Accountability and Inclusion in the Western Balkans
Accountability and inclusiveness in institutions and institutional arrangements are significant challenges in the Western Balkans in the 21st century. During the last three decades the region has had to deal with the breakdown of socialism and the accompanying internal ethnic conflicts and civil war, while trying to meet the requirements of European Accession and debt conditionality agreements with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other donor organisations. The transition discourse, highly influenced by Western powers, initially affirmed the value of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In time however, implementing focused on selective political and civil rights (at the cost of civil, economic and social rights) and measures to create a competitive market economy, stated as key to improving efficiency and production. In this process, the public sector was restructured and accompanied by privatisation of prevailing entitlements and rights in traditional essential services. Under these pressures, reforms and rights in the region were and remain contested terrains, associated with dissimilar norms of justice and inclusiveness that particularly affected the more vulnerable sections of society. This paper focuses on market-oriented reforms and austerity measures that were undertaken in the public sector since the 1990s as part of debt conditionality, and rationalised as necessary to improve the quality and efficiency of services. It analyses the shifting development frameworks accompanying the ‘transition’ and the norms of accountability and inclusion embedded in consequent commercialisation of social policy and public services. It examines the increased involvement of Western businesses in the provision of these services which, with the support of international financial donors, have often served as effective parallel forms of (corporate global) governance influencing public policy. It studies the increased resort of the restructured institutions and arrangements to surveillance of welfare recipients, including individual targeting and interventions and the outcomes of technocratic decision-making processes on different groups in society, particularly with regard to health, unemployment and social security benefits. The paper demonstrates how these shifts have resulted in increased poverty, inequality, insecurity and exclusion, with matters worsening in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis. The paper pays attention to the role of civil society in challenging these changes while taking up issues such as accountability, corruption, transparency and the need for increased civil society participation. The paper suggests that the transition discourse promoted a vision of accountability associated with the ideal ‘free’ market that optimised efficiency and price, which in the absence of a functioning ‘free’ and competitive market, resulted in promoting the interests of companies and other actors involved in providing these services. Within this new framework Inclusivity reflected the ability of a person to buy these services. But the serious deficits that have emerged with regard to entitlements and rights amongst marginalised groups means that inclusion, in a real sense, remains elusive and unable to fully respond to the needs of all its citizens.
|Keywords||Western Balkans, austerity measures, public policy, debt conditionality, inclusion, accountability|
|Conference||Conference on the The State of Accountability|
Kurian, R. (2017). Accountability and Inclusion in the Western Balkans. Presented at the Conference on the The State of Accountability. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/114948