Grievance redress mechanisms journal article front page

The Politics of Complaint: A Review of the Literature on Grievance Redress Mechanisms in the Global South

Date: May 2023
Author(s): Naomi Hossain, Anu Joshi, and Suchi Pande
Publication type: Scholarly journal article
Published by: Policy Studies

Institutionalized complaint systems are notable features of improving public programmes and government practice.

This article reviews literature on formal grievance redress mechanisms in the global South to understand whether these mechanisms help the aggrieved to complain and seek redress for their grievances.

In this emerging literature, the institutional and definitional boundaries of formal grievance mechanisms are slippery. Systems that look like grievance systems may do little to enable complaints by those who seek to register them, and even less to enable them to achieve redress. There is limited evidence on how these systems work on the ground.

The study finds that without sufficient power to act on complaints, some formal grievance systems appear ornamental. Others have worked uncommonly well, but they have not always attracted political support to scale up.


Dr Naomi Hossain is a political sociologist and Research Professor at the Accountability Research Center at the School of International Service at American University. Her research focuses on the politics of inclusive development, or how people get the public services they need. In international collaborations, she has researched food and fuel riots, the politics of public service delivery, closing civic space, and the politics of Bangladesh’s development success. Some of her work can be seen here.

Dr Anuradha Joshi is a social scientist with a focus on policy processes and extensive experience in institutional analysis of development. She has worked on issues related to poverty, low-income housing, public services and environmental policy.

Dr Suchi Pande is scholar-in-residence at the Accountability Research Center. She has extensive research and practical experience in the field of social accountability, including implementing right to information laws and public oversight processes, consultancies with international organizations, leadership of action-research initiatives at American University in the US, and doctoral research at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the UK. Before joining ARC, Suchi worked with the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in India. She is currently researching national grievance redress mechanisms in the public sector.