Comparing Accountability Relationships between Governments and Non-State Actors in Canadian and European International Development Policy

By Millar, Heather | Canadian Public Administration, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Comparing Accountability Relationships between Governments and Non-State Actors in Canadian and European International Development Policy


Millar, Heather, Canadian Public Administration


Public policy and public administration scholars have documented the heightened interest of politicians, public managers and the electorate in accountability concerns across advanced liberal democracies in recent years. There has been a proliferation of new accountability reforms across jurisdictions, including Canada and the European Union (EU) (Power 2003; Papadopoulos 2010). While the Canadian federal government has focused on tightening financial audits and developing comprehensive performance management systems (Levasseur and Phillips 2004; Scott and Struthers 2006; Phillips, Laforest and Graham 2010), policy makers in the EU have experimented with developing "soft" accountability mechanisms such as public reporting and peer review (Sabel and Zeitlin 2010).

As variation in accountability mechanisms becomes more pronounced, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have begun to examine the interrelationship between new governance arrangements and alternative accountability mechanisms. As Wood and Verdun note in their introduction to this issue, social policy in Canada and the European Union provides a fruitful testing ground to examine the effects of variation in governance arrangements (Verdun and Wood 2013). While the Canadian government has tended to use fiscal and legislative instruments to monitor and control provincial social policy, under the umbrella of the open method of coordination (OMC) the European Union has used benchmarking and public dialogue processes to facilitate policy coordination among member states. Comparison of the centre and constituent units in Canada and the EU can thus provide an opportunity for comparative empirical research that charts the ties between different modes of governance and specific accountability instruments. Yet while scholars have begun to examine the connection between governance and accountability within intergovernmental relations in Canada (Graefe, Simmons and White 2013) and the European Union (Tommel and Verdun 2009; Bovens, Curtin and 't Hart 2010), less is known about the accountability relationships between the centre and non-state actors, including civil society organizations, which are increasingly playing a dominant role in both policy making and implementation in Canada and the EU. Scholars have expressed concern that the increased role of non-state actors in governance arrangements influences the functioning of accountability regimes, identifying a need to develop appropriate accountability mechanisms that align with new governance structures (Bovens 2007a). By clarifying the ways in which different governance arrangements between state and non-state actors anticipate or align with varying accountability instruments, this article develops an analytical framework that may also be applicable to the accountability challenges faced by central governments and their constituent parts explored elsewhere in this issue.

This article examines the relationship between governance arrangements and accountability regimes through a case study of international development policy making in Canada and the EU. It posits that the Canadian case illustrates an entrepreneurial mode of governance that aligns with an accountability regime based on fiscal auditing and performance management mechanisms. In contrast, the networked governance model of the EU relies more heavily on accountability instruments of public reporting and deliberation. The differences in these accountability instruments not only influence the efficient implementation of development policy, but also suggest that the choice of governance structures and accountability instruments are likely bounded by institutional logics of action.

This article posits that development policy can be understood as an extension of the welfare state, as policy makers aim to alleviate global poverty and social inequities (Nossal 1988; Pratt 2000; Noel, Therien and Dallaire 2004). As in the social policy sector, international development policy has increasingly relied on the third sector for policy development and implementation. …

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