Accountability at Local Level in Fragile Contexts

This collaborative project between IDS and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (HSI) was designed to contributeto learning on accountability initiatives in fragile contexts by exploring the dynamics and enabling factors within three ongoing accountability projects.

The concepts of accountability and transparency have received much attention in recent years. However, there remain gaps in evidence. Recognizing the need for more empirical exploration of what works, what does not and why, particularly in weaker democracies and fragile settings, this project aimed to answer some of these questions by employing a multi-case study approach.

Central to the project was in-depth fieldwork in Bangladesh, Mozambique and Nepal, conducted by junior researchers from Swiss universities. They worked in partnership with staff of local HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation offices and partner organisations and were supported and coached by Rosie McGee from IDS. Their analysis and findings were brought together in a synthesis report by Celestine Kroesschell from HSI and Rosie McGee from IDS.


The research project aimed to

  • offer practical knowledge via conclusions and recommendations, addressed to development practitioners and aid agencies
  • nourish conceptual, academic and policy debates around this topical theme in Switzerland, the UK, the three case study countries and beyond

Key Findings

At a general level, the team’s findings show how important societal dynamics are in the promotion of accountability in fragile contexts, and yet how easily they can be missed or given insufficient attention in programme design and implementation.

Three specific conclusions are key for the programming and implementation of accountability initiatives supported by development cooperation in fragile contexts:

  1. The role of development cooperation in promoting the practice of dialogue and information sharing for accountability
  2. The need to deal with elites while also including marginalised groups
  3. The nature of ‘accountability’ as multiple accountabilities operating in an accountability ‘ecosystem’, of which development agencies form part

Key contacts

Rosemary McGee

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead

+44 (0)1273 915738

Project details

start date
1 October 2011
end date
30 April 2013


About this project


Recent work