Weapons of discontent? Sketching a research agenda on social accountability in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, by Ward Vloeberghs and Sylvia I. Bergh.

We are pleased to alert you to ISS working paper 671, entitled Weapons of discontent? Sketching a research agenda on social accountability in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, by Ward Vloeberghs and Sylvia I. Bergh.

Abstract                          

Put simply, accountability is about saying what you do and doing what you say. This paper explores the concept of social accountability (SA), which we understand here as any citizen-led action beyond elections that aims to enhance the accountability of state actors. We approach SA in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region from a perspective that blends development studies with comparative politics and Middle East studies. First, we trace the notion of accountability as a governance concept. Secondly, we discuss dominant theories on SA as a mechanism to improve public service delivery. Thirdly, we identify three main categories of social accountability initiatives (SAI’s) and summarize their respective strengths and weaknesses. We then observe how the scholarly literature on SA has largely bypassed the MENA region. We argue that this neglect is underserved and surprising, given the many initiatives that emerged across the region during the decade following the 2011 uprisings. In the final part of the paper, we propose three thematic axes that form a future research agenda which we hope is relevant for researchers based in the region as well as for (international, regional and national) policy makers and practitioners.

Keywords

Activism, advocacy, Arab world, authoritarianism, brokers, citizen engagement, civil society, clientelism, corruption, empowerment, MENA, participatory governance, service delivery, social accountability, state-society relations, transparency.

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