Since the Bank adopted its Governance and Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2007, fundamental changes have swept the world. The implications of the 2008 financial crisis continue to play out, with fragile growth in most of the developed world. Beyond those numbers lies a broader set of social changes rooted in longstanding themes in political economy: What is the citizen‘s relationship with the state? How can integrity and accountability be better integrated into public life? How can the state better govern and regulate its affairs, including the governance of the private sector that drives jobs and growth?
The contours of a new social contract are emerging. Citizens are seeking a relationship with their government based on transparency, accountability, and participation. From revolutionary change in the Arab world, to powerful anti-corruption movements in India and Brazil, to the 'Occupy' movement in some western countries, a groundswell of citizens' movements signals frustration with a perceived inability of governments to handle increasingly complex global problems of poverty, joblessness, fiscal crises, and environmental vulnerability.
In many countries, the state is responding to, and in some cases leading, the move to greater openness, transparency, and citizen engagement. While some states are struggling to catch up with the legitimate aspirations of their citizens and enterprises, others are leading the transformation process.
What is Social Accountability?
Worldwide there is increasing recognition that citizen involvement is critical for enhancing democratic governance, improving service delivery, and fostering empowerment. Social accountability refers to the extent and capacity of citizens to hold the state and service providers accountable and make them responsive to needs of citizens and beneficiaries.
Social accountability encompasses initiatives that focus on citizens as the ultimate stakeholders and is based on the principles of transparency, accountability, and participation. Social accountability approaches and tools also strengthen the capacity of non-governmental organizations, the media, local communities, and the private sector to hold authorities accountable for better development results. Social accountability mechanisms can be initiated and supported by the state, citizens, or both, but very often they are demand-driven and operate from the bottom-up.