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Evaluation of Citizens' Voice and Accountability

Enhancing citizen voice and accountability has increased in importance for donors since the 1990s. This paper reviews existing literature and the strategy and policy documents of seven DAC donors in order to contribute to the design of an evaluation framework to assess the effectiveness of these donors’ voice and accountability interventions.

Voice refers to the capacity to express views and interests and to the exercise of this capacity. For the purposes of this project, voice is about poor people expressing their views and interests in an effort to influence government priorities and governance processes.


Accountability exists when those who set and implement a society’s rules – politicians and public officials – are answerable to the people who live under those rules. In this review, our focus is on the relationship between the state and its citizens and the extent to which the state is accountable to its citizens.

Voice and accountability are separate but related concepts. In some contexts, voice can lead to greater accountability. In most contexts, a lack of voice will lead to a lack of accountability.

The landscape of and for voice and accountability is more complex than a simple model of accountability and its relationship to voice suggests. Rather, there are various levels and forms of accountability, and the formal rules of accountability can be in tension with informal rules. In recent years, complexity has increased with the proliferation of actors engaged in accountability struggles, and the emergence of new arenas or jurisdictions for such struggles. In short, voice and accountability are dynamic and complex rather than static and simple; actors play different roles differently, depending on the context.

Voice and accountability matter for development for two sets of reasons. First, powerlessness, voicelessness and a lack of accountability are constitutive of poverty. As such, enhancing voice and accountability leads in itself to a reduction in poverty. Second, voice and accountability can lead to other outcomes such as greater ownership and pro-poor policies which can lead to a reduction in poverty.

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Alan Hudson, Alison Evans, Bhavna Sharma, Tam O'Neil, Alina Rocha Menocal

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