Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Cultivating Ownership of Development Aid: The Role of Civil Society in the Pacific

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posted on 2021-11-15, 15:44 authored by Pirnia, Pedram

The principle of ownership and the idea that development aid should be owned by recipients has emerged within the last two decades in key statements from a series of international meetings between major donors and partners, most prominently since the 2005 Paris Declaration when ‘ownership of development aid’ became the first Principle of Aid Effectiveness. The principle was applauded particularly by the governments of rich donor states, but also by their specialist aid agencies and representatives of civil society. However, despite the endorsement and praise of the principle of ownership by all donors and stakeholders, confusion and lack of clarity remains as to what exactly ownership of development aid means especially in terms of policy and practice in the work of development actors.  The core proposal of this thesis is that the principle of recipient ownership of development aid, apparently so important at the highest international levels of discussion, must be defined, broken down into relevant ingredients, taken into consideration in terms of policy and practice, and measured. Otherwise, the principle is nothing but empty rhetoric. It is logical to suggest that to have any policy value political concepts should be definable and measureable. Hence, the thesis argues that if one can formulate the relevant ingredients of ownership, one can carefully investigate factors that increase or decrease those ingredients. This is the focus of this thesis.  Field research in the Pacific Islands used a mixed methodology that included gathering data on completed development projects and interviewing government officials, major donor officials, other deliverers of aid – particularly the civil society organisations (CSOs) – and especially the project beneficiaries at the grassroots. Projects where CSOs demonstrated particularly close engagement with the communities and beneficiaries were chosen as case studies. Analysing and deconstructing these mechanics and ingredients of ownership produced a new definition for ‘ownership of development aid’ and a range of variables for an Ownership Index and for Ownership Guidelines. These combined tools presented in this research should assist professionals to promote, cultivate and measure ownership of development outcomes that project beneficiaries will maintain, protect and improve over time.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Overton, John; Ladley, Andrew