Social protection has the potential to provide a key interface between states and citizens. We consider how the institutional framing and design of social protection can be adapted from top-down forms of provision to forms that stimulate vulnerable citizens to make rights-based claims and demand accountability for their entitlements. A conceptual framework is developed that illustrates three channels through which citizenship can be engaged through social accountability mechanisms and in the context of social protection provision. Drawing on case studies, we highlight the different contexts in which the design and delivery of social protection can open up spaces for different forms of citizenship engagement and expression. Through opening up institutional spaces where citizens can engage with the state, and each other, we conclude that social protection is uniquely placed to build the economic, social and political capabilities of citizens.
La protection sociale a le potentiel de constituer une interface essentielle entre les États et les citoyens. Nous examinons comment la façon dont la protection sociale est présentée et conçue au niveau institutionnel peut passer d’une approche descendante à une approche qui pousse les citoyens vulnérables à faire des demandes fondées sur leurs droits et à demander des comptes pour la protection de leurs acquis. Un cadre conceptuel est développé; il illustre trois canaux par lesquels la citoyenneté peut être engagée, par le biais de mécanismes de redevabilité sociale et dans le contexte de la fourniture d’une protection sociale. En nous appuyant sur des études de cas, nous mettons en évidence les différents contextes dans lesquels la conception et la mise en œuvre de la protection sociale peuvent ouvrir des espaces pour différentes formes d’engagement citoyen et d’expression de la citoyenneté. En ouvrant des espaces institutionnels où les citoyens peuvent interagir avec l’État, nous concluons que la protection sociale est particulièrement bien placée pour renforcer les capacités économiques, sociales et politiques des citoyens.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
As Hickey (2011) argues, there are different types of social contract that lead to different forms of social protection. The social contract emerging in our framework is mostly related to the social and right-based approach to contractualism, which ‘is better suited to a progressive politics of social protection in Africa, involving a fuller recognition of the rights of citizens and supporting a much-needed stronger role for the state’ (Hickey 2011, p. 435).
A recent review found that grievance mechanisms in social protection programmes are generally underused and/or underperforming (Barca et al. 2012). Another review argued that grievance mechanisms alone may not be best suited for social protection programmes and should therefore be complemented with other individual and collective social accountability mechanisms (Ayliffe et al. 2017).
These are made up of traditional leaders, district assembly members, representatives of teachers and nurses, religious leaders and NGO representatives.
In 1988 in Brazil, the ‘Citizens’ Constitution’ heralded in a new era of political freedoms and social entitlements after constitutional rights were suspended twice when authoritarian military governments seized power. Since 2003, India has manifested a series of landmark national acts that legislate for strong rights to new civic entitlements, including the 2005 Right to Information Act 1, the 2011 Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and the most recent National Food Security Bill 2012. Despite a shrinking civic space in both countries, the dialogue between citizens and the state has historically been strong.
Abdulai, A.-G. 2018. Rethinking elite commitment to cash transfers in Ghana: A political settlement analysis. ESID Working Paper, University of Manchester.
Adato, Michelle, and John Hoddinott. 2010. Conditional cash transfers in Latin America. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
Attah, R., V. Barca, A. Kardan, I. MacAuslan, F. Merttens, and L. Pellerano. 2016. Can social protection affect psychosocial wellbeing and why does this matter? Lessons from cash transfers in sub-Saharan Africa. The Journal of Development Studies 52 (8): 1115–1131.
Ayliffe, T., R. Schjødt, and G. Aslam. 2017. Social accountability in the delivery of social protection. Orpington: Development Pathways.
Balibar, É. 2002. Politics and the other scene. London: Verso.
Banerjee, A., E. Duflo, N. Goldberg, D. Karlan, R. Osei, W. Parienté, J. Shapiro, B. Thuysbaert, and C. Udry. 2015. A multifaceted program causes lasting progress for the very poor: Evidence from six countries. Science 348: 1–16.
Barca, V., S. Notosusanto, and B. Emmett. 2012. Review of, and recommendations for, grievance mechanisms for social protection programmes. Oxford: Oxford Policy Management.
Barrientos, A. 2013. The rise of social assistance in Brazil. Development and Change 44 (4): 887–910.
Barrientos, A., and D. Hulme. 2008. Social protection for the poor and poorest: Concepts, policies and politics. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.
Bastagli, F., J. Hagen-Zanker, L. Harman, V. Barca, G. Sturge, T. Schmidt, and L. Pellerano. 2016. Cash transfers: What does the evidence say? A rigorous review of programme impact and the role of design and implementation features. London: Overseas Development Institute.
Burton, P., and S. Duncan. 1996. Democracy and accountability in public bodies: New agendas in British governance. Policy & Politics 24 (1): 5–16.
Chatterjee, P. 2004. The politics of the governed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Cornwall, A., and J. Gaventa. 2001. From users and choosers to makers and shapers: Repositioning participation in social policy. Sussex: Institute of Development Studies.
Cornwall, A., J. Romano, and A. Shankland. 2008. Brazilian experiences of participation and citizenship: A critical look. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.
Davis, B., M. Gaarder, S. Handa, and J. Yablonski. 2012. Evaluating the impact of cash transfer programmes in sub-Saharan Africa: An introduction to the special issue. Journal of Development Effectiveness 4 (1): 1–8.
Davis, B., S. Handa, N. Hypher, N.W. Rossi, P. Winters, and J. Yablonski (eds.). 2016. From evidence to action: The story of cash transfers and impact evaluation in sub Saharan Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Devereux, S. 2013. Trajectories of social protection in Africa. Development Southern Africa 30 (1): 13–23.
Drèze, J. 2011. Employment guarantee and the right to work. In The battle for employment guarantee, ed. R. Khera. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Ehmke, E. 2015. National experiences in building social protection floors: India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Geneva: International Labour Organization.
Evans, D., B. Holtemeyer, and K. Kosec. 2018. Cash transfers increase trust in local government. World Development 114: 138–155.
Ezer, T., R. McKenna, and M. Schaaf. 2015. Expert meeting on social accountability and legal empowerment: Allied approaches in the struggle for health rights. New York: Open Society Foundations.
Ferguson, J. 2015. Give a man a fish: Reflections on the new politics of distribution. Durham: Duke University Press.
Freeland, Nicholas. 2007. Superfluous, pernicious, atrocious and abominable? The case against conditional cash transfers. IDS Bulletin 38 (3): 75.
Gaventa, J. 2006. Finding the spaces for change: A power analysis. IDS Bulletin 37 (6): 23–33.
Grandvoinnet, H., G. Aslam, and S. Raha. 2015. Opening the black box: The contextual drivers of social accountability. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Government of Ghana. 2007. Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Social Grants Pilot Implementation Design, vol. 1. Accra: Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare.
Heller, P. 2012. Democracy, participatory politics and development: Some comparative lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa. Polity 44 (4): 643–665.
Hickey, S. 2011. The politics of social protection: What do we get from a ‘social contract’ approach? Canadian Journal of Development Studies 32 (4): 426–438.
Hickey, S., and S. King. 2016. Understanding social accountability: Politics, power and building new social contracts. The Journal of Development Studies 52 (8): 1225–1240.
Houtzager, P.P., and A.K. Acharya. 2011. Associations, active citizenship, and the quality of democracy in Brazil and Mexico. Theory and Society 40 (1): 1–36.
Jenkins, R., and J. Manor. 2017. Politics and the right to work: India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jones, N., W. Ahadzie, and D. Doh. 2009. Social protection and children: Opportunities and challenges in Ghana. Accra: UNICEF.
Joshi, A. 2008. On social accountability: An issues paper, background paper for the social accountability flagship study. Washington, DC: Social Development Department, The World Bank.
King, S., and S. Hickey. 2017. Building democracy from below: Lessons from Western Uganda. The Journal of Development Studies 53 (10): 1584–1599.
Kheera, R. 2011. The battle for employment guarantee. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kruks-Wisner, Gabrielle. 2018. The pursuit of social welfare: Citizen claim-making in rural India. World Politics 70 (1): 122–163.
Lister, R. 2007. Inclusive citizenship: Realizing the potential. Citizenship Studies 11 (1): 49–61.
Lustig, Nora, Luis F. Lopez-Calva, and Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez. 2013. Declining inequality in Latin America in the 2000s: The cases of Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. World Development 44: 129–141.
Maiorano, D. 2014. The politics of the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee act in Andhra Pradesh. World Development 58: 95–105.
Malena, C., R. Forster, and J. Singh. 2004. Social accountability: An introduction to the concept and emerging practice. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Mamdani, M. 1996. Citizen and subject: Contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism. Princeton: University of Princeton Press.
Mann, N., and V. Pande. 2012. MGNREGA Sameeksha: An anthology of research studies on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 2006–2012. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan Private Limited.
Marshall, T.H. 1950. Citizenship and social class. London: Cambridge University Press.
Molyneux, M. 2007. Refiguring citizenship: Research perspectives on gender justice in the Latin American and Caribbean Region. Gender justice, citizenship, and development. Ottawa: IDRC.
Ministry of Employment & Social Welfare. 2012. Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP): Operations manual. Accra: Ministry of Employment & Social Welfare.
Munro, L.T. 2008. Risks, needs and rights: Compatible or contradictory bases for social protection. In Social protection for the poor and poorest, ed. A. Barrientos, and D. Hulme. Palgrave Macmillan, London: Palgrave Studies in Development.
Niño-Zarazúa, M., A. Barrientos, S. Hickey, and D. Hulme. 2012. Social protection in Sub-Saharan Africa: Getting the politics right. World Development 40 (1): 163–176.
Oduro, R. 2015. Beyond poverty reduction: Conditional cash transfers and citizenship in Ghana. International Journal of Social Welfare 24 (1): 27–36.
Pande, Suchi and Rakesh R. Dubbudu. 2017. Citizen oversight and India’s right to work program: What do the social auditors say? Accountability Research Center, Accountability Working Paper 1.
Pandey, P., S. Goyal, and V. Sundararaman. 2011. Does information improve school accountability? Results of a large randomized trial. Washington DC: World Bank.
Rousseau, J.J. 1920. The social contract: & discourses (No. 660). New York: JM Dent & Sons.
Sabates-Wheeler, R., and S. Devereux. 2013. Transforming livelihoods for resilient futures: How to facilitate graduation in social protection programmes. Development and Change 35 (4): 274–285.
Schubert, B., and R. Slater. 2006. Social cash transfers in low-income African countries: Conditional or unconditional? Development Policy Review 24 (5): 571–578.
Sepúlveda Carmona, M., and C. Nyst. 2012. The human rights approach to social protection. Helsinki: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
Shani, O. 2010. Conceptions of citizenship in India and the ‘Muslim question’. Modern Asian Studies 44 (01): 145–173.
Soares, F.V., R.P. Ribas, and R.G. Osório. 2010. Evaluating the impact of Brazil’s Bolsa Familia: Cash transfer programs in comparative perspective. Latin American Research Review 45 (2): 173–190.
Sugiyama, N.B. 2016. Pathways to citizen accountability: Brazil’s Bolsa Família. The Journal of Development Studies 52 (8): 1192–1206.
Ulriksen, M.S., and S. Plagerson. 2014. Social protection: Rethinking rights and duties. World Development 64: 755–765.
Funding for this study was provided by USAID to UNICEF Ghana. The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of UNICEF.
Conflict of Interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there are no conflicts of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Sabates-Wheeler, R., Wilmink, N., Abdulai, A. et al. Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: the Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection. Eur J Dev Res 32, 129–151 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-019-00223-5
- Social protection