Academic journal article Global Governance

Accountability's Effect: Reaction Speed and Legitimacy in Global Governance

Academic journal article Global Governance

Accountability's Effect: Reaction Speed and Legitimacy in Global Governance

Article excerpt

This article examines whether and how accountability in international organizations (IOs) influences their speed of reaction to economic and humanitarian crises. Reaction speed is one among several factors in the capacity of IOs to handle crisis-like problems and, therefore, also a factor in their capacity to create legitimacy for themselves. Original theoretical arguments and statistical survival analyses of the time it takes for IOs to react to crises confirm that accountability in IOs indeed affects reaction speed. However, the effect varies depending on the use of alternative accountability mechanisms. Transparency speeds up reactions while stakeholder participation slows them down. More generally, this article identifies synergies, trade-offs, and nonlinear relationships between reaction speed and different accountability mechanisms that should be reflected in debates on legitimacy in global governance as well as in the institutional design of legitimate IOs. Keywords: accountability, crises, legitimacy, reaction speed, global governance, international organizations, global democracy.

**********

For more than a decade, accountability has been singled out as a key factor for legitimacy in global governance; (1) that is, for the right to rule of global political institutions and their ability to command allegiance based on values that are acceptable, in principle, to everyone. However, the great hope put on accountability's power to create legitimacy is no guarantee that it will succeed. Holding decisionmakers to account may lead to policies supported by the broader public, but also to political complications and ineffective institutions that benefit no one. So what are the effects of the institutional arrangements adopted to enhance accountability in global governance? And what are the implications for legitimacy of those effects?

This article addresses these questions, to my knowledge for the first time, on the basis of a statistical and comparative analysis of international organizations (IOs). Specifically, I analyze whether and how varying accountability arrangements in IOs affect the speed with which those IOs give a first reaction to humanitarian and economic crises. Reaction speed is one among several factors in the capacity of IOs to handle crisis-like problems (2) and, therefore, also a factor in their capacity to create legitimacy for themselves. (3)

The study covers twelve IOs (e.g., the International Monetary Fund [IMF], the World Bank, and the UN Children's Fund [UNICEF]) and five different crises (e.g., the food price crisis in 2007-2008, the swine flu pandemic in 2009, and the global financial crisis of 2008). Based on theoretical reasoning as well as statistical survival analyses of the time it takes for these IOs to give a first reaction to the crises, I argue that accountability indeed affects reaction speed while the effect varies across alternative accountability mechanisms such as transparency and stakeholder participation. In normative terms, the effects create both synergies and trade-offs that need to be reflected in the institutional design of IOs that have legitimacy. For instance, stakeholder participation and reaction speed would together seem to create a trade-off. For more often than not, stakeholder participation slows down reaction speed. Transparency and reaction speed, on the other hand, would seem to constitute a synergetic relationship. For more often than not, transparency speeds up reactions. Other accountability mechanisms, including evaluations of policies and complaint and response procedures, appear to be neutral with regard to reaction speed since they were found to have no significant effects at all on reaction speed.

Drawing new attention to accountability's effects should not lead anyone to ignore the importance of accountability itself. The normative value of accountability may be intrinsic (i.e., inherent in accountability) or extrinsic (i. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.