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Taking its cue from the poverty-reduction thrust of the Millennium Development Goals, this paper proposes an analytical framework for answering the fundamental question: How can we increase the responsiveness of decision-makers to the concerns of the poor and hold them accountable for their commitment to reducing poverty? The paper develops an approach to poverty reduction based on three interlinked concepts - voice, responsiveness, and accountability. Voice refers to the articulation of the concerns of the poor and their conversion into political demands. Responsiveness addresses the sensitivity of decision-makers to the voice of the poor and its expression in action or inaction. Accountability pertains to the relationship between bearers of rights and legitimate claims and the agents responsible for fulfilling those rights and claims. The authors distinguish between an array of agents with povertyreducing mandates or obligations. Furthermore they suggest schema for assessing the means whereby the voice of the poor can be heard better, for reviewing the mechanisms for enhancing the responsiveness of decision-makers to the plight of the poor, and for increasing accountability to the commitment to poverty reduction. The paper raises a number of questions for discussion and interspersed in the text are boxes with examples pointing to ways forward. The paper was first developed as the issues paper of the conference: 'Responsiveness and accountability for poverty reduction: Democratic governance and the Millennium Development Goals', jointly organised by UNDP, Oslo Governance Centre and the Chr. Michelsen Institute at Solstrand Fjord Hotel, Os, Norway, 18-19 November 2002.

Lise Rakner

Professor at University of Bergen and Affiliated Research Professor

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