Accepted Paper:

Local ownership as global governance  


Jon Harald Sande Lie (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the formal-informal linkages in the context of policymaking in the development sector, arguing that the formal order of participatory planning is being subverted by indirect and informal governance mechanisms installed by the formal order itself.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic fieldworks within both the World Bank and a Ugandan ministry, this paper explores their partnership and its policymaking processes. Policymaking within the aid sector is a highly formalised endeavour, as it seeks to reconcile the contradictory concepts of freedom and control: the donor agency has granted its aid recipient the freedom and responsibility to devise its own policies, to enhance local ownership to and participation in processes previously controlled by the donor. This liberal practice has been accompanied by new indirect and informal governance mechanisms installed by the donor as integral to the formal order of the partnership arrangement, through which the donor seeks to retain control over the policymaking process it formally has conferred its recipient.

The paper demonstrates empirically how the formal order of aid comes with certain informal processes that enable indirect governance. Using both post-structural and actor oriented approaches, the paper focuses on the practical encounter between the World Bank and its Ugandan counterpart. It demonstrates how the formal order of fostering local ownership is subverted and rather involves new governance mechanisms that work not through repression or direct control. Rather, it is a productive power - akin to Foucault's notion of governmentality - operating through technocratic measures (such as benchmarks, indicators, etc) contingent on but also undermining the liberal order and rhetoric of ownership.

Panel P148
Ethnographic explorations of formal–informal linkages in contemporary global economy and politics