Supporting Inclusive and Democratic Ownership. A ‘How to Note’ for Donors

Published on 1 November 2010

Even in stable democracies broad-based, inclusive policy ownership is rare. It is even more unlikely in country contexts that are more institutionally and socially complex and experiencing rapid economic and social change. With an aid effectiveness agenda that promotes ownership and accountability in partner countries this means looking critically at how ‘ownership’ is constructed in the policy process and the role of donors in support.

Policy is never just technical. It involves politics and power. Donors have to understand how policy works in practice (as distinct from theory) in any particular country context. It requires undertaking power analyses with themselves factored in – as organisations and individuals – who can make a positive or negative contribution. They need to be self-aware to avoid disempowering others in the policy process. At the same time, they should engage with a wide and diverse group of policy actors in state, civil society and the private sector and whenever possible support debate and locally driven independent research. While taking a back seat in providing policy advice, they should seek out and support pro-poor reform policy networks, particularly those straddling state-society divisions. Supporting the realisation of human rights for all and facilitating poor people’s empowerment in all the programmes they support are two key measures that donors can employ for long term strengthening of inclusive and democratic country ownership.

Following a brief discussion of context and challenges, this ‘how to note’ is drafted in the form of some ‘frequently (donor) asked questions’:

  • How can donors support pro-poor policy change?
  • Why do donors have to do power analyses? How can donors avoid interfering politically?
  • With whom should donors engage?
  • How should donors work with civil society for inclusive and democratic ownership?
  • Is supporting the realisation of human rights a violation of inclusive country ownership?
  • How can donors facilitate poor people’s empowerment for more inclusive and democratic ownership?


Rosalind Eyben

Emeritus Fellow

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published by
Eyben, Rosalind


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