Different Understandings of ‘Control Social’ in Latin America

Author(s): Walter Flores
Date: June 22, 2021
Country: Multi-country
Language(s): English

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The Spanish language term ‘control social’ has been widely used in South America to mean ‘social oversight’ both by governments and in civil society. In Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia the term appears often in national laws and policy regulations. Historically, the idea is linked to processes of democratization, elected governments of the centre-left, and the view that public sector oversight should be in the hands of the citizenry. Diverse social and civic organizations use the term widely, including in many training manuals available online.

Historically, the idea is linked to processes of democratization, elected governments of the centre-left, and the view that public sector oversight should be in the hands of the citizenry.

More recently in South America, younger activists – perhaps with more exposure to global discourse – use the term ‘rendición de cuentas’ (a more direct translation of ‘accountability’) more than ‘control social’ – perhaps to differentiate themselves from governmental uses of the term to refer to the official channels for citizen oversight.

In Central America, in contrast, the term ‘control social’ was understood very differently, and did not gain the same degree of acceptance. In Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, the words are associated with governmental manipulation and repression – closer to the literal translation into English: ‘social control.’

ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY KEYWORDS

Key terms in the accountability field often have different meanings, to different actors, in different contexts – and in different languages. This project addresses “what counts” as accountability, analyzing the meanings and usage of both widely used and proposed “accountability keywords” – drawing on dialogue with dozens of scholars and practitioners around the world. The project includes both an extensive Accountability Working Paper and more than 30 invited posts that reflect on meanings and usage of relevant keywords in their own contexts and languages. To share a post about a keyword that interests you, send us a proposal at arc@american.edu.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Walter Flores

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Walter Flores is the founder and past Director of the Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS) in Guatemala. Follow on @CEGSSGuatemala!

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