Beate Kohler-Koch, Peter Kotzian
Holding International Governance to account: Civil Society Organizations as a supplementary creators and facilitators of accountability

Transatlantic Conference on Transparency Research, University of Utrecht, June 07th to June 09th, 2012

Theories of associational and deliberative democracy have presented convincing arguments that civil society participation will render governance beyond the nation state more democratic. Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) claim to act in the public good, to function as transmission belts linking citizens and institutions of international governance and to induce IOs to operate in the interest of citizens. Empirical research, however, has provided ample evidence that CSO participation does not live up to expectations. Apart from deficiencies in equal representation, effective participation of CSOs in the sense of having ‘impact on output’ is not satisfying. The main reason is that CSOs have difficulties to enforce accountability. Hence, expanding on earlier research on the democratic potential of CSO involvement in EU governance, we want to explore the role of CSOs in fostering EU/IO accountability. We consider accountability to be a key element in international good governance making sure that an IO not just abides to its formal rules and carries out its mission but is also responsive to the preference of citizens and seeks to reach the best outcome possible. Our investigation will focus on the organizational preconditions which enable or constrain CSO to ask international decision-makers to explain and justify their conduct, allow the CSO to pass judgment and make the IO face consequences. The paper will present the conceptual outline and first results of our project taking stock of a) the availability of pertinent information on the mission and achievements of the IO, b) norms, rules, and procedures which constitute a political and/or legal obligation to respond to demands of CSOs to provide further insights, c) instances and fora that induce IOs to explain and justify its performance. d) instruments that empower CSOs to hold IOs to account.