Helena Bjuremalm
Alberto Fernández Gibaja
Jorge Valladares Molleda
Publication Date
Publication Date: 

2014-11-12 (English); translations publication dates varied, through to 2016-12-19

"A participatory approach is in fact as important as the assessment results....Assessment is a process of planning, analysis, reflection and, above all, action."

This guide's assessment methodology is designed to strengthen democratic accountability (meaning both social and political accountability) in service delivery in countries that are emerging or consolidated democracies. As democracy is ultimately about popular control over decision-making and political equality, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) has designed a methodology that allows for a broad and participatory assessment process based on local ownership. The framework is the most recent addition to International IDEA's family of citizen-led assessment frameworks, which also includes the State of Democracy Assessment Framework and the State of Local Democracy Assessment Framework.

International IDEA explains that citizens support democracy not only because it is a desirable end in itself, but also because they expect democracy to provide them with a better quality of socio-economic and political life. People expect their governments to deliver public services in an efficient manner that meets their needs and recognises their human rights. People expect to be able to raise their concerns and to be listened to. Governments that are accountable to voters or to representative and oversight bodies - such as a national assembly, political parties or a supreme audit institution - capable of imposing consequences on them are more likely to respond to citizens' demands than governments that are not. Research shows that countries with low levels of service delivery tend to have no provisions, or only very weak ones, for effective sanctions or rewards.

The assessment framework focuses on relationships linking individuals, their elected representatives, and the state, including at the local level, where public services are delivered - ideally in ways that fulfil the human rights of men, women, boys, and girls. The guide enables its users to assess the degree to which public service delivery is subject to democratic accountability checks and, based on that knowledge, identify areas of concrete action for improvement. It offers advice for action and proposes a methodology for in-country dialogue on reforms to close existing gaps in democratic accountability.

The lack of effective accountability in service delivery can also be explained by factors outside the influence of formal political institutions. A crucial aspect of the guide, therefore, is to help users examine how informal dynamics influence the delivery of services and systems of accountability. The guide helps to differentiate between cases in which a service provider chooses not to provide quality services and cases in which it is unable to do so. The former could be related to a lack of incentives or space to do the right thing, while the latter is a matter of capacity.

  • Chapter 1 describes the concept of democratic accountability in service delivery. It emphasises that democratic accountability encompasses the roles of both social and political actors as rights and claim holders. It explains services in terms of the policy process or how issues are placed on the political agenda, translated into policies, and practically implemented. It describes the criteria against which accountability relationships can be assessed.
  • Chapter 2 presents the methodological logic, scope, and characteristics of the assessment framework and how it can support the different groups of potential assessors.
  • Chapter 3 explains how to apply the assessment framework and how to develop recommendations for action. It guides readers through the process, describing the workflow and the roles and responsibilities of the drivers of the assessment: the initiators, the assessment team and the consultative group. It provides support to identify problems and the accountability relationships associated with them, as well as to analyse such relationships using assessment criteria based on democratic principles. Chapter 3 also provides suggestions to develop recommendations to improve accountability in the service. Next, it offers advice on how to validate and communicate those recommendations in order to achieve influence. (An example of a successful communication strategy (Democratic Audit UK [United Kingdom] and The Guardian) is provided, as is a discussion of why and how to engage with the media in promoting accountability.) Finally, Chapter 3 provides the drivers of the assessment with advice on how to use such outputs in facilitating reform-oriented dialogues.

At key junctures, checklists are provided to facilitate the understanding of workflows. Case studies outline the concrete problems of earlier accountability assessments in different countries and political settings. Assessors are encouraged to adopt their own approach to learning. This means testing and adapting the techniques and strategies provided here, and learning from experience. The assessment process is incremental, yet it allows flexible handling of the steps as the users of the guide make progress.

Examples of the guide's users might include: academic research institutions and think tanks; municipalities and other local government entities and associations; organisations representing the interests of service users; ombudsman offices; supreme audit institutions; political parties; parliamentary committees, local assemblies, and their staff; government agencies (at the national and local levels); social movements, interest groups, and other civil society organisations, such as trade unions; private-sector companies; and the media. Several of these actors could join forces to conduct an assessment. Joint assessments make efforts at reform more likely to succeed, provided that the political context is conducive to cooperation.


English, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, French, Kiswahili, Mongolian, Myanmar, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian

Number of Pages: 

91 (English), 91 (Arabic), 107 (Bahasa Indonesia), 107 (French), 100 (Kiswahili), 114 (Mongolian), 120 (Myanmar), 98 (Portuguese), 126 (Russian), 98 (Spanish), 114 (Ukrainian)


International IDEA website, November 9 2017. Image credit: © Alberto Ruggieri/Illustration Works/Corbis/TT Mediabyrån