Democratic accountability refers to the many ways in which citizens, political parties, parliaments and other democratic actors can provide feedback to, reward or sanction officials in charge of setting and enacting public policy.

Well-functioning accountability mechanisms are believed to provide incentives for governments to work in the best interests of citizens. When it comes to service delivery, the critical role of accountability is still a matter for debate. Only a few empirical studies have explored the links between democratic mechanisms and public services. 

In 2010, International IDEA’s Democracy and Development Programme embarked on efforts to stimulate greater debate and increase knowledge about the impact of democratic accountability on services. The long-term aim is to identify the specific areas by which accountability arrangements result in stronger incentives for governments or service providers.

This Discussion Paper serves as an introduction to seven working papers (available for download below) that describe the projects in which some of those connections are analysed. The selection reveals that in the countries studied, formal democratic channels for accountability are subject to a number of challenges, including weak and sometimes non-credible political institutions. 


Publication date
01 January 2012
Kristina Jelmin
Number of pages


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Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery: A Synthesis of Case Studies

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