Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA)

start date

1 April 2016

end date

31 December 2021

The Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) international research programme completed in 2022. It explored how social and political action can contribute to empowerment and accountability in settings affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, with a particular focus on Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria and Pakistan, and Egypt in its first phase.

Summary report: Against the Odds

Our final report, Against the Odds: Action for Empowerment and Accountability in Challenging Contexts, offers new insights into how people experience governance relationships, mobilise to make claims of authorities, and strategise to demand greater accountability against a backdrop of fragile citizen-state relations.

Special issue: Citizen Action for Accountability in Challenging Contexts

A special issue of Development Policy Review, published in March 2023, shares findings from the A4EA research. Nine articles cover the themes of: citizen action, what makes difficult settings difficult, women’s political agency, accountability, citizen experience of governance, civic space, international aid programme experience of accountability, and the A4EA experience of researching in difficult contexts.

Two research phases for the Action for Empowerment and Accountability (A4EA) research programme

The A4EA programme was structured in two research phases, with the second phase building on key themes and findings from phase 1.

With the emergence of the pandemic in 2021, A4EA pivoted some of its research to explore the implications of Covid-19 for accountability and claims making – particularly in light of shrinking civic space in many countries around the world.

Download our report sharing key findings from Phase 1, ‘Empowerment and Accountability in Difficult Settings: What Are We Learning‘ by John Gaventa and Katy Oswald. Watch the animation Empowerment and accountability in fragile, conflict and violence-affected settings which summarises its key findings.


View all A4EA publications 

A4EA consortium partners

A4EA was led by IDS and implemented by a consortium, including: the Accountability Research Center (USA), the Collective for Social Science Research (Pakistan), Fórum Mulher (Mozambique), the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (Pakistan), Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económicos (IESE) (Mozambique), Itad (UK), Kaleidoscopio (Mozambiqe), Oxfam GB (UK), the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (Kenya) and Spaces for Change (Nigeria).

More than 150 individuals contributed to the work of A4EA across our two research phases and five years of the programme. Some were involved for a short period, and others for the duration of our work. We gratefully acknowledge their contribution to our work, in particular those involved in field research (many of whom can’t be named for security reasons).

A4EA International Advisory Group

We are grateful to the following people for their time and advice over the years:

  • Evelina Dagnino – University of Campinas, S. Paulo, Brazil
  • Rosalind Eyben – IDS Emeritus
  • Anne-Marie Goetz – Center for Global Affairs, School of Professional Studies, New York University
  • Duncan Green, Oxfam/London School of Economics
  • Khawar Mumtaz, former Chair of the National Commission on the Status of Women, Pakistan
  • Jeff Thindwa, Global Partnership for Social Accountability, World Bank
  • Sonia Whitehead, BBC Media Action
  • Tessa MacArthur, Dennis Curry, Will Taylor; Department for International Development/Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

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Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid-19

The Navigating Civic Space in a Time of Covid project examined patterns of changing civic space and civic action in Mozambique, Nigeria and Pakistan during the first nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic. How did the pandemic affect already shrinking civic space, particularly for activists and...

Recent work

Working Paper

Trust and Compliance with Covid-19 Measures among Nigerian Households

IDS Working Paper 595

This paper probes the relationship between sources of Covid-19 information and adherence to preventive measures in Nigeria, a context characterised by fake news, hate speech, and other forms of disinformation. While this relationship in Nigeria is relatively well studied, little discrete...

30 October 2023

Journal Article

Fuel Subsidy Protests in Nigeria: The Promise and Mirage of Empowerment

Attempts to abolish fuel subsidies by successive governments in Nigeria have provoked serious backlash in the form of protests and violence. What maybe said to be the use of such public protests? The literature draws attention to the link between fuel subsidies and protests, but it is still...

13 September 2023

Impact Story

Turning research into action, to bring progressive change for women

We live in uncertain times, with threats to progress on women’s rights and gender equality. To counter this, two collaborative research strands this year aimed to bring progressive change for women by highlighting the barriers that prevent them from realising their rights – and yielded...

6 September 2023

Journal Article

“If We Stayed at Home, Nothing Would Change”: Gendered Acts of Citizenship From Mozambique and Pakistan

This article investigates how women emerged as political subjects through protests in two post-colonial contexts: the Hazara women’s protests in Pakistan against ethno-sectarian killings and the Chiango women’s protests in Mozambique for road safety. Privileging the perspectives of two...

7 August 2023


Civic action in difficult settings: Taking a citizen-eye view

In early March, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute released its seventh annual democracy report. The report updated the now repeated and discouraging litanies from previous reports. Democracy is backsliding. Closed autocracies outnumber liberal democracies, for the first time in more...

15 March 2023