Edited by Sina Odugbemi, Taeku Lee
“Accountability” has become a buzzword in international
development. Development actors appear to delight in announcing their
intention to “promote accountability”—but it is often
unclear what accountability is and how it can be promoted. This book
addresses some questions that are crucial to understanding
accountability and for understanding why accountability is important to
improve the effectiveness of development aid. We ask: What does it mean
to make governments accountable to their citizens? How do you do that?
How do you create genuine demand for accountability among citizens, how
do you move citizens from inertia to public action?
The main argument of this book is that accountability is a matter of
public opinion. Governments will only be accountable if there are
incentives for them to do so—and only an active and critical
public will change the incentives of government officials to make them
responsive to citizens’ demands. Accountability without public
opinion is a technocratic, but not an effective solution.
In this book, more than 30 accountability practitioners and thinkers
discuss the concept and its structural conditions; the relationship
between accountability, information, and the media; the role of
deliberation to promote accountability; and mechanisms and tools to
mobilize public opinion. A number of case studies from around the world
illustrate the main argument of the book: Public opinion matters and an
active and critical public is the surest means to achieve
accountability that will benefit the citizens in developing
This book is designed for policy-makers and governance specialists
working within the international development community, national
governments, grassroots organizations, activists, and scholars engaged
in understanding the interaction between accountability and public
opinion and their role for increasing the impact of international
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