Promoting Accountability & Transparency

Afghan Shura
Afghan elders, under a USAID program, meet to share challenges and best practices in traditional dispute resolution and to collaborate on serious or long-term disputes.

Countries with high levels of corruption, or which lack effective rule of law or accountability in government are more susceptible to conflict and social unrest that than other developing countries. The persistence of corruption adversely impacts the delivery of health, education and other social benefits, and is a contributing factor to the persistence of poverty and other inequalities.

In its Corruption Perceptions Index issued in January 2017, Transparency International (TI) found that over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories surveyed scored below the midpoint of a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), with the global average score a mere 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country's public sector. Despite some recent successes in fighting corruption, in countries such as Brazil and Ukraine, as well as the exposure of illicit financial interests as brought out by the Panama papers, it is clear much more work is to be done.

The process of governing is most legitimate when it incorporates democratic principles such as transparency, pluralism, citizen involvement in decision-making, representation, and accountability. Civil society, the media, and the private sector, have roles and responsibilities in addition to those of the government.

Citizens lose confidence in a government that is unable to deliver basic services; therefore, the degree to which a government is able to carry out its functions at any level can often determine a country's ability to sustain democratic reforms and provide for the well-being of its citizens.

The rule of law is also an essential element of democracy. All of the following depend upon accountable governments, fair and accessible application of the law, and respect for international human-rights standards:

  • Free and fair political and justice systems
  • Protection of human rights
  • Vibrant civil society
  • Public confidence in the police and the courts
  • Security Sector Reform

In post-conflict settings, reestablishing the rule of law is the first step in the rebuilding process. Establishing peace and security and rebuilding justice institutions can help to develop the necessary climate for reconciliation, public confidence, and subsequent economic growth.

USAID’s objective in governance is to improve the relationship between civilians and state actors by directly linking those who are governed with those who are democratically elected to govern. USAID also works to support the rule of law by promoting legal and regulatory frameworks that improve order and security, legitimacy, checks and balances, and equal application and enforcement of the law.

In both areas, USAID provides technical leadership through research, training, and dissemination of best practices.

Governance programs include efforts to promote:

  • Anti-corruption Reform
  • Legislative Strengthening
  • Decentralization
  • Public Management and Policy Reform
  • Security Sector Reform

Rule of Law programs focus on three goals:

  1. Increasing Democratic Legal Authority
  2. Guaranteeing Rights and the Democratic Process
  3. Providing Justice as a Service