Policy Brief
Aid for governance

How to support effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions for sustainable development?

Aiding government effectiveness in developing countries has been a priority issue for the international donor community since the 1990s. With the Paris Declaration in 1994, donors further committed to aiding government effectiveness in a manner consistent with local ownership and harmonization with national development objectives. These issues have received renewed attention in discussions surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals, which have highlighted the importance of effective governance and institutions.

Governance goals and local ownership: inherent tensions

Experience with governance reform illustrates inherent tensions. First, politics plays a central role in governance reforms, not least because local elites may be hesitant to undertake reforms that could undermine the status quo or threaten established interests. Second, countries most in need of reforms are often those where institutions and domestic political will are weakest, which can pose major obstacles to locally-owned reform processes. Still, third, interventions without local ownership go against donor commitments and are likely to be less effective than intended. Given such tensions, operating along different points of the ownership spectrum may be advisable for different types of governance reforms – even as we clearly avoid ‘donor-driven’ approaches.