By Joseph Siegle, Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Presented at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, “Power, Principles, and Participation in the Global Information Age - March 2012
A growing body of multidisciplinary research is reinforcing the understanding that institutions of accountability are instrumental to achieving sustained development and stability. However, the starting point for many contexts of limited statehood – autocratic legacies, low social capital, and cultures of impunity – indicates that these societies are poorly positioned for progress. This paper examines the processes and types of accountability structures that have emerged in selected contexts of limited statehood. It does so by presenting a conceptual framework of key state-based and non-stated based mechanisms of public accountability. This recognizes that in many contexts of limited statehood, such checks and balances must be directed at the executive branch, which historically has monopolized power and defied oversight. Case studies of the experiences of Somaliland and Liberia highlight the importance of non-state mechanisms of accountability – often traditional authorities – in the early stages of a reform movement or political transition. Media, information and communication technology, civil society groups, and external actors also play critical early roles in enhancing accountability and shaping political will. Noteworthy progress has also been realized with state-based mechanisms of accountability, however, these institutionalized processes generally take longer to become established. Unless other societally-based accountability measures can be mobilized in the interim, the momentum for reform is difficult to sustain.