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Proxies of public interest: deficits of social accountability mechanisms in the Arab region

Dina Mohamed Wafa (School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 14 November 2016




Accountability is usually expressed along a horizontal and vertical dimension. The former is concerned with the system of checks and balances, while the latter focuses on periodical elections and systems of control (O’Donnell, 1999). Social accountability puts forward a complementary mechanism of ongoing participatory control that relies on its proxies of public interest, namely civil society, the media, and business sector, to raise public awareness, advocate, expose, and exert watchdog functions through social accountability mechanisms. The core social accountability mechanisms include: access to information, creating space for debate and voice, and negotiation for change (World Bank, 2006). The purpose of this paper is to examine the social accountability proxies for public interest efforts in the Arab region to analyze the efficacy of their mechanisms and their ability to access to information, advocate and negotiate, in addition to the challenges they perceive as facing citizen voice in their states.


Those surveyed were 206 members of civil society, media professionals, academia and business associations specialized in the fields of economic development, social development, economic reporting, governance and other related fields.


The findings show that the Arab states generally are characterized by political and socioeconomic factors; particularly their paternalistic nature tends to manifest an imbalance in the accountability cycle.


Increased access to information and in particular to budgets creates the basis for negotiation and social accountability, as the ability to take informed decisions will be enhanced. Thus making access to information a primary mechanism as it is also an empowering tool for advocacy and negotiation.



Wafa, D.M. (2016), "Proxies of public interest: deficits of social accountability mechanisms in the Arab region", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 301-316.



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