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Accountability and Global Governance: The Case of Iraq [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 20.1 (Spring 2006)

April 24, 2006

This article explores issues concerning accountability and global governance by looking at three cases involving Iraq: the economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council; the operation of the Oil for Food Program; and the U.S.-led occupation authority and its management of Iraqi funds.

In all three cases the problems that emerge are rooted only in part in criminal acts or failures to meet legal responsibilities. The failures of accountability that took place in these cases included also abuses of power and forms of corruption that had been legitimated within legal institutional structures. An examination of these cases helps to illustrate what accountability can demand, as well as the kinds of diverse institutional arrangements that can undermine it.

In the Oil for Food Program, there was corruption despite elaborate structures of oversight. In the case of the U.S.-led occupation authority's management of Iraqi funds, the corruption was tied to systematic procedures that eliminated structures of oversight.

I argue that the abuses that occurred in these cases were not due to a lack of understanding about what might bring greater integrity to the processes involved. Rather, they illustrate how well the structures of accountability and integrity were already understood, as evidenced in the systematic efforts to evade and compromise those structures.

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