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Mainstreaming the Right to Food into sub-national plans and strategies

Social accountability - Improving the process of district development planning?

Accountability mechanisms refer to a broad range of actions (beyond voting) that citizens, communities and civil society organizations can use to hold government officials and bureaucrats accountable. These include citizen participation in public policy making, participatory budgeting, public expenditure tracking, citizen monitoring of public service delivery, citizen advisory boards, lobbying and advocacy campaigns. Mechanisms that involve participation of citizens in the process of managing public resources have proved to be particularly effective.

This project adopts an understanding of accountability that goes beyond legal measures only (but doesn’t exclude them either). In the context of district development and considering the quality of and accessibility legal services, legal measures would probably be a last step of progressively stronger accountability mechanisms ranging from understanding through social pressure to legal measures.

  • Awareness of rights and duties; knowledge of the mandate and responsibility of district Government
  • Lobbying, advocacy, media exposure
  • Participatory performance monitoring, participatory public expenditure tracking
  • Social auditing (more institutionalized than the former bullet with clear communication channel of results and mandatory response by Government)
  • Public hearings
  • Conflict resolution through mediators (e.g. ombudsman)
  • Community courts (where they exist)
  • Formal judicial measures

Clear rules and legal frameworks are needed that ensure access to information and the sustainability of social accountability initiatives. This implies that apart from specific interventions to increase accountability of duty bearers to their citizens, the policy, institutional and legal framework needs to be shaped in a way that it facilitates the work of civil society.

Accountability is only effective if it is directed to a functioning public administration that has some capacity to respond to citizen demands. Hence, duty bearers need to hold a mandate but also need the financial and technical capacity to comply with it.