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The uncertain relationship between transparency and accountability


  • Fox, Jonathan A


The concepts of transparency and accountability are closely linked: transparency is supposed to generate accountability. This article questions this widely held assumption. Transparency mobilises the power of shame, yet the shameless may not be vulnerable to public exposure. Truth often fails to lead to justice. After exploring different definitions and dimensions of the two ideas, the more relevant question turns out tobe: what kinds of transparency lead to what kinds of accountability, and under what conditions? The article concludes by proposing that the concept can be unpacked in terms of two distinct variants. Transparency can be either ‘clear’or‘opaque’, while accountability can be either‘soft’or‘hard’.

Suggested Citation

  • Fox, Jonathan A, 2007. "The uncertain relationship between transparency and accountability," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt8c25c3z4, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:glinre:qt8c25c3z4

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Konar, Shameek & Cohen, Mark A., 1997. "Information As Regulation: The Effect of Community Right to Know Laws on Toxic Emissions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 109-124, January.
    2. Mark Stephan, 2002. "Environmental Information Disclosure Programs: They Work, but Why?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 83(1), pages 190-205.
    3. Fox, Jonathan A, 2007. "Mexico's Right-to-Know Reforms: Civil Society Perspectives," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt34w393zn, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sovacool, Benjamin K. & Walter, Götz & Van de Graaf, Thijs & Andrews, Nathan, 2016. "Energy Governance, Transnational Rules, and the Resource Curse: Exploring the Effectiveness of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 179-192.
    2. Lieberman, Evan S. & Posner, Daniel N. & Tsai, Lily L., 2014. "Does Information Lead to More Active Citizenship? Evidence from an Education Intervention in Rural Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 69-83.
    3. Keith Slack, 2017. "Capturing economic and social benefits at the community level: Opportunities and obstacles for civil society," WIDER Working Paper Series 051, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Fox, Jonathan A & García Jiménez, Carlos & Haight, Libby, 2009. "Rural Democratization in Mexico’s Deep South: Grassroots Right-to-Know Campaigns in Guerrero," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt3nv6s088, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    5. Standing, André, 2014. "Ghana׳s extractive industries and community benefit sharing: The case for cash transfers," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 74-82.
    6. Fox, Jonathan A., 2015. "Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 346-361.
    7. Fox, Jonathan A & Haight, Libby, 2011. "Transparency Reforms: Theory and Practice," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt50q0m31z, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    8. Tohari, Achmad & Parsons, Christopher & Rammohan, Anu, 2017. "Does Information Empower the Poor? Evidence from Indonesia's Social Security Card," IZA Discussion Papers 11137, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. World Bank Group, 2014. "Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in World Bank Group Operations," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 21113.
    10. repec:nup:jrmdke:v:5:y:2017:i:4:559-576 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Christophe, Feltus, 2010. "Building a Responsibility Model to Foster Information Technology: Contributions from Social Sciences," MPRA Paper 83356, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Achmad Tohari & Christopher Parsons & Anu Rammohan, 2017. "Does Information Empower the Poor? Evidence from Indonesia’s Social Security Card," Working Papers id:12241, eSocialSciences.
    13. Michener, Gregory, 2015. "Policy Evaluation via Composite Indexes: Qualitative Lessons from International Transparency Policy Indexes," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 184-196.
    14. Ling, Cristina & Roberts, Dawn, 2014. "Evidence of development impact from institutional change : a review of the evidence on open budgeting," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6968, The World Bank.
    15. Ariane Lambert-Mogiliansky, 2014. "Social Accountability: Persuasion and Debate to Contain Corruption," PSE Working Papers halshs-00922092, HAL.


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