Legal empowerment and social accountability

Hello, i have a problem with these two concepts: LE and SA cause i think that each strategy have some elements of the other. example social accountability contains some elements of legal empowerment and vice versa. But i have read a text of @vivekmaru on: allies unknown: social accountability and legal epowerment in wich he affirms that “Law is strikingly absent in the social accountability literature”. I am not agree, i think that law is present in social accountability litterature.


@ismailasall thanks for your response. will be wonderful if you can point me to some writings where law is mentioned in social accountability literature. will make great reading. @staceycram @vivekmaru

Hello Kanchikohli, there are two legal basis on wich rest social accountability mechanisms: the state obligations on the one hand and the citizens rights on the other. concerning the state obligations, it means that state has constititional and international obligation to respond to citizens. Both the international convenant on economic, social and cultural rights and international convenant on civil and political rights obligate state to take steps in order to allow the full realisation of all human rights. When there is widespread corruption, it means that state has not taken the necessary steps to eliminate corruption. The United Nations convention against corruption likewise obligate state to take preventives measures and to criminalise all forms of corruption. there are too some constitutional provisions which can be used by citizen to obligate state to account. example the good governance agenda and state control are now integrated in many constitutions. On the rights of citizens, there are many rights which can be used by citizen as à preventive tool to fight corruption. Thoses rights allows social accountability mechanisms to be pursued. The right to participate is an important element for citizens during social accountability activities. The right to information, is also used in india to strenghten social accountability initiatives. there are others rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly which are determinant tools used in social accountability activities. State can’t deny to citizens their rights to know and to control its actions when they want social accountability. The United Nations Development program has recognized the importance of law in social accountability. In his document “FOSTERING SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY. A GUIDANCE NOTE” (SEPTEMBER 2010 – PAGE 10) the importance of law is mentionned:

**It is important to emphasize that social accountability is the operationalization of a number of key principles which are at the heart of both democratic governance and a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to development. States are legally responsible for commitments they have made under international human rights treaties and their own national legislation. Rights-holders are entitled to hold them to account for these obligations and can use a wide array of formal and informal measures do so. Formal measures include legal mechanisms, such as the use of courts and international treaty bodies". AND FINALLY i have perhaps made some english mistake because i speak french. sorry for that. ".

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Thanks for your very interesting and valuable contribution!

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Thank you for that information.

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thank you @ismailasall for this explanation. @vivekmaru would love to hear your thoughts on this to understand what you meant better.

And…the english was great!


@kanchikohli below are a few of the other places where @vivekmaru has discussed the links between the law and social accountability.

  • World Bank Blog touches on accountability & grievance redress
  • OpEd on bribery & FCPA
  • Evidence review: P18 - legal literacy & education outcomes P19 - accountability/bribery examples P21 - legal literacy & healthcare integration P32/33 - impacts on institutional practice

This piece covers the integration of access to justice into social accountability programming Rethinking social accountability in Africa Do you know of any other good resources - @vivekmaru @abigailmoy?


@staceycram thank you for your contribution theses documents will be of a good help for me because l need everything about LEP to write my doctorate


World Bank also recognizes the importance of law in social accountability:

“The concept of social accountability underlines both the right and the corresponding responsibility of citizens to expect and ensure that government acts in the best interests of the people. The obligation of government officials to be accountable to citizens derives from notions of citizens’ rights, often enshrined in constitutions, and the broader set of human rights. Social accountability initiatives help citizens understand their civic rights and play a proactive and responsible role in exercising those rights.”

Source: World Bank, Sourcebook on “Social Accountability: Strengthening the Demand Side of Governance and Service Delivery”,chapter 2, Social Accountability: What Does It Mean for the World Bank?


“Social accountability is closely related to a rights-based approaches to development. The obligation of government officials to be accountable to citizens derives from notions of citizen’s and information rights, often enshrined in constitutions, and the broader set of human rights. Social accountability offers mechanisms to monitor and protect these rights.21 The concept of social accountability underlines the right of citizens to expect and ensure that government acts in the best interests of the people.”

Carmen Malena, with, Reiner Forster and Janmejay Singh, Goverement Accountable: A perspective from the World Bank on the concept and emerging practice of “social accountability”, Social Development Paper No. 76. 2004.

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Thanks for sharing these quotes from World Bank publications, @ismailasall. To focus the discussion, can you tell us why you are drawn to these quotes and what you find interesting or useful about them?

Also, I know from your bio that you are a Senegalese student in France working on a PhD on the theme of legal empowerment and rule of law. It would be useful for fellow network members to hear some more about your research question, how you hope your research will help them as practitioners, and ways you are hoping they can help you.

Feel free to write in French if you prefer - the site will translate for us automatically.


Merci @tobiaseigen, en effet, je m’intéresse à ces questions car je cherche, dans ma thèse, à démontrer que le legal empowerment peut contribuer à la consolidation des institutions. Pour cela, je dois démontrer que le Legal Empowerment, peut renforcer les institutions démocratiques par deux moyens. le premier moyen c’est l’éducation à la citoyenneté démocratique des citoyens qui leur permet de se mobiliser et demander des changements afin de pousser les autorités à être effectif. Le second moyens c’est à travers la lutte contre la corruption. Quand les citoyens luttent contre la corruption, ils peuvent utiliser le Legal empowerment ou le Social accountability. Je voudrais savoir la véritable différence entre les deux concepts. Mais je me suis rendu compte que leurs différences sont floues. Au début je pensais que la loi était présente seulement dans le Legal empowerment, mais je me suis rendu compte que la loi est aussi utilisée dans le Social accountability. Je cherche donc dans mes recherches à identifier les véritables différences entre les deux afin de montrer comment chaque élément peut aider à renforcer l’autre.

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Great to see this thread and sorry @ismailasall, @staceycram, @kanchikohli for being so slow to chime in.

I agree that the rights social accountability efforts aim to claim are often enshrined in law. From what I’ve seen though, the methods that go by the name social accountability focus primarily on information dissemination and local political pressure rather than engaging legal and administrative channels of authority.

I suggested in that essay that there would be power in bringing together legal empowerment and social accountability methods in pursuit of more fair, more effective public services. Namati’s work on the right to health in Mozambique is an attempt to do so; another awesome group combining social accountability and legal empowerment is Nazdeek, which won the legal empowerment award last year.

I would love to hear from other network members about their experience combining legal empowerment and social accountability methods, and their thoughts on the essay Ismail mentioned.


Thant you @vivekmaru for your explaination. About the combinaison of legal empowerment and social accountability, i have found your conception very interesting, i even adhere to your opinion that they ought to learn from one another. The combinaison of theses two concepts is an effective way to correct the limitations of each strategy. My only problem was the absence of law in social accountability, but now i agree, as you mentionned, that “social accountability focus primarily on information dissemination and local political pressure”. This means, for me that law is a foundation for citizen claim in social accountability, but but information dissemination and poltical pressure are the main methods used during the implementation. .


Legal empowerment is the process of empowering communities with knowledge about how they can protect and enforce their rights, how they can observe their responsibilities and how the authorities should respect the citizens rights. Social accountability is all about the decisions and actions of the authorities being in line with their legal and moral duty to uphold citizens rights. The two concepts therefore meet at the point where authorities are required by both law and morality to respect and uphold citizens’ rights.

Legal empowerment is more of educating the citizenry about their rights and duties, whereas social accountability is a duty cast upon the state to uphold thier rights. The two concepts are therefore different. For example, teaching the citizens about their rights upon arrest by the police is legal empowerment. Expecting the state authority called Police to avoid overdetention and harrrassment after arresting a citizen is social accountability steeped in law. You will not be empowering the Police by seeking to restrain their powers. You will be calling upon them to be accountable.