be improved, in combination with progress on the others.
Global mechanisms of accountability will become more feasible insofar as agreement increases on meaningful standards of behavior. Enormous inequalities of power and wealth continue to permeate the contemporary global political economy. But there is intense normative pressure on these patterns of inequality: they are widely viewed as unjust because they are inconsistent with new norms. There is a developing consensus on democratic norms globally (Sen 1999) as well as an emerging consensus to some extent on certain human rights issues, such as that of torture and war crimes, although contention remains on key points.
The second condition for accountability is the availability of sanctions. Any effective sanctions in a feasible global accountability system will have to be decentralized, since there is no central government to impose them. But decentralized sanctions are quite feasible where incentives are strong to impose them, and where the capacity to do so is distributed fairly widely. The history of the international trade regime – both GATT and especially the WTO – demonstrates that among relative equals in power, decentralized sanctions can work (Barfield 2001). Indeed, many people worry that the ability of WTO to impose sanctions has recently become too strong, insofar as WTO rules override local democratic control.
The final component of accountability, information, may be the easiest to achieve. Crucial to the efficacy of an information system for controlling abuses of power is that control over it not be limited to power-wielders and the entities that originally authorized their actions. On the contrary, the system should be open to new groups, seeking to provide information relevant to the question of whether power-wielders are meeting