Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA)

Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) is an international research programme which explores how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict, and violent settings, with a particular focus on Egypt, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Bring back our girls wall mural. Photo credit: Flickr / Tim Green

These social and political actions range from state-led initiatives to improve gender equality in Egypt through the creation of Equal Opportunities Units in government ministries, donor support of civil society organisations in Mozambique to hold the government to account, and faith-based organisations in Nigeria working with local communities around issues of governance and budget-tracking.

While a great deal has been written recently on approaches to empowerment and accountability, many of the lessons and approaches have been drawn from relatively stable, and democratic settings. However, an estimated two billion people currently live in countries where these conditions do not exist and their ability to live safe and fulfilling lives is affected by war, political instability and weak or repressive governments on a daily basis. By 2030, this number is estimated to roughly double, rising to almost four billion.

In this context, the Action for Empowerment and Accountability research programme will:

  • Strengthen the evidence base on how and under what conditions social and political action contributes to empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict, and violence affected settings.
  • Provide evidence-informed practical and operational insights and lessons  for donors on how they can contribute to improved empowerment and accountability outcomes
  • Generate national, regional and international engagement and understanding of the research findings and their application across academia, civil society, the private sector and policy makers

The programme will develop and apply a variety of innovative, multi-method, interdisciplinary research strategies and data sources, both quantitative and qualitative, such as surveys, diaries which households use to record their experiences of governance, and action learning, to capture, conceptualise, measure, nuance and assess both the impact of social and political action and the interventions of donors and others on empowerment and accountability.

Focus countries

A4EA will focus primarily on five countries:

  • Egypt
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan

Research themes


Programme partners

The programme is led by IDS and is being implemented by a consortium which also includes: the Accountability Research Center (USA), the Collective for Social Science Research (Pakistan), the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (Pakistan), Itad (UK), Oxfam (GB and Myanmar), and the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (Kenya).


Action for Empowerment and Accountability is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

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Image: Mural at West Vale. Credit: Tim Green

Photo of Alex Shankland, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Anuradha Joshi, IDS researcher More details

Photo of Ashley Kuchanny More details

Photo of Bethan Smith More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of Jenny Edwards, PPSC research team More details

IDS staff or research student More details

Photo of IDS researcher, Mariz Tadros More details

Miguel Loureiro photo More details

Photo of Naomi Hossain, IDS Research Fellow More details

Photo of Patta Scott-Villiers More details

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Photo of Shandana Mohmand More details

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The Role of External Actors in Supporting Social and Political Action towards Empowerment and Accountability with a Focus on Fragile, Conflict- and Violence-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 503 (2017)

This paper explores the role and experience of external actors, particularly donors, in supporting social and political action in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings. More details


Theories of Change for Promoting Empowerment and Accountability in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 499 (2017)

This paper explores the current state of thinking among a range of aid actors (multilaterals, bilateral, applied scholars and international non-governmental organisations) on how to promote empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence affected settings. More details


The Role of Social and Political Action in Advancing Women’s Rights, Empowerment, and Accountability to Women

IDS Working Paper 488 (2017)

Through the lens of four case studies focused on women’s political participation (Palestine and Sierra Leone), and the passage of domestic violence law (Brazil and South Africa), this paper looks at the role of social and political action in advancing women’s rights. More details


Innovative Methods for Research on Social and Political Action in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings

IDS Working Paper 487 (2017)

Fragile and conflict-affected settings present particular challenges for researchers seeking to study the effect of social and political action (SPA). These challenges are not simply due to prevalent violence and conflict, but contexts of insecurity can restrict the flow of information, key actors can be hard to identify, and if information can be found, vital pieces of the picture may be missing. More details


The Political Economy of Economic Empowerment: Bringing Politics and Society Back In

IDS Working Paper 484 (2017)

Economic empowerment programmes designed to mitigate inequalities are increasingly becoming an important part of the portfolio for governments in low-income countries. More details

This is the front cover to the Making All Voice Count (MAVC) summary, 'Taking scale into account in transparency and accountability initiatives'.

Taking Scale into Account in Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

Research Report Summary (2016)

This research summary is based on one section of a longer research paper by Jonathan Fox. Both the summary and the paper have been co-produced by the Empowerment and Accountability Research Programme – led by the Institute of Development Studies and funded by UK aid from the UK government –and Making All Voices Count. More details

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