The concept of accountability is increasingly important in the family planning (FP) and reproductive health (RH) field. While much recent discussion has focused on developing global or national-level mechanisms for accountability, less emphasis has been placed on understanding the relevance of ‘social accountability’ approaches for ensuring access to, and the quality of, FP/RH services. Social accountability refers to the efforts of citizens and civil society to scrutinize and hold duty bearers (politicians, government officials, and service providers) to account for providing promised services, actions most often at the sub-national or community level. In the FP/RH field, this concept builds on a rich history of community involvement and civil society participation.
This paper draws on the debates and emerging lessons of the social accountability field to better understand its potential for improving FP/RH programs. It synthesizes the literature across a variety of sectors including the health sector, and on broad review papers as well as individual studies related to FP/RH programs.