ABSTRACT

For a concept so basic and as important as accountability, it is surprising that there is lack of clarity over what the term is supposed to mean. This chapter identifies and critiques two alternative world views: 1) the traditional view of accountability upward to the donor/funder, based largely on compliance with agreed rules, standards and results; and 2) the civil society perspective of accountability downward to the people they aim to help, including responsible and responsive use of power. Each perspective is based upon different sets of assumptions and values, views about what ‘facts’ and ‘data’ are relevant or not, as well as different conceptions of the meaning of “accountability.” Following discussion and critique of these two very different world views of accountability, the chapter identifies some possible areas of middle ground that can enable movement towards a rapprochement. The chapter proposes a new vision of accountability and identifies a range of more appropriate approaches to accountability that acknowledge that accountability both upward and downward is needed and should be viewed as complementary.