“Social accountability is a bridge for building relations between citizens and the state. It is the connecting force between the supply side of governance and the demand side of citizens, and requires special attention for its continued strength and functioning,” stated Professor John Gaventa (Institute for Development Studies, University of Sussex) at the GPSA Global Partners Forum 2016. The “bridge” metaphor summed up a number of discussions throughout the two intensive days of the Forum. 

The third GPSA Global Partners Forum took place on May 19th and 20th, in Washington, DC at the World Bank Headquarters. The Forum convened over 300 participants – an increase of nearly a third over last year’s event – Global Partners of the GPSA, including CSOs, academia, business, public and private donors, as well as 35 developing country government representatives and World Bank staff. A similar number of participants joined the Forum virtually through the live video stream.

The central theme of the Forum, “Social Accountability for Development Impact” was unpacked in workshop rounds and plenary sessions discussing three emerging trends in the field: 1) constructive engagement and co-creation; 2) learning for adaptive management; and 3) building inclusive institutions. The Forum hosted 13 plenaries and panels, 24 simultaneous workshops, and a parallel Government Gathering and Networking Fair.

In his opening video address, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim highlighted recent achievements made by GPSA grantees through effective social accountability mechanisms. For example, in Indonesia, NGO Wahana Visi has helped communities improve health services for mothers, newborns and children because of communities’ enhanced feedback to and dialogue with local authorities. “Continuing this work will be important,” underlined Junaid Ahmad, President Kim’s Chief of Staff, announcing the Bank’s renewed financial commitment to the GPSA.  

In his Keynote Address, Tom Carothers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) touched upon social accountability’s historic progress towards becoming an increasingly strategic and indispensable component of effective development. “Accountability is the driving idea in 21st century development; whether and how the development field proves able to make a meaningful contribution to accountability is central to whether the development field will stay relevant in the decades ahead,” he said.

A high-level Government Gathering offered a space for dialogue among government officials on how to respond to citizens’ feedback and acquire the skills of constructive engagement, while nurturing champions within government ranks. A follow-up meeting is being planned in order to continue to build government commitment and knowledge for informed collaboration with civil society to improve development results.

At the vibrant Networking Reception, 51 Global Partner organizations showcased their social accountability work. This celebration of diverse approaches to social accountability was co-hosted by the GPSA and the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and opened by its new CEO, Sanjay Pradhan and Debbie Wetzel, incoming Senior Director of the Bank's Global Governance Practice. Participants connected with colleagues from around the world, exchanging best practices and bringing together new perspectives and ideas.

In its third edition, the GPSA Global Partners Forum achieved its aim of becoming a prime catalyst in the field of transparency and accountability worldwide. Among a number of takeaways and insights is the awareness that the field is making a shift to a new “strategic” generation of social accountability interventions. Most Forum sessions were created with Partners support, across themes in which the GPSA has been playing or intends to play a prominent role. Exploring accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals, operating in fragile states, among others, were discussions in which Partners were invited to provide input in order to participate in shaping the future directions of the GPSA. Various sessions showcased GPSA Grantees, new GPSA partnerships, and areas of collaboration with other Bank units such as Water, Health, Extractives, and Education.

Debbie Wetzel reminded the audience of the historical context that led to the creation of the GPSA – the pivotal point in time represented by the Arab Spring – and reiterated the Bank’s full commitment to the GPSA and to the accountability agenda. Jan Walliser, Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance & Institutions, closed the Forum emphasizing the role that civil society organizations play in re-building trust between citizens and governments, a role which the Bank is keen to support.

Going forward, the GPSA will continue to build on the momentum generated from the Forum, continuing the exchanges through other means, including the “Brown Bag Lunch” series, blogging and diverse activities on the GPSA Knowledge Platform.

The photos from the Forum are available here. The new GPSA short video introduced at the Forum is here.