This article explores participatory governance in the context of participatory mechanisms of accountability for urban services. In the past few years, accountability has become a buzzword internationally and, as is the case with many such terms, there is confusion as to what exactly is meant. The people and organizations promoting accountability view it as critical to solving problems with urban services in an increasingly fragmented context of service provision. This article seeks to explore the growing interest in accountability and to assess the potential of participatory governance in improving the provision of urban services. Other objectives are to: consider contemporary innovations in the way urban services are delivered - the context Of accountability; define accountability using the existing literature and present current models for accountability; discuss how the concept of participatory governance can be operationalized in the context of urban services; present initial findings from case studies undertaken in South Africa, Bangladesh, South Korea and the UK, these case studies are used to illustrate different functions Of accountability; and examine the potential of accountability arrangements demonstrated in these case studies to improve the quality of local services and the responsiveness of service providers.
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