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Forum for the Future of Aid

Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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Southern Voice on Conditionality and Ownership: Towards Achieving Authentic National Ownership

By Antonio Tujan

This synthesis paper brings together the various issues and perspectives raised by the six different opinion pieces
on ownership and on conditionality written by Southern experts on development cooperation and aid. This paper
also draws from current research and debate on the issue of ownership and conditionality in development cooperation and aid. Southern perspectives on the issue of ownership and conditionality are naturally inclined toward the broader concerns of power imbalances that frame and permeate development cooperation and aid. To address these broader contexts and concerns, this paper dissects the different notions of ownership from theory to practice (page 2) and then tackles the realities of ownership from a broader frame from the power dynamic of international relations to the powerless conditions of the poor in the villages to the actual practice of aid management (page 3-10). This paper then dissects the concepts and practice of conditionality leading to its thesis on eliminating conditionality (page 10-14).

In conclusion, the author states that the politics and the technicalities of aid are so complicated that Southern voices would recommend that to set things in the aid system upright, it must stand on its head. Ownership by the poor, being the ultimate objective of aid, would be a good start to address the question of ownership and conditionality. Starting with this premise, then it is clear that the crucial test of aid effectiveness is whether the poor are able to claim their human rights. This is what development effectiveness means and challenges the notion of development effectiveness in other circles such as in the UN where the fundamental benchmark of success is not necessarily the poor claiming their rights. This is not mere rhetoric but identifying and committing to a genuine standard and goal for aid reform. In the face of complexity of the aid non-system, in the challenges of aid reform considering the diffi culties of building democratic governance, equitable international systems and capacities
for development, ownership by the poor in the context of national and democratic ownership of development provides guidance for aid reform. In particular
• The Paris Declaration presents an important opportunity to implement aid reform along with commitments to scale up aid. The challenge for all development actors is how to implement the PD comprehensively and not in a technicist manner, and enrich it by developing innovations along its principles to build country ownership, including the increased involvement of all CSOs, parliaments, media and other actors.
• Authentic ownership must be constantly promoted in contradistinction to technicist erosion of ownership and must be enriched to its full concept of national and democratic ownership as the overriding principle that involves leadership in harmonization, alignment, domestic accountability, donor accountability to the country, and aid management with the human rights of the poor as the overriding concern.
• National ownership involves formulating independent development financing strategies that take advantage of the multiplicity of sources for development assistance and opportunities for development fi nance but premised on development for its people instead of labour export and fi nance liberalization.
• Conditionality should be addressed comprehensively in the process of aid reform alongside commitments under PD. Contractual and accountability obligations should be built outside the framework of conditionality but along new modalities of partnership based on national ownership as mandated by the Paris Declaration, where policy conditionalities are completely removed and contractual obligations reduced and reformed.
• Ultimately, the MDGs should be made a genuine challenge for aid effectiveness in targeting the poor in their communities, turning these into centres of empowered ownership by adopting rights-based approaches to development, improving local government accountability and strengthening recognition and roles of CSOs.

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