VDF-Tokyo the 13th Workshop (30 Oct 2004, 14:00-)

Internal government institutions and ownership of policy
The case of poverty reduction and strategic aid integration

Le Thanh Forsberg


Ownership of policy has become a central issue in the modern development debate. However, the current debate has some clear weaknesses in defining the concept of ownership and its practical implications. In particular, ownership is often discussed in the limited context of the aid relationship between donors and recipients. I argue that ownership needs to be defined in a framework that goes beyond the aid relationship, and focuses on internal recipient government institutions of policy formulation. It is not sufficient to only examine whether it is the donor or recipient that owns and drives policies in aid relationships. Instead, ownership of development policies needs to be analyzed in the broader context of the domestic policy environment of the recipient government, where the aid relationship is only one of many important policy areas.

In principle, it is always the sovereign recipient government that owns the policies it implements, not the donors. However, within the recipient government, there may be several different interest groups that compete for influence, and that may have an impact on the character and direction of development policy. Rather than talking about recipient ownership in general, it is therefore relevant to ask gwhose ownership?h with reference to the internal government institutions of the aid recipient. Internal government institutions here refer to the entire internal political decision-making system, where the government functions as a representative of many actors and groups within this system. Thus, the central focus of the present study is on the institutional framework for policy formulation in recipient countries.

This study attempts to develop a theoretical framework for ownership of policy, drawing heavily on Vietnamese experiences, that is applied empirically on the areas of poverty reduction and strategic aid integration. Vietnamfs poverty reduction policy has attracted substantial attention both domestically and among external actors. With strategic aid integration we refer to how the different conflicting interests of donors are strategically integrated into the Vietnamese poverty reduction policy. These two cases are selected because they provide good illustrations of the ownership debate and its practices, both domestically and externally.

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