Global capacity building and the social significance of the accountancy profession

  • Perla Mardini

Student thesis: Phd


The establishment of national and international development agencies in the period after the Second World War and their increased participation in kinds of projects to support social and economic development in developing countries led to a broader development agenda that encompasses issues such as capacity building. This issue evolved to become a central focus of agencies’ efforts and offered an overarching concept enabling deeper co-ordination among divergent agencies operating in the international development (ID) field to contribute to sustainable development at the national level. Definitions of capacity building used by different agencies have been vague and inconsistent ranging in scope from a narrow focus on organisational reform to expansive ideas of political and social transformation. This thesis explores how capacity building came to be shaped in a way to include a commitment to strengthening local accountancy professions. It examines the engagement of the global accountancy profession with the capacity building issue, which involved building a close relationship with international development agencies. Such relationships developed visibly following the mid-1990s Asian crisis and the emphasis being placed on the global adoption of international standards including IFRS/IASs and ISAs to the maintenance of financial stability and the strengthening of the international financial architecture. The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) succeeded in obtaining a crucial place in the networks of the new international financial architecture and became recognised as a global standard setter. While setting and encouraging the adoption of standards was important, following the succession of subsequent corporate scandals in the United States, significant emphasis was placed on issues of compliance and enforcement. Hence, the global accountancy profession and development community have worked together to enforce adherence to international standards through capacity building, to contribute to local economic and professional development. Despite the efforts made globally to strengthen the capacity of local accountancy professions, and the support rendered by major development agencies, this topic has received little policy and academic attention. The thesis is composed of three research papers that illustrate: how the global accountancy profession engaged with the capacity building issue to support the strengthening of local professions; the impact that such engagement produced in national professional domains; and the role that education needs to play in a reconfigured representation of capacity building. The research papers are theoretically framed using the concepts of issue-based fields, institutional work, and decoupling. The first research paper examines how IFAC engaged with a range of international development agencies to infiltrate an emerging field focused on the capacity building issue. The paper shows how IFAC sought to shape the interpretation of, and associated capacity building practices to align with its preferred interests and expansion ambitions. The second research paper presents a field-level study of Egypt examining the impact of capacity building efforts on the development of the local accountancy profession and on affecting institutional change, as well as the local responses of national actors to global agendas and related influences. Egypt provides an interesting empirical site as it shows the difficulties and challenges of capacity building in developing countries. Building on the findings of paper two, paper three has important policy implications as it sheds light on the need for global bodies like IFAC and development agencies to focus on accounting educational reform when considering capacity building projects given its contribution to accounting professional development and to the social and economic progress of developing countries and Egypt specifically.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorChristopher Humphrey (Supervisor) & Brendan O'Dwyer (Supervisor)

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