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Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: Rachel Hayman

Title: Reconciling Ownership of Development and External Assistance: Aid and Nation-Building in Eritrea

Year: 2003

Since 1991, Eritrea has pursued a national development strategy based on self- reliance which has both pragmatic and ideological aspects, born of the long struggle for independence. As a poor nation, Eritrea receives significant quantities of external aid, but has sought to avoid dependency-inducing relations. Aid has been heavily circumscribed and donors are subject to strict conditions. Eritrea's independence coincided with changes in the aid regime which impacted on the theory and practice of aid. A new consensus has arisen within development discourse which seeks a more integrated approach to addressing economic, social and political issues. Not only has this offered space for more locally-owned and flexible development strategies, but it has heralded an era of relations based on 'partnership' rather than 'donors' and 'recipients'. As Eritrea's vision locates itself within this new discourse, proposing a strategy based on economic liberalism and social justice, it has been attractive to potential donors. However, tensions lie beneath this surface of consensus. Divergent views, approaches and agendas complicate the smooth finctioning of partnerships. This has become increasingly problematic in Eritrea since war broke out with Ethiopia in 1998. Greater dependence on external resources has been coupled with backtracking on domestic political reform within Eritrea. While the Eritrean leadership clearly owns its development agenda, and offers an interesting alternative type of aid relationship, this study shows that neither ownership nor aid can circumvent the process of establishing an internal social consensus. As the regime displays more autocratic tendencies, relations have soured with donors with some withdrawing aid altogether. This highlights the delicate balance on which aid partnerships are based, which in turn masks issues of power and control.

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