Seeking assistance: inequalities in accountability and service provision

Convener: Ellen Lust, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg


The provision of public goods such as education, sanitation, and healthcare are key challenges for development. In local settings, there is substantial variation in terms of actors involved, quality of services provided, and standards of accountability.

How do citizens and communities find assistance in education, accessing good quality healthcare, obtaining food and clothing, or securing personal safety and property? For instance, where does a family that is unable to meet its basic needs turn to? Do they seek assistance from state-welfare offices, local or national elected leaders, traditional authorities, or friends and neighbors? To what extent are these actors responsive, and how are they held accountable? And what explains this variation? 

We invite papers that examine the questions of whom individuals turn to for help from diverse regional and substantive perspectives. For instance, how does the presence of female elected officials affect the likelihood that women seek social assistance through members of parliament, and the responsiveness they receive?  When, where and why does ethnicity influence service provision, whether in demand for services or the provision of assistance? How do community-level factors, such as the extent to which individuals know each other, the norms they follow (e.g., norms regarding in-group/out-group enforcement, or patrilineal/matrilineal orders) affect the quality of, and equal access to, services?

These questions are of particular relevance to low-income countries that have limited resources and are facing challenges in implementing the STG’s on the local level. Therefore, the panel has implications for development strategies of the international community faced with varied local institutions.

22 Aug., 16:00–17:30, Seminar Room U29

  • Determinants of Local Service Provision in Africa: Evidence from Malawi. Adam Harris and Ellen Lust, University of Gothenburg.

  • Citizen Engagement: Political Participation and Assistance-Seeking in Malawi. Pierre Landry and Ellen Lust, University of Gothenburg.

  • The Effect of Election Laws on Ethnic Favoritism in Service Provision: Evidence from Jordan. Kristen Kao, University of Gothenburg.

  • Unfreedoms of Poverty and Disability: Special Education as a Traditional Assistance. Liya Kalinnikova Magnusson, Uppsala University / University of Gävle.


Unfreedoms of Poverty and Disability: Special Education as a Traditional Assistance. Liya Kalinnikova Magnusson, Uppsala University / University of Gävle.

Moldavian and Ukrainian societies are deconstructing traditional (inherited) welfare institutions, being under extremely complicated transformative challenges, struggling with economical burdens, polarization and poverty affection.  Deconstruction of the “old” system of special education (SpE) towards inclusion is one challenge. A process of constituting “new” systems of education, making attempts to embed SpE in mainstream education, is acknowledging deinstitutionalization as an inevitable stage of this process. When poverty affects this process, different types of resistance from families of children with disabilities (FChD) appear. Historically and ideologically the Soviet system of SpE was constructed based upon the earliest social projects where the state took full responsibility for children with special needs (SNCh), satisfying their basic needs, accommodating them in special institutions (SpInst). It means that FChD were treated by the state as those who need permanent social-economical support. Critically reflecting upon the inherited system of SpE it is evident that several generations of children grown out of becoming parents themselves, accepted this system as extra resources. In the current situation of poverty, these parents, protecting their children from family economic burdens are turning to the “old” system “intentionally putting” their children in these SpInst reproducing a family poverty circle. A negative effect of this process is a rather big number of SNCh who have not reached mainstream inclusive schools because of the lack of family resources (when SpInst get closed). My research is focusing on what ways could be found to overcome traditional assistance of SpE for SNCh as a system which reproduces unfreedoms in poverty and disability.