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Observers often cite transparency as a response to the accountability concerns of global actors, but how disclosure and openness actually affect the behavior of international organizations, transnational corporations, and nation-states remains theoretically and empirically under-specified. This article identifies three forces - market pressure, external discourse, and internal norms - that can have a regulatory effect on global actors who make their actions transparent. It also highlights the limitations of such accountability tools and stresses the need for an accounting actor, typically civil society, to bring them to bear. The article then considers the implications of transparency-based accountability for larger questions of global governance, especially its potential to create the kind of nonterritorial, problem-based polities that scholars have called for to address problems that transcend national boundaries.

Original publication




Journal article


Global Governance

Publication Date





73 - 94