Working Paper
Connecting national ownership and local participation in aid recipient countries

The cases of Rwanda and Cambodia

This paper examines previously under-explored links between two aid-nurtured ideals. ‘National ownership’ and ‘local participation’ both aim to increase recipient influence and thereby address the inherent inequality of the aid relation.

Questioning the common assumption of synergy, we analyse the nature and role of local participation in situations of national ownership, asking how prevailing forms of national ownership play out on a local level and what current experiences there are of local participation.

The examination is designed as a qualitative case study of two strategically selected aid recipient countries. Rwanda and Cambodia display different patterns of national ownership and different ways of accommodating the ideal of local participation.

Interviews with representatives of civil society organisations point to far-reaching adjustment to government agendas and highly limited forms of local participation, and we conclude that national ownership is not per se conducive to local participation, which may rather play highly disparate roles in nationally owned development.