Stocktaking of Social Accountability Initiatives in OECD Countries

Posted: 9 Jan 2009

See all articles by Tiago Peixoto

Tiago Peixoto

World Bank - Governance Global Practice

Date Written: December 7, 2007


Building open government is a challenge for all countries. Hence the importance of collecting and exchanging experiences on how to put the basic principles of good governance into practice. Transparency and accountability; fairness and equity; efficiency and effectiveness; respect for the rule of law; and high standards of ethical behaviour are all principles that need to be given substance if better public governance is to benefit citizens.

This joint OECD-World Bank stocktaking exercise of social accountability (SA) initiatives in OECD member countries contributes to the global exchange of policy relevant knowledge. The stocktaking exercise produced 40 templates detailing social accountability initiatives in 27 OECD countries and the European Commission.

Building upon the two organisations' definitions, this report proposes a novel approach to analysing SA initiatives. This innovative classification system identifies SA initiatives based on their ultimate objective, as follows:

* Scrutiny initiatives aim to enhance assessment, analysis, and review of government actions. * Proximity initiatives aim to reduce the "distance" between citizens and government by identifying citizen needs and preferences. * Engagement initiatives aim to incorporate citizens into the decision-making process.

Some of the main findings include:

* Initiators matter: Government-led initiatives generally aim to enhance proximity with, and engagement of, citizens while CSO-led initiatives focus more on exercising scrutiny.

* Declared drivers vary widely: SA initiatives may be implemented as a means to uphold citizens' rights, to enhance trust and effectiveness, to react to public pressure, or to innovate boldly through the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

* A legal basis does not make outcomes binding: The 40 cases analysed in the report show no link between the existence of a legal basis for SA initiatives and the binding effect of citizens' involvement. If proven through further research, this could temper the belief that legal frameworks alone are sufficient, or indeed indispensable, for SA initiatives to carry weight.

* Evaluating impacts: Most information on the impacts of SA initiatives is general, and cannot be quantified nor verified. Evaluation was only conducted in half of the cases. This results often from a lack of incentives to carry out impact assessments, and to the obstacles of conducting a rigorous study. This gap needs to be addressed to ensure continued support of the implementation of such initiatives. Currently, evaluation is not considered as an essential component of SA initiatives.

Keywords: governance, accountability, democracy, participatory budgeting, e-democracy, e-governance, e-participatory budgeting, e-participation

Suggested Citation

Peixoto, Tiago, Stocktaking of Social Accountability Initiatives in OECD Countries (December 7, 2007). Available at SSRN:

Tiago Peixoto (Contact Author)

World Bank - Governance Global Practice ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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