The 2005 Paris Declaration grew out of a consensus on the importance of ‘country ownership’ to the success of development efforts. In other words, it came to be recognised that the effectiveness of aid depends critically on whether or not a country’s leadership is really committed to development. The obvious question arising, then and now, is: how can international actors support the emergence of country-owned development efforts? Since Paris and Accra, however, attention has been focused on a subtly different question. The assumption is tacitly made that most countries already have development-oriented political leaderships.
This paper considers that assumption untenable and agrees with those arguing that ownership should be treated as a desirable outcome, not an achieved state of affairs. It then asks the corresponding question: whether external actors have any useful role in assisting the emergence of developmental country leaderships.