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Development as accountability:
Accountability innovators in action


April 2007

SARPN acknowledges AccountAbility as the source of this document:
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Executive summary

Everyone is calling for more accountability. Accountability is the stated commitment of multi-hundred million-dollar funds; the topic of keynote speeches; the central component of development projects. But accountability is still seen largely as a toolbox of metrics and mechanisms to bolt on to existing development projects, designed to reduce corruption and inefficiency at the margin.

This report argues that accountability should instead become the central goal of development. To see development as accountability means fundamentally reinventing the way the poor collaborate with their development partners. As the development landscape faces a set of new challenges, from superstar donors to Chinese investments in Africa, and from floundering multilateral institutions to stalled trade negotiations, major innovations in their accountability are needed.

Accountable development does not mean more layers of compliance-based systems to ensure donors’ money is accounted for, or to feed philanthropists’ craving for instant results. Indeed, this one-way, bottom-to-top orientation is fast becoming part of the problem: accumulating power, dispersing responsibility, dampening innovation and disempowering collaboration. This report argues that accountability must be repositioned at the core of development, not consigned to the technical small print.

With the support of the Ford Foundation, AccountAbility in late 2006 convened three dialogues in Indonesia, Russia and Brazil. We talked with hundreds of leaders, from civil society, business, the public sector, international institutions and the media. What they told us is deeply unsettling: traditional forms of accountability are unfit for the new challenges of development. But they also revealed evidence of a new groundswell of accountability innovations.

From global financing in health to service delivery in water and sanitation, and from public infrastructure projects to voluntary certification of sustainable forestry, collaboration is increasingly promoted as a more effective way to achieve development goals. From informal dialogues, through contractual public-private partnerships, to complex multi-stakeholder initiatives, there are now hundreds of collaborative efforts worldwide.

Collaboration is celebrated as an inherently more accountable way of promoting development, but this is a claim that has run well ahead of the evidence. Because of difficulties in evaluation and a reluctance to share lessons, there is insufficient awareness of the importance of getting Collaborative Governance (CG) right.

This report showcases experiments across a wide range of collaborative frameworks, unleashing the potential for poor people to work more effectively with governments, businesses, NGOs and donors. Whether it is street waste pickers in SРіo Paulo, energy efficiency campaigners in Moscow or committed local mayors in Bali, accountability innovators are leading initiatives to align interests, pool resources and share responsibilities to tackle development challenges.

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