The Importance of Country Ownership: An Introduction

Dr. James A. Rice, second from left, paid a recent visit to Mekong regional health leaders in Myanmar for the Myanmar Congress on Public Health.

Country ownership is at the core of the vision for the LMG project and its partnership with USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Country Ownership is captured as a cornerstone of the project as follows:

Through embracing the principles of country ownership, gender equity, and evidence-driven approaches, the LMG Project seeks to direct the values and goals of the project to foster better health outcomes for all.

But what exactly do we mean when we say we promote country ownership? This LMG Project eNewsletter provides our readers with a range of views from health and development practitioners and field-based staff from around the world on the subject of country ownership, and what it means to them. We would also like our readers to consider three seminal documents that directly address the subject of country ownership: the Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda for Action (OECD website), and the USAID Forward reform agenda.

The Paris Declaration was written in 2005 at a meeting in Paris, France, where over 100 professionals from developed and developing countries met to establish principles that would improve the quality of aid effectiveness. The document reflects the participants’ consensus on the importance of country ownership, and is a roadmap to help improve the quality of aid and its impact on development. It lays out five fundamental principles for making aid more effective:

  1. Ownership: Developing countries set their own strategies for poverty reduction, improve their institutions and tackle corruption.
  2. Alignment: Donor countries align behind these objectives and use local systems.
  3. Harmonization: Donor countries coordinate, simplify procedures and share information to avoid duplication.
  4. Results: Developing countries and donors shift focus to development results and results get measured.
  5. Mutual accountability: Donors and partners are accountable for development results.
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The follow-on Accra Agenda for Action (2008), the Busan Partnership document (2011), and USAID Forward (2011) all echo these five themes, but they also stress finding innovative solutions through partnerships, delivering meaningful results, ensuring accountability, and more.

The work of the LMG project, funded by USAID, is guided the principles contained within these seminal documents, as well as those of the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) principles, which include an emphasis on encouraging country ownership and investing in country-led plans:

Principles underlying the foundation of the GHI:

  • Focus on Women, Girls, and Gender Equality
  • Encourage country ownership and invest in country-led plans
  • Strengthen and leverage other efforts
  • Increase impact through strategic coordination and integration
  • Build sustainability through health systems strengthening
  • Promote learning and accountability through monitoring and evaluation
  • Accelerate results through research and innovation

We urge our readers to explore these seminal documents, as well as the ideas contained in this eNewsletter that come from frontline health leaders, managers and policy-makers working to improve the health of their citizens in the countries in which they work. The LMG Project web portal features a page on country ownership, including examples of how the project promotes it through our projects, as well as in the way we engage with health leader clients around the world.

We also welcome feedback from you on the theme of country ownership—tell us what it means to you—please write to us at: Happy Reading!

James A. Rice, Project Director

Leadership, Management & Governance Project

More Reading on Country Ownership: Perspectives from Around the World

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