Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Hans Peter Schmitz


Development, Foreign Aid, Rwanda

Subject Categories

Political Science


Over the course of the last decade there has been an increasing emphasis on recipient-country ownership, or the "effective exercise of a government's authority over development policies and activities, including those that rely...on external resources" (OECD 2007), within the international development community. This new emphasis is not only rhetorical but has resulted in a host of new aid programs promising increased ownership. Broadly speaking, these aid programs are supposed to change the institutional relationships between donors and recipient-country governments and allow aid beneficiaries to have a say over the development policies that impact their daily lives. However, despite their prevalence, we know relatively little about how such aid programs affect donor-government relationships and the policy decision-making process in aid-dependent states.

In the following dissertation project, I analyze four "ownership" aid programs in post-genocide Rwanda: the poverty reduction strategy program; budget support; the aid coordination, harmonization, and alignment framework; and the Rwandan Joint Governance Assessment. In each case study, I look for evidence that the aid program has resulted in the outcomes predicted by their proponents: increased government and citizen influence, and decreased donor influence. Data largely come from fieldwork I conducted in Rwanda during 2009 and 2010.

My analysis suggests that key Rwandan government officials use the idea of ownership to seek influence over decision-making processes. However, the aforementioned aid programs have not resulted in the outcomes predicted by proponents of the ownership approach in two key ways. One, donors have not retreated nor given control over development policy to recipient countries. Rather they have sought alternative ways of influencing the policy process. Two, what we see emerging in Rwanda is not broad national ownership. Instead, donors work with an elite group of government policymakers. I call this type of aid relationship "centralized collaboration," meaning that multilateral and bilateral donors work with a small group of domestic actors to design and implement socio-economic development strategies.

I conclude by arguing that this outcome is largely the result of three things: donor preferences, the amount of leverage the GoR is able to exert over donors, and existing state-society relationships. These three factors provide a framework for assessing and analyzing donor-government relationships and ownership aid programs in other aid-dependent states.


Open Access