National Accountability Strategies for Developing Countries

January 2006 - The National Planning Department (NPD), Office of the President, Republic of Colombia, contacted the Academy seeking technical assistance in crafting a national accountability strategy for Colombia under President álvaro Uribe.

The Academy worked with NPD on the strategy being tested in Colombia as 2005. This paper is a review of the issues prepared for NPD. The first of the paper’s two sections outlines a conceptual framework for the development of an accountability initiative, including standards against which to test potential benefits and likely successes. The second section highlights and briefly assesses some of the more relevant recent international experiences in this area. The findings are relevant to governments around the world considering or implementing initiatives to become more accountable to their citizens.

Key Findings

Better information about public preferences may enable governments to make better decisions in the public interest. If so, it will increase the effectiveness of those governments, and, by doing so, increase their legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. Few of these initiatives have been formally evaluated for their effectiveness in promoting transparency, accountability, and performance. It is unclear what critical factors must be taken into account in designing and implementing initiatives. Most of the case studies of best practices are descriptive and sometimes used for promotional purposes. This should not deter policymakers from continuing to experiment with different citizen participation processes. Indeed, this is the only way to see what works. What should not be lost in looking at a catalog of innovative approaches is that there now appears to be widespread global agreement that new modes of citizen participation are desirable components of constitutionally based or traditional democratic institutions and ought to be explored and extended.