Identified as a key principle of effective development, country ownership has become an ever-present part of the foreign assistance reform debate. While the Obama administration has embraced country ownership in the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD) and other executive initiatives, it remains unclear how to put this principle into practice on the ground. On December 15th, MFAN Partner InterAction released a paper titled “Country Ownership: Moving from Rhetoric to Action,” which aims to address the wide range of explanations and varying methods of promotion that have led to the issue’s unorganized discussions and approaches. Country ownership is defined by the InterAction Aid Effectiveness Working Group as “The full and effective participation of a country’s population via legislative bodies, civil society, the private sector, and local, regional and national government in conceptualizing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating development policies, programs and processes.” InterAction gathered a number of the top development practitioners to produce a list of recommendations for the U.S. government on how to define its core elements, which include:
- Develop a clear definition and operational guidelines for inclusive ownership.
- Create a transparent, consistent plan to ensure civil society engagement in consultations.
- Expand the State Department’s diplomatic support for an enabling environment for civil society organizations.
- Initiate a policy dialogue with U.S. NGOs on country ownership.
- Ensure transparency of all U.S. foreign assistance by publishing aid data to the Foreign Assistance Dashboard.
InterAction believes that by coming to a consensus on what country ownership means, how it is achieved and how it can be measured will vastly increase local ownership of development programs in countries. To achieve this goal, InterAction suggests the administration first and foremost set a common definition: “As the fundamental foundation for effective and sustainable long-term development, the U.S. should move from rhetoric to practice and establish a common and inclusive definition of country ownership, supported by guidelines and criteria to implement and track its progress.”