Publication details

Accountability or “Good Decisions”? The Competing Goals of Civil Society Participation in International Governance, in: Global Society, 23:1, 37–57

Article

Author(s): Steffek, Jens; Ferretti, Maria Paola
Year of publication: 2009

Abstract: Civil society participation in international and European governance is often promoted as a remedy to its much-lamented democratic deficit. We argue in this paper that this claim needs refinement because civil society participation may serve two quite different purposes: it may either enhance the democratic accountability of intergovernmental organisations and regimes, or the epistemic quality of rules and decisions made within them. In comparing the European Union and World Trade Organization (WTO) in the field of biotechnology regulation we find that many participatory procedures officially are geared towards the epistemic quality of regulatory decisions. In practice, however, these procedures provide little space for epistemic deliberation. Nevertheless, they often lead to enhanced transparency and hence improve the accountability of governance. We also find evidence confirming findings from the literature that the different roles assigned to civil society organisations as “watchdogs” and “deliberators” are at times difficult to reconcile. Our conclusion is that we need to acknowledge potential trade-offs between the two democratising functions of civil society participation and should be careful not to exaggerate our demands on civil society organisations.

Subject(s): political science

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13600820802556736
Full text: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13600820802556736

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