Putting Beneficiaries First? The case of CARE Peru's forward accountability practices

Ellen Eide & Joan Marie Stenderup

Student thesis: Master thesis


Many governments and citizens commit sizable funds on official development assistance (ODA). OECD-DAC members provide ca. 125 billion USD annually to developing countries (OECD 2014). According to DAC statistics, in 2009 37% of ODA by DAC members was provided to and channeled through NGOs (OECD 2011). Due to the large sums provided to NGOs, focus has increased on holding NGOs accountable for how they raise and spend this money (O’Dwyer and Unerman 2010). Thus, the main focus within NGO accountability has been on accountability ‘backwards’ towards donors, through mechanisms for formal reporting. Yet, in recent years attention towards NGO accountability ‘forwards’ towards beneficiaries has increased. While powerful actors (donors) are in a position to require accountability from less powerful actors (NGOs), even less powerful actors (beneficiaries) cannot as easily require accountability of the powerful. One of the philosophies behind forward accountability is that development work is effective when activities are owned by local people and build on their priorities (Ellerman 2005). Therefore, for NGOs it is crucial to inform beneficiaries, involve them in decision-making and listen to them to succeed in development interventions. In order to apprehend forward accountability as a practical concept, a single case study has been conducted to investigate how CARE Peru seeks to ensure forward accountability and to what extent forward accountability is achieved. To answer this question this thesis is conducted following a pragmatic realist approach and is based on qualitative data gathered through semistructured interviews and focus group discussions with three respondent groups, all of which were conducted during a field study in three regions of Peru from May to June 2014. Using a unique framework developed for this thesis, based on forward accountability literature combined with a context-sensitive development approach, we assess the extent to which CARE Peru achieves forward accountability through three pillars of forward accountability: 1) providing information 2) involving people in making decisions and 3) listening through feedback and complaints procedures. The findings reveal that although CARE Peru has worked on developing an accountability policy and system, which include all the ‘right’ elements outlined in forward accountability literature, in practice there are both internal and external factors, that hinder CARE Peru from achieving a high degree of forward accountability.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages127