JMU to host international conference on accountability in Washington, D.C.


by Zachary Kulzer


On Feb. 7–9, JMU’s Washington Center will play host to the Accountability in African Public Policy and Administration conference. This event is co-sponsored by JMU’s Department of Political Science and the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. It will be held concurrently with the hybrid 14th Annual African, African American, and Diaspora Studies Conference.

This conference boasts a serious line-up of foreign officials from South Africa, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia, and Tanzania, as well as representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Sombo Muzata, assistant professor of political science, and organizer of the conference, described it as “truly a global initiative and truly a JMU community event.” The conference will have a wide range of sessions, some of which are devoted to the problem of corruption, as well as different anti-corruption initiatives. There will also be conversations around economic policies, regulation, extremism, public finance and debt management. The fact that JMU can bring this diverse set of perspectives together speaks well for its role as a convener of meaningful dialogue.

The subject of accountability is a natural fit for JMU to take the lead on. In fact, many of the issues being discussed today are not that different from the debates that happened when the country was founded. As Muzata explains, “when we’re talking about accountability, we’re talking about checks and balances, we’re talking about responsibility, and we can all look this back to James Madison and his ideals.” The conference sessions focusing on accountability will reiterate that the problems facing institutions are not new but perhaps the solutions will be. Involving a wide range of unique experiences during the conference could spark new approaches to handling these common problems.

The setting of this conference at JMU’s Washington Center is also relevant to highlight. The close proximity to government officials as well as the ease of travel for foreign guests makes the Washington Center the perfect location. Additionally, the spring semester for students participating in the program always focuses on global affairs, yet another perfect synergy with the conference subject.

Finally, the accountability conference aligns with JMU’s strategic goals to engage with the world. Hosting an event for African leaders to discuss their unique institutional challenges, is the kind of activity that strengthens JMU’s reputation globally. The significance was also highlighted by Muzata: “It’s important to have this conversation across two continents. To give an opportunity to scholars to present their research and to share best practices, and to start creating a network of scholars that are working on issues around accountability.” One of the chief outcomes of the conference will be to solidify this network and provide opportunities for further engagement afterwards.

Organizing the conference has been a large undertaking, requiring the support of many groups at JMU and abroad. In addition to the co-sponsors, the work is funded in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship, The Madison Vision Fund, JMU’s College of Arts and Letters, the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement, and the Center for Global Engagement.

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Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Last Updated: Monday, January 29, 2024

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