Chapter Summaries

Global Governance and Local Peace: Accountability and Performance in International Peacebuilding

Chapter Summaries


The Introduction provides an overview of the book's main argument, the research design and methodology, and the implications of this book's findings. The book's main argument is that the variation in country offices’ peacebuilding performance results, in part, from informal local accountability arrangements made by individual country-office staff. To create informal local accountability, however, country-office staff must circumvent standard operating procedures put in place to hold them accountable to their headquarters or donors. The basic implication of this argument is that global governors are, ironically and unintentionally, designed to fail at local peacebuilding. To positively perform, these organizations need to delegate authority to local actors who have little power in the global system. But the ability of country offices to delegate this authority to local actors hinges on innovative and entrepreneurial staff who use their own agency to bridge the global-local divide. The improved peacebuilding performance of global governors, thus, rests on their ability to create conducive environments for innovative, potentially rule-breaking, staff to operate at the local level.

Chapter 1: Local Peacebuilding and Global Accountability

By focusing on a new level of analysis – the country offices of International Organizations (IOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and bilateral donors – this book addresses a crucial underresearched question: How does variation in the characteristics of country offices influence their ability to achieve positive peacebuilding performance? This chapter answers this question by providing a typology that explains the variation in peacebuilding performance described in the subsequent case study chapters. It begins by describing the relationship between organizational learning and peacebuilding, followed by a discussion of the difficulty of organizational learning, particularly for global organizations that are not incentivized to receive or respond to feedback from local actors. The chapter then proceeds to describe how, even in the face of such constraints, some organizations achieve positive peacebuilding performance through informal local accountability routines developed by innovative country-level staff.

Chapter 2: The Country Context—Burundi from 1999 to 2014

This chapter describes one country context in which the case study organizations did peacebuilding. It describes the six major phases in Burundi’s war-to-peace transition between 1999 and 2014 as well as the events that triggered each one.  The chapter begins in 1999 after the removal of a regional embargo reinvigorated Burundi’s peace process and ends in 2014 as Burundi was preparing for its 2015 elections. At numerous turning points in between, Burundians and international observers declared, “Burundi is at a crossroads.” Each of these critical turning points ushered in a new phase in Burundi’s war-to-peace transition. Between phases, the political and security dynamics changed significantly. Within each phase, the political and security dynamics remained relatively consistent. Each case study organization and the broader group of intervening organizations engaged in peacebuilding in Burundi identified these six phases as crucial turning points. This book investigates whether or not each of the five case study organizations engaged in organizational learning across most of its country office within one year of the initiation of a new phase.

Chapter 3: The INGOs in Peacebuilding—Globally Unaccountable, Locally Adaptive

How do the dual characteristics of weak global accountability and greater potential for adaptability influence INGO performance at the country level? This chapter shows that INGOs’ lack of singular accountability to states may, in fact, enable their country offices to develop informal local accountability routines more easily than IOs or bilateral donors. The lack of global constraints on INGOs creates an environment in which entrepreneurial country-office staff may have a lot of room to maneuver and innovate, particularly if they can secure funding to do so. Country-office staff could use their agency to create strong informal local accountability routines and, relatedly, develop strong relationships with key actors at both the community and state level. If INGO country offices are also able to find donors who fund peacebuilding interventions (creating formal peacebuilding accountability), then they are likely to learn in relation to their peacebuilding aims. This organizational learning, in turn, significantly increases the chance that the INGOs will achieve their local peacebuilding aims.

Chapter 4: International Organizations in Peacebuilding—Globally Accountable, Locally Constrained

This chapter focuses on two International Organizations (IOs) operating in Burundi between 1999 and 2014: the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) country office in Burundi, which I refer to as UNDP Burundi, and the four UN political and peacekeeping missions mandated by the UN Security Council, which I refer to collectively as UN Missions. Compared to the INGOs discussed in Chapter 3 that were able to create and sustain strong informal local accountability routines, the IO country offices discussed in this chapter were often constrained by their formal accountability to UN member states, including to the Burundian government. While formal accountability to states may make IOs more globally accountable, it also makes it more difficult for them to be locally accountable to stakeholders beyond the central government.

Chapter 5: Bilateral Development Donors—Accountable for Global Targets, Not Local Change

This chapter discusses the characteristics of bilateral aid agencies, drawing on the growing literature on the political economy of development aid and examining its relevance for intervention in conflict-affected countries. It describes the crucial case of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), one of the donors most committed to doing conflict-sensitive development in fragile and conflict-affected states. It shows that alterations in the focus of a donor’s formal accountability routines can significantly change the way in which the donor engages with, and learns from, the country context. For example, when DFID Burundi shifted from the prioritization of peacebuilding to the prioritization of development, it no longer achieved peacebuilding performance across its projects, in spite of its expressed commitment to do so. This chapter also shows that the aid industry’s push for the establishment of global standards and targets can undermine the local relevance and effectiveness of international aid, reducing opportunities for informal local accountability and positive peacebuilding performance.


The conclusion synthesizes the book’s main argument: IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors are designed to fail at peacebuilding but sometimes succeed because of the interaction between formal peacebuilding accountability and informal local accountability, made possible by the efforts of innovative country-level staff circumventing standard operating procedures. It addresses potential alternative explanations to this claim. It then discusses the relevance of the book’s theory for IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors operating in sectors other than peacebuilding and in countries other than Burundi, based on additional research conducted in the DRC, Nepal, South Sudan, and Sudan. It also presents concrete recommendations for policy makers and practitioners and discusses open questions that could inform future research.