Only 70 years ago, the international legal order looked entirely different. States were by far the most relevant actors, international organizations were still in their infancy and globalization had not yet led to the increased relevance of transnational corporations (TNCs) and other private actors. In recent decades, however, international organizations and TNCs have grown in number and relevance, their impact on daily lives and politics has increased with this, as well as, at the same time, problems of their governance and discussions about their accountability. Both types of entities try to improve their accountability and the claim for more accountability exists for international organizations and for TNCs, within the entities themselves, in the public and in academia. Accountability has become a central pillar of good governance for both. But what does “accountability” mean?
Accountability is a term often used, yet a term maybe understood at its core, but rarely agreed on when more concreteness is being sought. Its principal components and legal dimension are still unclear, its use and understanding remains fragmented. This Ph.D. project seeks to carve out the understanding of accountability in two fields: of international organizations on the one hand and of TNCs on the other hand. With regard to both types of entities, accountability has become a crucial point of discussion for the past decades, fueled not least by major scandals in both areas. Yet, whereas the claim has been made in both fields and discussions thereon are taking place in both areas similarly, these discussions have hardly been brought together so far.
Therefore, the thesis seeks to fill that gap and examine to what extent the understanding of accountability, of its core components and frameworks overlap with regard to international organizations on the one hand and TNCs on the other hand. Is there is a common core or do the prima facie existing similarities and the use of the same terms only pretend that there are parallels, but its understanding turns out to be entirely different? After examining and comparing specific entities, parallels and differences are set out and explained, and receptions considered. The thesis concludes with an attempt of explaining core components of accountability, its legal dimension and the possible effects of these findings on the Global Governance debate.