Empowerment and accountability

Empowerment and accountability


Other donor approaches to empowerment and accountability

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A number of interventions have been designed and implemented by donors to increase national ownership, enable participation in the design and implementation of initiatives and encourage ‘country-led approaches’. In many cases these have resulted in government-led approaches, rather than giving a voice to the poor. Mechanisms that ensure meaningful participation can enhance the capacity of a government to design appropriate policies and deliver effective and appropriate services. Donors have aimed to support participation in the policy process by institutionalising national and local level participation in policy planning in a number of ways.

Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs)

Although Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) are the main framework in the current aid architecture for ensuring the participation of poor people, PRSs can give the appearance of country ownership without truly empowering the poor.

Rowden, R. and Irama, J.O., 2004, ‘Rethinking Participation: Questions for Civil Society About the Limits of Participation in PRSPs’, ActionAid International, Washington D.C. and ActionAid International Uganda, Kampala
This paper argues that structural adjustment reform policies have not been meaningfully debated in government-led public consultations in Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) processes. For example, CSOs were prohibited from raising public policy debates about alternative economic policies in PRSP consultations. Possible improvements to PRSP consultations include: IFIs accepting PRSPs only if they have been subjected to public debate; greater transparency on PRSP goals deemed realistic; and disclosure of draft Country Assistance Strategies (CASs). CSOs could create alternative public spaces in which to foster debate.
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Tembo, F., (ed), 2005, ‘Poverty Reduction: Are the Strategies Working?’, World Vision, Milton Keynes
How effective are Poverty Reduction Strategies in accommodating the voices of the poor and promoting accountability in the decision-making process? This report calls for greater accountability to the poor as a means of improving aid effectiveness. The engagement of poor people largely depends on how the PRS is located within the domestic political and decision-making architecture and whether donors can better align and coordinate their development aid. Fundamental improvements to PRSs are required if they are to become mechanisms by which poor people influence national poverty reduction processes.
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Molenaers, N., and Renard, R., 2006, ‘Participation in PRSP Processes: Conditions for Pro-Poor Effectiveness’, University of Antwerp
What conditions should be in place for participation to make a meaningful contribution to PRSPs? This paper argues that participation makes sense only under restrictive conditions, and proposes a four-level readiness assessment framework to bring structure and sequencing into donors’ engagement with local civil society. The framework covers PRSP prerequisites, PRSP issues to be addressed, participation prerequisites and participation issues to be addressed. Even if a country is ready for a PRSP, this does not mean it is ready for participation.
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Poverty and social impact analysis (PSIA)

PSIA is intended to enable the design of better pro-poor reforms. Results have been mixed and success depends on whether the analysis is carried out in an open and inclusive manner.

Hayes, L., 2005, ‘Open on Impact? Slow Progress in World Bank and IMF poverty analysis’, European Network on Debt and Development
What is the impact of poverty and social impact analysis in developing countries? Has it strengthened national institutions and improved reform designs? This study examines the effectiveness of PSIA undertaken by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund using case studies from Ghana, Nicaragua, Mali and Vietnam. It finds that PSIA has not had any clear effects on national policymaking processes and recommends that both the quality and the process of carrying out PSIAs be improved, taking into account increased country ownership.
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Donor accountability

Donor practices increasingly emphasise both country ownership and alignment with existing country systems, and seek to ensure that aid is empowering for recipient country governments and their citizens. However, difficulties persist. The need for the downwards accountability of donors and other international development actors is acknowledged, but there are no direct accountability mechanisms to enable this. Further, there is growing interest not only in the accountability relationship between donors and recipients, but in how the provision of aid influences domestic accountability (the relationship between the state and its citizens).

Winters, M. S., 2010, ‘Accountability, Participation and Foreign Aid Effectiveness’, International Studies Review, vol.12, no. 2, pp. 218-243
This paper reviews five different accountability relationships that exist in foreign aid projects among donors, governments, implementing agencies and end users. It summarises empirical evidence demonstrating that foreign aid functions better—both at the macro-level of aid flows and at the micro-level of individual aid projects—when there is more government and implementing agency accountability. It finds, however, that in terms of donor accountability to aid-receiving countries and the end users in them, recent pushes for increased participation have not resulted in more accountability in the design of aid programmes. Ultimately, although enthusiasm for participatory models of aid design and delivery is warranted, participation is not a panacea for all the accountability problems in foreign aid programmes.
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Hayes, L. And Pereira, J., 2008, ‘Turning the Tables: Aid and Accountability under the Paris Framework’, European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad)
This report focuses on progress against two principles of the Paris Declaration, ownership and accountability, in Cambodia, Honduras, Mali, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, and Sierra Leone. It finds that power imbalances, lack of transparency, and limited aid accountability mean that the goal of mutual accountability between donors and recipient governments is still aspirational. Accountability to citizens, the people in whose name aid is being provided, is non-existent. Donors are progressing in some areas but all can improve their operations.
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Eyben, R. and Ferguson, C., 2005, ‘How Can Donors Become More Accountable to Poor People?’, in L. Groves and R. Hinton, Inclusive Aid: Changing Power and Relationships in International Development, Earthscan, London
This chapter explores the new pressures placed on stakeholders who have begun to adopt a rights-based approach to accountability in terms of power, procedures and relationships. Although highly problematic, this process is a positive step towards Northern governments being prepared to be held accountable by poor people in the South.

Hudson, A., and GOVNET Secretariat, 2009, ‘Aid and Domestic Accountability’, Background Paper, DAC Network on Governance, OECD, Paris
Domestic accountability provides states with an incentive to respond to the needs of their citizens. It is driven in large part by domestic politics, but the actions of donors and other 'external' actors do have influence. This paper sets out a conceptual framework and approach that will enable donors and other stakeholders to explore the complexities of real-world governance, consider aid impact, and analyse the role that politics and incentives play in shaping domestic accountability. Support often focuses on building the capacity of individual institutions rather than systems of accountability. Donors need to ensure that their support to capacity development is effective and that the ways in which they deliver aid do not limit the scope for domestic accountability.
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Hall, J. and Howell, J., 2010, ‘Good Practice Donor Engagement with Civil Society’, Working Paper, Office of Development Effectiveness, AusAID
How do bilateral donors engage with civil society in developing countries, particularly in fragile contexts? This paper looks at what has worked well, drawing on good practice among bilateral development agencies, multilateral agencies, foundations, NGOs and other donors. The first section outlines the changing landscape of aid and civil society. The paper then looks at why and how donors have sought to engage with civil society, before summarising concerns about donor practice. It then highlights examples of good practice that minimise the potential pitfalls and broaden the application of aid effectiveness principles. The review concludes with good practice principles for donors engaging with civil society.
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Prichard, W., 2010, ‘The Role of Development Partners in Building Tax-Governance Linkages’, in Citizen-State Relations: Improving Governance Through Tax Reform, OECD, Paris, pp. 51-58
This chapter examines how aid influences the relationship between tax and governance. It notes that by reducing the dependence of governments on tax revenue, aid can reduce political pressures for greater responsiveness and accountability. On the other hand, conditionality and technical assistance, when applied carefully, can foster tax systems that are likely to promote broader governance improvements. Research suggests that in order to support increased accountability in recipient countries, donors could consider: 1) making revenue-raising processes an entry point for efforts to strengthen domestic institutions of accountability; and 2) supporting downward accountability to citizens for aid funds, instead of upward accountability to donors.
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The role of donors in providing timely, accessible and relevant information about aid is coming under increasing scrutiny. Such information is needed if citizens of both donor and recipient countries are to hold their governments to account.

aidinfo, 2008, ‘Better Information, Better Aid’, Draft Consultation Paper, Development Initiatives, Wells
What are the potential benefits of aid transparency? What information is needed and how could donors make this more accessible? Survey results indicate that improved transparency of aid information would contribute to faster poverty reduction by making aid more effective and accountable. Users of aid information need more accessible, detailed, timely, and consistent information to enable them to make aid work better. Donors should therefore publish information (electronically) in more detail, using common definitions and a common format. This could both reduce costs for donors, who repeatedly provide the same information in different forms, and increase the information's value to users.
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UNDP, 2010, ‘Comparative Experience: Aid Information Management Systems in Post-conflict and Fragile Situations’, UNDP, New York
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Publish What You Fund, 2011, 'Pilot Aid Transparency Index 2011', Publish What You Fund
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However, although donors use the language of empowerment, its meaning is mediated by their organisational cultures and by their interactions with others in implementing development interventions.

Bebbington, A., et al., 2007, 'Of Texts and Practices: Empowerment and Organisational Cultures in World Bank-Funded Rural Development Programmes', Journal of Development Studies, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 597-621
How far have the World Bank's textual commitments to empowerment generated efforts to rework unequal power relations? What is the influence of organisational culture on the practice of empowerment? Drawing on the case study of a silk development project in Bangladesh, this article finds that there is no simple linear relationship between policy and practice. Rather, cultural interactions among various organisations – the World Bank, government agencies, NGOs, organisations of the poor, social enterprises – shape how textual commitments to empowerment are translated into diverse practices. Who is employed, and which organisations are subcontracted, matters a great deal because the organisational cultures involved influence project practice and outcomes.
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