This paper explores the current state of thinking among a range of aid actors (multilaterals, bilateral, applied scholars and international non-governmental organisations) on how to promote empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings. It seeks to identify trends, gaps and weaknesses in that thinking, and propose research questions and hypotheses to test. Three underlying sources of confusion are identified that are hindering progress on both understanding empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings, and taking helpful action to promote it. They are: (1) theory of endogenous change (e.g. on how empowerment and accountability arise in situ) versus the theory of action of an external intervention; (2) fragility versus conflict: there is no clear justification for combining these different
aspects into a single category; and (3) empowerment versus accountability: donor analysis and practice has been overwhelmingly weighted towards accountability, exhibiting limited understanding or interest in the nature of power.