Over past decade, international initiative aimed at promoted transparency and accountability (T/A), such as EITI, OGP and Open Contracting, among others, have proliferated. Yet there are many questions about such agreements and frameworks, such as: when do international T/A initiatives make a real difference on the ground and when not? How do we even expect change to happen? Is the increasing number of initiatives a strength or limitation? What research approaches will help us answer these questions?
This past September, T/AI convened a roundtable in Washington, D.C. to explore the topic of the impacts of international T/A initiatives. Participants included those working on open government, anti-corruption, the extractives industry, and a range of others. Jonathan Fox, from American University, facilitated the discussion that addressed the key questions and concerns of those present.
Fox reflects on these issues in the following Think Piece, thoughtfully articulating the principal themes addressed at the meeting and adding a layer of analysis to frame and clarify the key points that emerged. He highlights the tension between government commitments to international standards, like the Open Government Partnership, and meaningful reforms being carried out at the national level. Fox also points to the need for research and evaluation that uses a mix of methods to ask a broader set of questions about the impacts of international initiatives, including how and why change happened (or did not), and what role contextual factors played. In this regard, he suggests that more comparative research can help provide answers to many of the outstanding questions being asked by the T/A community.