This paper presents a conceptual framework of autonomy that emphasises effective over internal ca-pacities by giving relevance to the inter-relations of individuals and groups in specific contexts that define entitlements. Then, it assesses autonomy in a specific micro-level context: a development project.Individuals’ experiences of autonomy evolve in their interaction with project staff, non-government organisations, donors, etc. and how the project came into being and was implemented.The study draws on four development projects financed by Luxembourg in Nicaragua and El Salva-dor, related to infrastructure building. Data include project documents, public national reports, exter-nal statistics, key stake holder interviews, focus group discussions and a questionnaire survey. The analysis is primarily qualitative.