Perspectives on global development

Policy Ownership and Aid Conditionality in the Light of the Financial Crisis



Publication Date:
1 September 2009

ISBN Number:




Debates on aid conditionality tie intimately with those over the perceived failure of aid, particularly in Africa, to catalyse the kind of development that had been expected.


Since the end of the 1990s, donors have promoted a New Aid Agenda in which the lexicon has shifted away from conditionality and back towards ideas of “ownership” and “partnership”. While the language of the aid industry may have moved on, “aid conditionality” is still very much part and parcel of aid-giving.


This study reiterates a now commonplace conclusion that policy-based conditionality has been broadly ineffective. But it is a conclusion which merits repetition, as the logical consequence of it has been ignored – the recommendation that most policy-based conditionality should be phased out.


The study addresses a number of questions:


Where do the controversies persist on aid conditionality?

How successful have donors been in stemming the rising tide of conditionality of the 1980s and 1990s?

Does the donor community practise what it preaches in terms of aid allocation according to governance and developmental criteria?

And what implications does the financial crisis have for the sustainability of existing conditionality frameworks?



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