In development cooperation the term is understood as pertaining to more than purely material possessions. Right from the beginning, a development project or measure should be set up in a manner which allows the people directly affected to turn the measure or project into their own venture by playing an active role in it and by taking responsibility for it. Ownership is thus always linked to participation and – within a country – with decentralization, and the government can break such ownership down (for example for poverty strategies) to involve each member of civil society. For only when decision-making powers devolve from the government to the parliament, regions, cities, villages and finally to the people, can one ensure that those affected will not only be interested in the projects but will also take them into their own hands, feeling responsible for them. This in turn requires transparency in all processes, projects and measures for all involved and that these are carried out under good government leadership with the participation of various groups. However, it also means that development cooperation must work towards authorizing (see empowerment) the people and their institutions to even begin to make it possible for them to take over the responsibility for their own development process.
The term "ownership" is used in the Paris Declaration to mean partners' identification with the development projects and programmes in their countries, as well as their motivation to assume responsibility for the relevant decision-making and steering processes. This means that donors continue to play a supporting role, but no longer play a lead role. Ownership in the above sense is considered an important precondition for the efficiency, results and sustainability of development processes, and is one of the key quality indicators in technical cooperation. Partner-country ownership of development processes means ownership not only by the state and its representatives, but also by target groups and their organisations, as well as key stakeholders/groups from the various sections of society. The degree of ownership can vary, and where it is not present to a sufficient extent it must be promoted in the course of a development measure.
In practical technical cooperation, which is geared to developing the capacities of individuals, organisations and the society of which they form a part, one objective of a development measure may often be to define new roles, responsibilities and service functions and ensure that they are assumed. In such cases, individuals or organisations cannot be expected to immediately develop a sense of ownership of the solutions to be found. However, they can be expected to demonstrate ownership of the process of structuring clarification and change.
One of the preconditions for improved ownership and stronger national accountability is a further improvement in the quality and depth of the poverty reduction strategies put forward by partner countries in their poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs). These PRSPs are increasingly forming the framework of reference for partner country development activities, and are defining – in countries that have them - the policy framework whose implementation donors are supporting through their inputs. Partners and donors therefore orient their efforts toward improving the quality of PRSP processes by prioritising and concretising objectives, measures and indicators, in order to strengthen partner-country ownership and harness donor inputs specifically for PRS implementation.
DEZA, 3 concrete Storys of ownership and local leadership of SDC in Bolivia, Benin and Nepal