https://doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12488
Keywords Aid relationships; Cambodia; development cooperation; local participation; national ownership; Rwanda
Subject categories Peace and development research

Abstract

Motivation: ‘Local participation' and ‘national ownership' are widely endorsed ideals in development discourse and practice. With the former referring to people's active involvement in development related activities with some form of external input, and the latter to aid recipient countries' policy independence in relation to foreign funders, both are concerned with the inherent inequality of aid relationships. In development policy, the two also tend to be used interchangeably and in combination, apparently assumed to go hand in hand, with increased national ownership expected to be conducive to local participation. Purpose: This article problematizes such usage and assumptions, and initiates a more elaborate discussion of possible interlinkages between local participation and national ownership, with the aim of contributing to a more nuanced understanding of what may happen to local participation in situations of increased national ownership. Approach and Methods: It does so by depicting the two concepts' trajectories and development, by problematizing some expressions of intermingling and assumed links, and by discussing patterns of national ownership and local participation in Rwanda and Cambodia, all based on official documents, available data and others' as well as own research. Findings: Connecting two key concepts and major approaches in development policy, the article points to multiple possible interlinkages, including the possibility that national ownership in certain forms may undermine local participation, and to the need to further investigate the more complex interrelations that are likely to prevail between the two. Policy implications: Such investigations will contribute to a better understanding of the prospects for different sorts of local participation in different situations of national ownership, and to shed light on what difference it may make locally that a country's development agenda is primarily domestically owned rather than donor driven. By problematizing widely held assumptions, the need may arise to reconsider unanimously endorsed aspects of current aid architecture.

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