Research by Hamish NixonAnne BuffardiJoseph Wales and Tiina Pasanen for ODI.

Supporting accountability in fragile settings: a review for the Somalia Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability Programme

Accountability is often credited as playing a crucial role in establishing and maintaining legitimacy between citizens and states, contributing to more responsive allocation of public resources, reducing corruption, and improving the quality of public goods and services. Despite this potential, the evidence on how to effectively promote stronger accountability relationships and improved governance and development outcomes is limited. Moreover, accountability challenges can be particularly acute in fragile and conflict-affected states.

This report provides a problem-focused synthesis of evidence for the DFID-funded Implementation and Analysis in Action of Accountability Programme (IAAAP). It also offers a review of factors that influence the use of evidence to inform development policy and practice, and on flexible and adaptive programming. Assembling evidence and using adaptation to respond to it are two pathways through which IAAAP aims to enhance the ability of citizens in Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland to hold governance institutions to account.

These studies highlight that effective accountability programming in fragile settings often takes place across state-civil society boundaries, at a local level, and in an
inclusive and collaborative rather than confrontational way. Programmes also need to consider informal power relations and the role of non-state actors, who often have considerable power and legitimacy in such settings. Issues of Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) are frequently not given enough focus, both in  accountability interventions or the research surrounding them. This has resulted in a considerable evidence gap. Major barriers to improving accountability to women and marginalised groups include the availability and relevance of evidence to these groups, and the tendency of actors to reinforce existing power relations. Women also face a particular risk of backlash for challenging social norms and seeking to hold men to account.

Overcoming these barriers to inclusion requires collective action, building alliances and working in politically and socially smart ways to engage with whole communities, including men, boys and those in positions of authority. The creation of new platforms for engagement, the use of participatory approaches and  working with civil society groups can be useful approaches to engaging marginalised groups.

However, there are no guarantees that these will be inclusive spaces and women, in particular, need support to encourage engagement. In addition to lessons from previous accountability and inclusion initiatives, IAAAP can learn from the growing body of evidence on individual, interpersonal, organisational, institutional and external factors which facilitate or discourage the use of evidence. While evidence has the potential to inform practice and policy-making, the ideal of evidence-based policy is more often absent than present. Evidence itself is not neutral, and its production is itself a political process.

Read the complete report here. Photo: Frank Keillor (CC BY-NC 2.0)