New article on political economy analysis and ownership

A new article by Dr Jonathan Fisher and DLP Director Dr Heather Marquette discusses the tensions between development agencies' focus on donor-centric political economy analysis and their interest in fostering partner countries’ ownership of development agendas and programmes.

“Empowered patient” or “doctor knows best”? Political economy analysis and ownership is published in Development in Practice. It notes that efforts to incorporate ‘political thinking’ into policy-making and practice in OECD-DAC development agencies have led to increased use of political economy analysis (PEA) frameworks and tools. The article recognises the value of promoting politically informed programming, but shows how PEA has largely overlooked another central development agenda: the ownership paradigm.

Dr Fisher and Dr Marquette highlight the decidedly donor-centric nature of PEA design and methodology and explore critiques and justifications of this state of affairs. They note that it reflects a wider crisis in development policy-making: enthusiasm for ownership and partnership-led approaches rubs up against the difficulties of working in states where authorities remain uncommitted to Western donor agendas such as poverty reduction and good governance.

Ultimately they argue that donors would benefit from embracing a more flexible and context-specific understanding of ownership. They note that there is growing acknowledgement of the multiple layers and forms of donor-recipient partnership even within individual states, and the likelihood of donors and recipients agreeing on at least some areas of public policy. However, they also note that donors’ desire for transparency in their relations with their own domestic audiences makes them increasingly risk-averse. This undermines their ability to engage more strategically in recipient states that may have poor records on democratisation, human rights or corruption.

Dr Fisher is Senior Lecturer in African Politics in the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department, and SCOPUS’ 2015 Young Researcher of the Year (Social Sciences).

Read more: Fisher, J. & Marquette, M. (2016). ‘“Empowered patient” or “doctor knows best”? Political economy analysis and ownership’. Development in Practice. 26:1; 115-126.

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