|Transparent notification of fees on the main door of a rural church-run hospital in Western Province, Papua New Guinea.|
From participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil (pdf) to health clinic scorecards in Uganda social accountability mechanisms are a familiar feature of the development landscape across most regions of the world…so why not in the South-West Pacific?
One reason service delivery is poor in many Pacific states is that the same challenges that make it difficult to deliver services also make it difficult for officials to go out and account for them - dispersed populations; high transport costs; and a limited number of trained officials to supervise. This lack of oversight by government officials contributes to shoddy or non-existent services.
Can social accountability make up for some of the shortcomings in government accountability? Social accountability is the fostering of direct linkages between citizens and service providers. It can be thought of as working both prior to the delivery of a service (for example, residents meet with local government officials to set budgets so that spending aligns with community needs) as well as after a service has - or has not - been delivered (such as a complaints mechanism for residents to report police who fail to respond to calls for help).