Foreign aid involves a chain of accountability relationships stretching from international donors through national governments and implementing agencies to a set of ultimate end users of the goods and services financed by the aid. In this paper, I review five different accountability relationships that exist in foreign aid projects among donors, governments, implementing agencies and end users. Then I summarize existing 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. Specifying several mechanisms that facilitate accountability, I emphasize that participation is a tool often used to produce accountability within aid projects. However, 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 programs. 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 programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-243
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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