Review of Impact and Effectiveness of Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

Published on 23 November 2010

Transparency and accountability have emerged over the past decade as key ways to address both developmental failures and democratic deficits. In the development context, the argument is that through greater accountability, ‘leaky pipes’ of corruption and inefficiency will be repaired, aid will be channelled more effectively, and in turn development initiatives will produce greater and more visible results.

For scholars and practitioners of democracy, a parallel argument holds that following the twentieth-century wave of democratisation, democracy now has to ‘deliver the goods’, especially in terms of material outcomes, and that new forms of democratic accountability can help it do so. While traditional forms of state-led accountability are increasingly found to be inadequate, thousands of multi-stakeholder and citizen-led approaches have come to the fore, to supplement or supplant them.

Despite their rapid growth, and the growing donor support they receive, little attention has been paid to the impact and effectiveness of these new transparency and accountability initiatives. Responding to this gap, this report, based on a review of literature and experience across the field with special focus on five sectors of transparency and accountability work, aims to improve understanding among policy-makers and practitioners of the available evidence and identify gaps in knowledge to inform a longer-term research agenda.

Commissioned by the Policy Research Fund of the UK Department of International Development (DFID), this project also hopes to inform the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, a new donor collaborative that includes the Ford Foundation, Hivos, the International Budget Partnership, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Institute, the Revenue Watch Institute, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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Rosemary McGee

Power and Popular Politics Cluster Lead

John Gaventa

Research Fellow and Director, Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) programme


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