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Beyond the Data: Issues of Inequality and Accountability

Statistical data shows that many African countries have attained gender parity in education. But the reality is that behind these numbers, there are still vast disparities - between and within countries - in access to education.  National data is not unpacked to show how a poor girl, from an ethnic minority, in a dispersed rural area, with uneducated parents is lost in the national statistics.

Girls from wealthy, urban homes with educated mothers are more likely to remain in school and perform well.  But some girls never get to go to school or are withdrawn after just a few years to become child brides, to work or due to violence or other reasons.  Their voices are unheard, their rights to a high-quality education denied, writes GCAP Ambassador and former co-chair Adelaide Sosseh.


In attempting to live up to global targets like the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All goals, developing countries present national data in a format that is not gender sensitive. The national data is not gender dis-aggregated to show the reality of the situation, thus the educational needs of those who are not in school go unaddressed.


A more humane and just world order would listen to the voices of the children, their parents and communities. This requires a more democratic system of governance, which can at a minimum ensure the participation of the poor and marginalized in decision making processes at all levels.    A standard principle of democracy is that all persons affected by a decision should have a say.  Yet girls and women rarely have a say in whether they go to school or not.

Community participation - widely eschewed as a means of involving the poor - is not happening. Decision making and control of resources are still monopolized by the Centre.  This exclusion is replicated at all levels:  national, regional and global. Intergovernmental and treaty bodies deal with governments, while CSOs are relegated to the shadows - their participation limited to consultations, dialogues, side/parallel meetings and shadow reports.


In terms of global governance, the idea of a democratic deficit refers to the perceived lack of accessibility and representation of ordinary citizens, and the lack of accountability within international organizations which hold crucial roles in global governance. The approach of dealing directly with governments has perpetuated global inequalities, for while the rhetoric is about poverty reduction and inclusion, the reverse is true.

States are seen as the principle actor, but governments are representing the rich and powerful, not all the people.  Their policies often harm, rather than help, impoverished communities, whose needs and interests are not addressed, instead only seen and heard from the lenses of a third party - the state.

The voices of the poor and excluded need to be taken into account when delivering education and health services, when roads and bridges are built and electricity and water provided. Their life styles, cultures, environments and livelihoods are being destroyed and their voices silenced when they “stand up to speak out".

Global politics and institutions need to be more democratic.  The space for civil society participation has to be expanded to enable ordinary people to influence policies and hold governments to account for corruption and the non-delivery of services - at all levels: local, national, regional and global.


GCAP and its partners have played a significant role trying to reshape global politics and tackling the democratic deficit, particularly through interactions with the G8 and G20 as well as advocating for the dismantlement of exclusive clubs like DOHA.  There has been a level of success in getting a space ‘at the table’ by exerting pressure on governments and corporations in developed countries to respond to the needs of developing countries.

Having said this, though, we need to look inwards as well. How accountable are we to the people that we represent? Are we the ones that make the most noise and have the most resources and therefore are the ones who sit at the table?

To address inequality and governance, it is important that we adhere to the principles of

  • participation

  • non-domination

  • inclusion

  • public deliberation

  • responsive governance and

  • the right of all affected to have a voice in public decisions which affect their lives.

Public authorities must be willing to open up and hold genuine dialogue with not only the poor and excluded but those with divergent voices and interests as well. They must be willing to justify their actions, whilst those affected must have the right to question them.

Resources and Related Information

Accountability and Inequality are key themes for GCAP's impending mobilisation, Global Moves for Justice 2015.  Read more in our campaign narrative, 15 Solutions for 2015.