Working Paper

Accountability at the Local Level in Fragile Contexts: Nepal Case Study

Published on 18 April 2013

This paper presents the Nepal case study from a research project on accountability carried out in three countries. The research project aimed at identifying practices and factors contributing to the success of accountability initiatives in fragile contexts In the case of Nepal, the research focused on the relationship between the state and its citizens and on the accountability mechanisms operating on the supply side and demand side of that relationship. This relationship was observed in the framework of a trail bridge project implemented with a community approach and including the Public Audit Practice, an accountability tool developed in Nepal by Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation.

This paper argues that the public meetings held in the framework of the Public Audit Practice, as well as the trail bridge user committee, represent participatory spaces that are created by the project organisation but whose boundaries and internal functioning are shaped by (in part pre-existing) power relations. Furthermore, the active engagement of villagers in these spaces can represent an opportunity for ’empowerment’, mostly in the form of the building of a network of useful contacts within and outside the community. However, in a context of polarised power structures and discriminatory social and cultural traditions, the meaningful participation of traditionally disadvantaged groups is limited.

The findings also suggest that, in this context, accountability, and in particular the information-sharing process, assumes rather informal forms. This has to be considered in the planning of interventions so that the positive potential can be exploited and the risk of exclusion inherent to informal practices can be reduced.

Finally, the paper argues that it is the space of the user committee that represents an accountability tool, while the space of the Public Audit Practice is more a symbolic one that can be used to build trust in, and legitimacy of, the actors involved.

Publication details

published by
Cima, O.
IDS Working Paper, issue 421
978 1 78118 112 6


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