Why does local agency matter? Enabling the policy space for aid recipients [post]

Maia King
2020 unpublished
The importance of local agency and leadership for development effectiveness has long been emphasised in aid reform agendas, under the heading of 'ownership'. But in practice, this focus has often fallen victim to 'agency creep', as donors strive to retain control over the policy choices of aid-receiving countries. More recently, many factors are reducing the leverage that donors have previously had over the policies of aid recipients. Growth and emerging donors give countries more funding
more » ... more funding options; the mutual prosperity agenda could push donors towards less restrictive practices; ethical arguments for local agency are more frequently discussed, and Covid-19 is restricting travel. Given their previous difficulties with local agency, how can donors find new ways to support, enable and embrace it, and to navigate this new world of changing hierarchies? This paper explores the potential benefits of local agency for both donors and aid-receiving countries, as well as the risks and constraints which make it difficult. The analysis suggests a possible way forward for traditional aid: to create an enabling environment by providing meaningful policy space for local leaders in aid-receiving countries. This would involve a shift in donor focus, away from being the protagonist and trying to influence the outputs of policymaking – the policy choices that countries make – and instead, towards trying to support the process of making those choices. This change in emphasis from the outputs to the process of policymaking could enhance the accountability and responsiveness of aid-receiving governments, while managing risks and delivering results. In short, the remedy for a perceived misuse of power may not be to usurp it, but rather to support and enable its use for good.
doi:10.31235/osf.io/6uew8 fatcat:sukay2cc7rcbvds2e6pml7zvva