Paper: International Aid and Conflict Settings: Functional or Dysfunctional Accountability? The Case of Reconstruction Afghanistan

Paper details

Paper authors Lucile Martin
In panel on Decolonising aid? Issues and directions
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


Systems of interactions between stakeholders of international aid are complex and asymmetrical in any context. In conflict environments, the asymmetry in relationships between international and national stakeholders is exacerbated by the securitization of space and its effects on the practical modalities aid is provided from international donors to local implementers. Combined with concerns over agile governance, these effects bear heavily on who accounts to whom, how and for what purpose. In many ways, the mechanisms through which accountability is produced are expressions of the colonialist modernization theory whereby the 'west' provides resources and models for better being to the 'rest'.

Drawing on empirical data from Afghanistan, this paper examines the experiences of local non-government implementing partners for international NGOs and donors. The paper analyzes the practical modalities and contingencies of aid delivery to illustrate the extent to which asymmetrical relationships result in upward, functional accountability from local implementing partners to their international donors at the expense of downward, strategic accountability to purported beneficiaries of aid interventions. The net result of these interactions is the emergence and sustenance of an aid-dependent network of local NGOs whose choices and programs are shaped by rules and requirements set by Western donors and their no-less-isolated (Western) intermediaries.
The paper argues existing mechanisms for accountability lead to situations that are unsatisfactory for donors, implementers, and beneficiaries alike, and assesses possible pathways forward. To move beyond colonial-modern epistemologies of aid, it calls for a radical revision of the very mechanisms through which aid functions - accountability being central to the ways in which relations between stakeholders are sustained and dependency produced.



Lucile Martin