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Grievance Redress Mechanisms in the Public Sector: A Literature Review

Date: May 2022
Author(s): Suchi Pande and Naomi Hossain
Publication type: Literature Review
Published by: Open Government Partnership and Accountability Research Center

Grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) in the public sector are institutionalized processes designed to enable people to complain about and seek redress for services they rightfully should have received. This paper reviews evidence on GRMs from around the world, focusing on mechanisms attached to public services and programs in the Global South, where they are relatively new and emerging fast.

GRMs matter in particular in the Global South because they are increasingly widespread and found in multilateral aid programs, across national governments, within specific programs and services, as well as in the private sector. GRMs are expected to improve public service efficiency, effectiveness, and fairness by giving people a systematic means of seeking redress for governance failures, and they have strong potential to improve accountability to the most excluded and marginalized people, who tend to find it most difficult to make claims on their state.

The review includes a simple framework for understanding the key elements of successful GRMs, as identified through the review process. These are:

  • Citizen capacity to complain
  • State capacity to respond
  • Proactive transparency

The review concludes with key research questions to improve our understanding of how GRMs work and could be better designed and implemented.

This literature review is part of the background research for the Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government (2022 Edition).

Suchi Pande is a scholar in residence at the Accountability Research Center (ARC). She holds a PhD in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. Her doctoral research focused on the grassroots struggle for a national Right to Information law in India, and the role of “public audits” in implementing India’s Right to Work law. Before joining ARC, Suchi was associated with India’s National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, and the Rajasthan based Right to Information and Work campaign.

Naomi Hossain is a political sociologist, who is currently a Research Professor at the Accountability Research Center in the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC. She was previously employed by BRAC Research and Evaluation Division in Bangladesh, and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the UK. Her research focuses on the politics of development, and she has written extensively about Bangladesh, disasters, protests, and women’s empowerment. She is the author of The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success (2017, Oxford University Press). Naomi’s work can be viewed here: https://nomhossain.com/.