Pathways to Accountability Bargains (part of the A4EA research programme)

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.

Women from Rawalpindi queued for their chance to have a say in Pakistan's 2013 elections. Credit: Rachel Clayton/DFID
Women from Rawalpindi queued for their chance to have a say in Pakistan’s 2013 elections. Credit: Rachel Clayton/DFID

The programme incorporates 15 international research projects, managed by its seven consortium partners, which have been organised under four themes:

  1. Meanings and Expressions
  2. Pathways to Accountability Bargains
  3. Women’s Social and Political Action
  4. Role of External Actors

The Pathways to Accountability Bargains theme is concerned with the one core question:

How can stable and inclusive political settlements (among elites) and a just social contract (between elites and different social groups) emerge that are based on accountable and responsive institutions?

Theme convenors:

There are four projects under this theme.

1. Commissions of inquiry, institutions and violence accountability in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

In response to these recurring episodes of inter-communal violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, multiple commissions of inquiry (CoI) were established with the task of creating institutionalised mechanisms for accountability in this region. However, successive CoIs have been characterised by the failure to deliver meaningful policy change, reduce violence, or enhance accountability.

About the research project

Aside for the human rights implications, CoIs provide a valuable opportunity to understand and explore potentially divergent meanings, interpretations and operationalisations of accountability; as well as the blockages in pathways to accountability for violence.

This project attempts to understand why social and political action has failed to lead to institutional accountability in the context of the CoI which had been established to respond to inter-communal rioting and violence in Nigeria’s middle belt urban areas.

It’s specifically interested in:

  • What does accountability mean to different groups and communities in such contexts?
  • What are the expectations of the communities affected by violence?
  • Why have the commissions failed to deliver and what factors limit social and political action in demanding accountability?

Research team:


Marjoke Oosterom

University of Jos

Dung Pam Sha

2. The Sound of One Hand Clapping: holding economics actors to account

In Mozambique and much of Africa, information on the extractive industry is a closely guarded secret. In 2012, Mozambique was admitted to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) which believes transparency of revenues will help civil society hold both the industries and the government to account but is this information is enough?

It seems that, in Mozambique at least despite extensive efforts organisations such as O Centro de Integridade Pública de Moçambique (CIP), multi-stakeholder participation and information disclosure on the extractive industry has not led empowered citizens, civil society organisations and state institutions to demand improved accountability from government.

About the research project

This project aims to understand why information disclosure has not been enough to trigger informed social and political action and what additional interventions would be needed from both endogenous and external actors to improve accountability in the country.

It examines how information interacts with other factors to encourage social and political action for accountability, and the study is particularly interested in understanding in fragility, conflict and violence-affected settings (FCVAS) what are the key determinants (blockages and enabling factors) of citizens’ actions based on information disclosure

Research team

Independent (formerly at PASGR)

Nicholas Awortwi

Centro de Integridade Pública de Moçambique (CIP)

Adriano Nuvunga

Fátima Fernandes Mimbire

Sheila Songane

With John Agbonfo (Osun State University) writing a Nigeria case study, Charlie Hughes (Consultant) writing a Sierra Leone case study, and Jonathan Fox, (ARC) as adviser on the project.

3. Exercising Her Right to Vote: experimental evidence on civic and political action as pathways for women’s political empowerment

In Pakistan, the gender gap in electoral participation, particularly in fragile and conflict affected areas, continues to be a significant challenge.

About the research project

This project will ask how social and political norms and other barriers interact with political incentives to constrain political participation by women. It will explore whether, and to what extent, action by civic and political organisations might help tackle these barriers.

The research will be carried out through a mixed methods approach, using both a quantitative analysis of surveys and a randomised control trial experiment around interventions designed and implemented by civil society actors prior to the elections in 2018.

Research team:

Columbia University

Sarah Khan  

Harvard University

Asad Liaqat

Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives (IDEAS)

Ali Cheema

Anam Kuraishi

Sherazam Tiwana


Shandana Khan Mohmand

Watch the video:

In this 8min explainer video, Ali Cheema (IDEAS) discusses the political economy of women voters in Pakistan in the context of rising urbanisation and a growing middle class.

4. Social contract and accountability bargains in Myanmar

With a long history of military rule, understanding how the severed relationship between states and citizens can be rebuilt remains one of the key challenges in Myanmar. Oxfam GB is in the initial stages of an EU-funded social accountability project in conflict affected areas of the country.

About the research project

This project will attempt to deliver operationally relevant findings that speak to the needs, opportunities and challenges of external actors, such as aid donors, engaging in empowerment and accountability related work. The research will test politically grounded, adaptive and evidence driven approaches to empowerment and accountability programming, by completing traditional research through surveys and qualitative methods, with accompanied research on the Oxfam-led programme.

Research team:

Oxfam Myanmar

Amy Croome

Jane Lonsdale

Katrina Barnes

Aung Myo Min

Oxfam GB

Jo Rowlands

Irene Guijt

Images: women in Pakistan waiting to vote, in 2013. Credit: UK Department of International Development (DFID) – CC BY 2.0


Image of Ali Cheema
Ali Cheema

CERP and LUMS, Pakistan

Image of Anuradha Joshi
Anuradha Joshi

Research Fellow

Image of Jonathan Fox
Jonathan Fox

Honorary Associate

Image of Marjoke Oosterom
Marjoke Oosterom

Research Fellow

Image of Shandana Khan Mohmand
Shandana Khan Mohmand

Cluster leader and Research Fellow

Recent work

Working Paper

Invisible Citizens: Why More Women in Pakistan Do Not Vote

IDS Working Paper;524

Why does a gender gap in voting exist in Pakistan? Our research looks beyond the creation of democratic spaces for women's participation, such as voter registration, to look instead at the constraints that women face in being able to use such spaces. This paper uses qualitative fieldwork...

Image of Ali Cheema
Ali Cheema & 3 others

20 February 2019


Can transparency make extractive industries more accountable?

Over the last two decades great strides have been made in terms of holding extractive industries accountable.  As demonstrated at the Global Assembly of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), which I attended recently in Dakar, Senegal, more information than ever about revenue flows to governments from...

8 February 2019

Working Paper

Sound of One Hand Clapping: Information Disclosure for Social and Political Action for Accountability in Extractive Governance in Mozambique

IDS Working Paper;523

Corruption through opaque public contracts costs Africa billions of dollars in revenue loss annually. Globally, initiatives to address this have centred on information disclosure (ID) but under what conditions does it work to promote accountability in the extractive sector that for a long time...

28 January 2019