Democratic Accountability


How does accountability affect representation?

There is widespread recognition that improving public services is a critical component of poverty reduction. This recognition has reached global proportions since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. International IDEA’s research has found that there is no provision for effective sanctions or rewards in countries with low levels of service delivery.



Elected representatives need to be held accountable for their decisions and actions but how does accountability work? This initiative explores existing and emerging paths towards democratic accountability, parliamentary oversight, investigative journalism and demonstrations.

People support democracy because it is a desirable end in itself, and because they want higher socio-economic and political standard. People expect their governments to deliver public services in an efficient manner that meets their needs and recognizes their human rights.



Democratic Accountability for Development

Democratic accountability offers citizens and their representatives the means to voice concerns, demand explanations about, and, if need be, impose consequences for the performance of elected officials, and officials of public or private service providers. Means of democratic accountability include electoral processes and parliamentary oversight, as well as reviews by supreme audit institutions, investigative journalism and public demonstrations.

We make the case for democratic accountability since governments that are accountable to voters or to representative and oversight bodies are more likely to respond to people’s demand for development than governments that are not. Accountability is not exclusive to democracies, but when accountability is democratic, it has the potential to promote better government performance.

Throughout the process of agreeing on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we at International IDEA advocated for the inclusion of democracy and accountability in the outcome document. In particular, the Democracy and Development Programme supported the advocacy work by researching and publishing knowledge products, including a Policy Brief on Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery within the Post-2015 Development Agenda.


Improving Democratic Accountability in Public Service Delivery

We have developed a guide for assessing democratic accountability in public service delivery, Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery: A practical guide to identify improvements through assessment. The guide allows for a locally led, participatory assessment process, and is the most recent addition to our family of citizen-led assessment frameworks, alongside the State of Democracy and State of Local Democracy Assessment Frameworks. It is as much intended to guide an assessment exercise as it is a means to generate reform proposals aimed at deepening democratic accountability in the provision of public services.

Our work is focused on supporting applications of the assessment framework and providing assistance to reform efforts driven by local actors. At the global level, more emphasis is put on distilling and comparing lessons from finalized applications. Furthermore, the Democracy and Development Programme is deepening and spreading its knowledge on how democratic accountability can provide sufficient sanctions, rewards and learning to encourage elected officials, and officials of public or private service providers to work in the best interests of the people.

The most recent assessment was carried out in the Philippines in late 2015, looking at the democratic accountability of government provided relief efforts after Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda). The implementing partners focused on assessing the democratic accountability of resettlement for those displaced by Haiyan in the towns of Guiuan, Eastern Samar and Palo, Leyte. The assessment looks into what positive actions citizens and their representatives can take in order to accelerate and improve the delivery of services and hold executives and service providers accountable.

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Helena Bjuremalm
Senior Programme Manager

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