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Principles and phases

People expect their governments to deliver public services in an efficient manner that meets their needs and recognizes their human rights. People expect to be able to raise their concerns and to be listened to. This guide enables its users to assess the degree to which public service delivery is subject to democratic accountability checks and, based on that knowledge, identify areas of concrete action for improvement.


Answerability gauges the extent to which a government carries out its duty to explain and justify its decisions to the public. Much of the effectiveness of answerability is linked to how claim holders articulate their demands, but it is also related to the space, capacity and willingness of officials to answer for their actions.


Responsiveness is about whether public officials take opportunities to consult citizens or their representatives before a policy or law is approved, so that the content of such decisions reflects their views, their demands or human rights principles. To a large extent, the political incentives for governments to remain responsive to citizens are linked to the nature of the party system, the electoral rules and other institutional arrangements.


Enforceability is about the formal or informal consequences that duty bearers may face and that they should respond to. The possibility of enforcing positive or negative consequences tends to contribute to improving accountability. Such consequences may be formally laid down in rules or informally accepted in practice.

Agenda Setting

Agenda setting is the phase in which issues or concerns become priorities for citizens, politicians, officials or other private or international bodies that shape the so-called public agenda. Priorities might be shaped through electoral campaigns, public debates and international summits, as well as meetings between public- and private-sector officials.


Policymaking is the phase in which representatives or office holders weigh options of policy to determine which choices are workable, translating them into regulation. This involves a trade-off between effectiveness, political priorities and the allocation of financial resources.


Implementation takes place when a government gives a public- or private-sector agency responsibility for translating policy into action and for delivering the service in question. At this stage, budgeted resources are dedicated to execution, and services are supposed to be delivered to people.

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