The findings of an applied research project on ‘Accountability in Fragile Contexts’ in Nepal, Bangladesh and Mozambique show that accountability lines are complex, blurred and multilinear. Particular challenges in promoting accountability are weak legislation, distrust and patron-client relationships. Yet, especially in fragile contexts, transparency, accountability and inclusion of all stakeholders, they appear to be essential. Practising downward accountability can be an ‘incubator’ for social accountability, but international non-governmental organisations must pay particular attention to the inclusion of marginalised women and men. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.