30, May, 2017

Strengthening oversight and transparency for better governance in Africa and Latin America

How do states hold themselves accountable? How effective are they in this task? This Learning Alliance explored how formal institutions, the capacities of these formal institutions, and informal institutions shape horizontal accountability. The Learning Alliance compared and contrasted experiences in Latin America and Africa, identifying ways to address shortfalls in accountability.

Participants of the Online Learning Alliance on Horizontal Accountability came from 39 different countries across 5 continents. Participants learned about and discussed actions directed at strengthening the capacity of legislative and executive bodies to exercise their horizontal accountability mandates – based on a comparison of Latin American and African experiences. Comparative analysis between the two regions, facilitated by the moderators, supported this inter-regional lesson learning.

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Key Conclusions:

  • Inter-regional comparisons were hard to develop due to differences in horizontal accountability mechanisms and institutional design, as well as information available on them. Despite these differences, horizontal accountability mechanisms are recognised as a key feature for liberal democracies in both Africa and Latin America. Unfortunately, in some cases these mechanisms are not used at all or they are underexploited.
  • Corruption, a lack of effective sanctions, interference by the executive branch and weak or recent institutionalisation were all mentioned as the main causes for existing deficits.
  • Independence was a key issue identified by representatives from both regions. Oversight bodies which are independent and elected by legislative bodies with clear mandates, powers and adequate resources, such as the one in Costa Rica, can be effective in supporting legislative bodies to exercise oversight.
  • Key recommendations for strengthening horizontal accountability include: raising awareness amongst civil society around their rights, strengthening legislative institutionalisation and strengthen legislative capacities.

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