Held to Account

Putting democratic governance at the heart of development finance

Unaccountable government is a substantial obstacle to development. It prevents people from exercising their rights and accessing health care, education and the other essential services they need in order to work their way out of poverty. At best, poor governance leads to mismanagement of public funds; at worst to outright corruption.

The experiences of Sierra Leone and India in health reform show how citizen activism, combined with democratic reforms, can improve both service delivery and health outcomes. The key objective of development finance should be increased transparency, participation, and accountability, and aid donors should assist the efforts of community organizations to influence government and engage the public in demanding their rights.

Key recommendations

  • In order to have a wide and lasting impact on corruption, donors should support the embedding of democratic governance procedures within institutions, and the emergence of informed public opinion to hold decision makers to account;
  • Donors should increase the aid provided as budget support in order to improve domestic accountability processes and enhance the social contract between citizens and the state;
  • National governments and aid donors should acknowledge the crucial role of active citizenship in democratic governance, and should work toward an enabling environment for civil society organizations to foster participatory decision-making;
  • Donors should use their capacity as brokers to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders in developing countries to facilitate dialogue and alliance-building;
  • Donors should invest in strengthening judiciary and parliamentary bodies that provide checks and balances on executive power;
  • Donors should support improved data collection and public reporting systems, and incorporate this goal into the post-2015 development agenda.