Why is development progress difficult in fragile and conflict-affected countries? International Alert conducted a series of studies in Burundi, Liberia and Nepal to explore this question in terms of how international institutions channel aid to support peace and development progress. The studies focused on two multilaterals: the World Bank and the United Nations. From the country studies, some common institutional challenges and opportunities emerged: governance and political legitimacy; responsiveness to fast-changing contexts; managing organisational mandates; harnessing comparative advantage between institutions; and translating policy commitments into practice. This summary of research findings and analysis includes a series of emerging recommendations. Rather than providing answers, this paper uses evidence to stimulate new conversation, thinking and practice.