The Import of Neoliberalism on Efforts to Encourage Agency in Three Fields of Development Action

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This article examines the dynamics of population agency and empowerment in each of three fields of aid provision—humanitarian relief, international development and peacebuilding—during recent decades. It first describes how the concept of active agency and participation has been commonly defined in these fields. Thereafter the analysis explores the obstacles and challenges analysts have identified, to date, in aid organization efforts to realize efficacy among targeted populations. Third, this study sketches the principal-agent accountabilities regime operating in major donor nations and international organizations in the three domains surveyed. The argument suggests that funders need to revisit their accountability assumptions and measures and broaden those to acknowledge the socio-cultural, political and economic conditions and governance capabilities of the nations and the populations targeted, since these ultimately mediate both citizen engagement and efficacy and intervention outcomes. The article concludes with a brief exploration of its implications for aid practice in the three fields treated.