We suggest instead that accountability is only one way of constraining power, that there are many forms of accountability that are not particularly unique to democracy, and that there are various ways of conceiving of democratic accountability, including delegation models as well as participation models. Participation is an important value. Indeed, the activist participation of individuals and non-governmental organizations in debates on global governance has put accountability on the global agenda, and efforts should be made to facilitate greater participation in global governance, particularly through transparency. But participation is not the only value. With respect to those entities to which power was delegated, establishing minimal standards for the accountability of power-wielders to those that delegated power in the first place can achieve positive results by limiting corruption, fraud, and abuse of power, even if broad participation is not achieved.
We should be seeking to create processes for checking abuses of power with the full recognition that every type of power is subject to abuse. Improved accountability mechanisms should be explored, but other means of constraining power ought to be considered as well. And finally, we must recognize that there is no single “problem of global accountability;” there are many. The point is not to design a comprehensive, ideal accountability system, but rather to figure out how to limit abuses of power in a world with a wide variety of power-wielders and without a centralized government.
If we focus on the conditions for the operation of a variety of accountability mechanisms, rather than on pure democratic accountability, we will see opportunities for feasible actions to improve accountability. Each of the components of accountability at the global level exists to some extent: standards, sanctions, and information. Each could