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Accountability

Accountability comes in the core of what advocacy should do. Transparency provides information for active people to ask those who are responsible for public decisions about the rationale behind their decisions. Accountability requires public decision makers to assume responsibility for their decisions.

Accountability is “The state of being accountable; liability to be called on to render an account; the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected.”

Accountability.” Webster 1913 Dictionary. Patrick J. Cassidy, 1913. Answers.com 26 Feb. 2007.

Accountability is an important factor in securing good governance and bestowing legitimacy on governments and public decision makers1).

Miller (19972)) draws our attention to two types of accountability that advocacy groups should pay attention to: public accountability, and internal accountability.

Public Accountability

Public accountability is what advocacy groups and advocacy efforts do towards powerful public institutions whose decisions affect people’s lives. Public accountability is done towards local, national or international public or private institutions (e.g. the World Bank). Organizations should hold public (and private) institutions accountable, Miller notes, beyond the issuance of decisions in following up on the implementation of such decisions.

Miller presents the following questions that advocacy groups could ask to public institutions and corporations.

Questions that can assist oprganizations in their analysis of public accountability issues includes:

  • On what basis are politicians, government officials, and corporations held accountable in our country? By what performance standards or criteria? Through what processes or mechanisms (i.e., elections, the media, etc.)?
  • What are the traditional ways that those in power are held responsible?
  • What has been the role of citizens and grassroots groups in promoting public accountability?
  • What have been the successes of NGOs and communities in monitoring and enforcing desired policy changes?
  • What have civic groups done to encourage transparency in public institutions and corporations?
  • How ca we improve public accountability and transparency?

Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. P. 17 & 18. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.

Internal Accountability

We often here of NGOs and CSOs and coalitions that are busy focusing on holding public institutions and corporations accountable for their decisions and actions, while these very organizations themselves do not make themselves accountable enough to their members and the public. Internal accountability of these groups is critically important for their power, credibility and legitimacy

Miller suggests the following questions about internal accountability for advocacy groups and coalitions:

Questions that can help groups address issues of alliance and organizational accountability includes:

  • Who makes what kinds of decisions in the coalition or organization?
  • How transparent and open is that decision-making process?
  • To whom is leadership accountable once those decisions are made?
  • For what are they accountable?
  • What are the mechanisms by which they are or can be held accountabl? For example – by periodic elections, annual performance reviews, etc.?
  • How are members and constituents involved in the campaing and kept informed?
  • How can we improve our internal accountability?

Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. P. 20. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.

1) Accountability.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2007. Answers.com 26 Feb. 2007. Accountability.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2007. Answers.com 26 Feb. 2007
2) Miller, Valerie; 1997. Advocacy Sourcebook: Frameworks for Planning, Action, and Reflection. P. 16. Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, USA.

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