IILJ Working Paper 2004/7 (Global Administrative Law Series)

Accountability and Abuses of Power in World Politics

Ruth W. Grant & Robert O. Keohane

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Debates about globalization have centered on calls to improve accountability to limit abuses of power in world politics. How should we think about global accountability in the absence of global democracy? Who should hold whom to account and according to what standards? Thinking clearly about these questions requires recognizing a distinction, evident in theories of accountability at the nation-state level, between “participation” and “delegation” models of accountability. The distinction helps to explain why accountability is so problematic at the global level and to clarify alternative possibilities for pragmatic improvements in accountability mechanisms globally. We identify seven types of accountability mechanisms and consider their applicability to states, NGOs, multilateral organizations, multinational corporations, and transgovernmental networks. By disaggregating the problem in this way, we hope to identify opportunities for improving protections against abuses of power at the global level.