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Accountability in International Aid - The Case of Georgia (by Till Bruckner 2011)

Accountability in International Aid - The Case of Georgia (by Till Bruckner 2011)

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This thesis explores accountability in international aid to the Republic of Georgia in 2008-2009. Conceptualizing accountability as the obligation to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders with often divergent interests, it challenges the common assumption that making aid more accountable per se will automatically lead to better aid. Instead, it argues that accountability relationships reflect power relationships; power influences which stakeholders' expectations are met, to what degree they are met, and what kinds of accountability demands by which stakeholders are viewed as legitimate and therefore entail an organizational obligation to respond.

After discussing the links between power and accountability in international aid, with particular reference to donors, NGOs and the Georgian government, the thesis proceeds to explore how power and accountability relationships have influenced the allocation, management and implementation of international aid in Georgia, focusing on the aftermath of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Based on extensive fieldwork in Georgia during 2008-2009, the thesis examines the influence of power and accountability relationships on emergency relief operations, the composition of an international aid package worth USD 4.5 billion, donor involvement in formulating state policy on internally displaced persons and the subsequent donor-financed provision of housing to the displaced, and the provision of bulk food aid to conflict-affected Georgians.

This thesis concludes that accountability relationships in international aid reflect power relationships. As aid recipients wield little or no power over donors and NGOs, these aid providers often can (and do) ignore the expectations generated by this stakeholder group, instead giving priority to managing the competing expectations of more powerful stakeholders. Therefore, the widely observed lack of effectiveness of international aid is not due to an overall lack of accountability within international aid, as is commonly believed. Rather, aid is often ineffective at relieving human suffering and generating pro-poor development because aid providers are primarily accountable to powerful stakeholders with little interest in making aid more effective.


PhD Thesis, University of Bristol (UK), 2011
This thesis explores accountability in international aid to the Republic of Georgia in 2008-2009. Conceptualizing accountability as the obligation to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders with often divergent interests, it challenges the common assumption that making aid more accountable per se will automatically lead to better aid. Instead, it argues that accountability relationships reflect power relationships; power influences which stakeholders' expectations are met, to what degree they are met, and what kinds of accountability demands by which stakeholders are viewed as legitimate and therefore entail an organizational obligation to respond.

After discussing the links between power and accountability in international aid, with particular reference to donors, NGOs and the Georgian government, the thesis proceeds to explore how power and accountability relationships have influenced the allocation, management and implementation of international aid in Georgia, focusing on the aftermath of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Based on extensive fieldwork in Georgia during 2008-2009, the thesis examines the influence of power and accountability relationships on emergency relief operations, the composition of an international aid package worth USD 4.5 billion, donor involvement in formulating state policy on internally displaced persons and the subsequent donor-financed provision of housing to the displaced, and the provision of bulk food aid to conflict-affected Georgians.

This thesis concludes that accountability relationships in international aid reflect power relationships. As aid recipients wield little or no power over donors and NGOs, these aid providers often can (and do) ignore the expectations generated by this stakeholder group, instead giving priority to managing the competing expectations of more powerful stakeholders. Therefore, the widely observed lack of effectiveness of international aid is not due to an overall lack of accountability within international aid, as is commonly believed. Rather, aid is often ineffective at relieving human suffering and generating pro-poor development because aid providers are primarily accountable to powerful stakeholders with little interest in making aid more effective.


PhD Thesis, University of Bristol (UK), 2011

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Published by: tillbruckner on Sep 20, 2011
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1
Abstract
This thesis explores accountability in international aid to the Republic of Georgiain 2008-2009. Conceptualizing accountability as the obligation to manage theexpectations of multiple stakeholders with often divergent interests, it challengesthe common assumption that making aid more accountable per se willautomatically lead to better aid. Instead, it argues that accountabilityrelationships reflect power relationships; power influences which stakeholders'expectations are met, to what degree they are met, and what kinds ofaccountability demands by which stakeholders are viewed as legitimate andtherefore entail an organizational obligation to respond.After discussing the links between power and accountability in international aid,with particular reference to donors, NGOs and the Georgian government, thethesis proceeds to explore how power and accountability relationships haveinfluenced the allocation, management and implementation of international aid inGeorgia, focusing on the aftermath of the 2008 war between Russia andGeorgia. Based on extensive fieldwork in Georgia during 2008-2009, the thesisexamines the influence of power and accountability relationships on emergencyrelief operations, the composition of an international aid package worth USD 4.5billion, donor involvement in formulating state policy on internally displacedpersons and the subsequent donor-financed provision of housing to thedisplaced, and the provision of bulk food aid to conflict-affected Georgians.This thesis concludes that accountability relationships in international aid reflectpower relationships. As aid recipients wield little or no power over donors andNGOs, these aid providers often can (and do) ignore the expectations generatedby this stakeholder group, instead giving priority to managing the competingexpectations of more powerful stakeholders. Therefore, the widely observed lackof effectiveness of international aid is not due to an overall lack of accountabilitywithin international aid, as is commonly believed. Rather, aid is often ineffectiveat relieving human suffering and generating pro-poor development because aidproviders are primarily accountable to powerful stakeholders with little interest inmaking aid more effective.
Accountability in International Aid:The Case of Georgia
by Till Bruckner
tillbruckner@gmail.com PhD thesis, University of Bristol, 2011Supervisors: Dr Timothy Edmunds and Reverend Dr Martin GainsboroughViva Examiners: Professor Mark Duffied and Dr Vanessa Pupavac
 
2
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Introduction page 3
The August 2008 War and its Aftermath page 3The Global Aid Industry page 5Accountability and International Aid page 6
Surviving Georgia‟s Foreign Overlords
page 7Research Methodology page 10Chapter Overview page 14
Chapter Two: Accountability, Power and Third Party Government page 16
Accountability and Power page 17Third Party Government in the West page 20Conclusion page 25
Chapter Three: Accountability and Power in International Aid page 26
Aid Accountability and Aid Effectiveness page 26Third Party Government in International Aid page 29Donors, NGOs and Phantom Accountability page 31Conclusion page 37
Chapter Four: Geopolitics, Humanitarian Relief and Macro-Level Aid page 39
The “Military
-
Humanitarian Operation” of August 2008
page 40The Joint Needs Assessment and Brussels Donor Conference page 48Conclusion page 58
Chapter Five: Georgian IDP Policy and the Mushroom Villages page 61
Georgian IDP Policy: From Separation to Integration page 61The Mushroom Villages page 67Conclusion page 77
Chapter Six: Inedible Food Aid and Phantom Accountability page 81
Inedible Food Aid page 81Formal Accountability Standards and Food Aid page 88Accountability Failure page 92Conclusion page 94
Chapter Seven: Conclusion page 98
Accountability and Power in International Aid page 98Aid Accountability to Domestic Stakeholders page 101Donors and Phantom Accountability page 105The Aid Charade page 108Rethinking International Aid page 110
Bibliography page 111
 
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Chapter One: Introduction
This thesis explores accountability in international aid to the Republic of Georgia in 2008-2009,arguing that accountability relationships in international aid reflect power relationships. Thisintroductory chapter opens with an overview of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war and theensuing provision of billions of dollars in humanitarian and development aid by international donors. Itthen moves on to examine the supply side of aid, discussing the main theoretical approaches to theglobal aid industry in general before focusing in greater depth on the issue of aid and accountability. Asubsequent section explores the political context within which this aid was received in Georgia,
highlighting enduring patterns in the nation‟s long history of interaction with external great powers.
After briefly discussing the research methodology used to explore the links between power andaccountability in aid to Georgia, this chapter closes with an overview of the thesis as a whole.
The August 2008 War and its Aftermath
The Republic of Georgia and Russia went to war in August 2008, following weeks of escalatingtensions in and around the self-declared republic of South Ossetia. The Georgian armed forces weredecisively defeated on the battlefield within days and fled. Russian troops and local paramilitaryforces assumed control of the entire territory of South Ossetia, a sizeable portion of which hadpreviously been controlled by Georgia. Unopposed, the Russian army then pushed further south intoGeorgia proper, occupying the town of Gori and advancing towards the capital of Tbilisi. Meanwhile,in the west, Russian forces evicted Georgian troops from the Kodori gorge, a highland valley that was
Georgia‟s last foothold inside the territory claimed by the self 
-declared republic of Abkhazia, andtemporarily occupied several towns in western Georgia. While the conflict made headlines around theworld, military engagements only lasted for several days and were generally limited to a smallgeographical area. Contrary to initial claims by both sides and early media reports
1
, damage toinfrastructure was minor and largely confined to the theatre of engagement (EC/WB 2008), andcombined military and civilian fatalities added up to less than a thousand people.
2
 Nevertheless, the impact on Georgia was huge. Around 127,000 people fled the Russian advanceand took refuge with relatives or in public buildings in the capital Tbilisi and other locations inGeorgia.
3
Most of the displaced came from in and around Gori and were able to return home followingthe Russian withdrawal from the area several weeks later. In contrast, over 20,000 Georgians whohad fled South Ossetian territory and the Kodori gorge were expected to remain displaced, adding to
Georgia‟s over 200,000 long
-term displaced from earlier conflicts in the 1990s (MRA 2010). Followingthe war, Georgia plunged from double-digit growth into deep recession as trade ground to a near halt,foreign investors fled, tax revenues plummeted, and the banking system teetered on the brink ofcollapse, threatening economic turmoil (UN/WB 2008). The Georgian government remained in powerand the administration continued to function unimpeded, but the August 2008 episode had strongly
shaken the leadership‟s credibility both at home and abroad, not least because a mounting body of 
evidence suggested that Tbilisi rather than Moscow had been the main instigator of the war.
4
 Western donors and aid organizations reacted quickly to the conflict. Initially, the US military took the
lead in relief operations, putting uniformed US troops on the ground as a “humanitarian tripwire” to
1
 
“1,500 Reported Killed in Georgia Battle”, NYT, 09 August 2008; “Georgia conflict: Screams of the injured risefrom residential streets”, The Telegraph, 09 August 2008; “Pensioners burned alive in a church and a baby
stabbed to death - just some of
the horrific stories from Georgia”, Daily Mail, 12 August 2008; “Saakashvili SaysRussia Hit Pipeline; BP Unaware”, Civil Georgia, 12 August 2008; “An Uncertain Death Toll In Georgia
-Russia
War”, Washington Post, 25 August 2008; “Saakashvili: 1,600 Houses „Destroyed‟ in Buffer Zone”, Civil Georgia,
17 October 2008
2
 
“Official Interim Report on Number of Casualties”
, Civil Georgia, 03 September 2008
3
 
2011 UNHCR country operations profile
 –
 
Georgia”,
UNHCR website. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e48d2e6 (acc. 07 April 2011)
4
"Georgia Claims on Russia War Called Into Question", NYT, 07 November 2008; "Georgia fired first shot, sayUK monitors", Sunday Times, 09 November 2008; "British Monitor Complicates Georgian Blame Game", Wall
Street Journal, 19 December 2008; “Missiles Over Tskhinvali”, The National Interest, 20 April 2010; see also:
Bruckner 2010a, Halbach 2009, Richter 2009.

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