The transparency and accountability movement has led to thousands of initiatives worldwide, working to tackle corruption, close democratic deficits and correct development failures.
Yet, little is actually known about whether these efforts have had an impact or been effective.
This paper examines the evidence available on the impact and effectiveness of initiatives in five sectors: public service delivery; budget processes; freedom of information; natural resource governance and donor aid. The paper reviews the available literature to summarise what it tells about the approaches used, their strengths and weaknesses, the methodological challenges faced and the institutional and political factors that shape the impact. It also identifies the gaps in knowledge to inform future research.
In reviewing the five sectors, the research finds a very mixed picture with work on impact largely confined to micro level studies. The evidence of impact is only slightly more robust in areas that have a longer history of work such as service delivery and budget transparency. In newer areas, such as natural resource transparency and aid transparency, there is even less knowledge.
Although sparse and uneven, some of the evidence on impact does suggest that transparency and accountability initiatives can make an important difference. Individual studies provide evidence for example of contributions to increased state or institutional responsiveness, lowering of corruption and empowerment of local voices.
The paper makes recommendations to deepen the evidence and knowledge base of the impact of transparency and accountability initiatives.