Journal Article

Democratic Accountability and Service Delivery

Published on 31 January 2013

This paper seeks to identify and document how different modalities of democratic accountability are linked to improved service delivery in developing democracies. The work extends an agenda proposed by International IDEA’s Democracy and Development programme to better understand the workings of accountability mechanisms. This paper addresses a double democratic challenge: to strengthen formal and legal mechanisms that allow citizens to articulate and voice their policy concerns, and to encourage elected and non-elected representatives to effectively respond to the provision of public services.

The first part of the paper explores the concept of democratic accountability, and discusses the different approaches identified in the existing literature, including social and political accountability approaches. It also discusses the roles of different agents and multiple political arenas. The paper outlines four ideal dimensions to evaluating the effectiveness of accountability relations: standards, answerability, responsiveness and enforceability. In each of these dimensions, we are interested in identifying the main agents of accountability, their incentives to be accountable, the existence of formal and informal provisions to enable accountability and the presence of sanctions to enforce accountability.

The second, empirical, part of the report offers a detailed review of 16 case studies in which citizens or politicians have held government officials accountable for the delivery of public services. These cases are analysed according to the proposed four dimensions of democratic accountability. Based on these evaluations, the paper highlights key accountability dimensions that contribute to improved delivery of government services. The paper also puts forward some policy recommendations to advance democracy support.


Anuradha Joshi

Research Fellow

Publication details

Mejía Acosta, A., Joshi, A., and Ramshaw, G.
International IDEA Discussion Paper


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