In 2007, six Norwegian diplomats were expelled from Ethiopia, while in 2008 Ethiopia refrained from accepting the new ambassador Sweden proposed to send to the country. Both cases were to some extent related to the Nordic countries’ attempts at promoting human rights and democratization. The article uses these two cases to reflect over the ability of rights-based approaches to development cooperation to reach their objectives. The article concludes that donors following rights-based approaches need to recognize explicitly that there is a potential for contradictions between the principle of ownership and the practice of conditionality.

Keywords: development cooperation, rights-based approaches, Ethiopia, ownership, conditionality.