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CommGAP Launches "Accountability Through Public Opinion"

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP is delighted to announce the publication of its third edited volume, "Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action." The book is edited by CommGAP's Program Head Sina Odugbemi and Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Authors from development practice and academia discuss in 28 chapters how citizens can hold their governments accountable, and how genuine demand for accountability can be created.

The idea for the book was born at a CommGAP workshop in 2007 in Paris on "Generating Genuine Demand with Social Accountability Mechanisms." A few years later, we proudly present a compilation of essays that are relevant for current events in the Middle East and in North Africa as much as for any efforts to strengthen citizen's agency vis a vis their governments.

The motivation to publish this book came from observing a trend in international development: Development actors appear to delight in announcing their intention to “promote accountability”—but it is often unclear what accountability is and how it can be promoted. This book addresses some questions that are crucial to understanding accountability and for understanding why accountability is important to improve the effectiveness of development aid. We ask: What does it mean to make governments accountable to their citizens? How do you do that? How do you create genuine demand for accountability among citizens, how do you move citizens from inertia to public action? The main argument of this book is that accountability is a matter of public opinion. Governments will only be accountable if there are incentives for them to do so—and only an active and critical public will change the incentives of government officials to make them responsive to citizens’ demands. Accountability without public opinion is a technocratic, but not an effective solution.

In this book, more than 30 accountability practitioners and thinkers discuss the concept and its structural conditions; the relationship between accountability, information, and the media; the role of deliberation to promote accountability; and mechanisms and tools to mobilize public opinion. A number of case studies from around the world illustrate the main argument of the book: Public opinion matters and an active and critical public is the surest means to achieve accountability that will benefit the citizens in developing countries.

The book is designed for policy-makers and governance specialists working within the international development community, national governments, grassroots organizations, activists, and scholars engaged in understanding the interaction between accountability and public opinion and their role for increasing the impact of international development interventions.

We will be publishing a policy brief based on the book shortly. The book is available as widget online. You can also order it online at the World Bank Infoshop or on Amazon.

CommGAP and Taeku Lee hope that you will find our new book instructive, relevant, and just a little bit entertaining. We hope that you will find valuable ideas in those some 500 pages that will help your work to empower citizens and to create genuine demand for accountability.

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