20.1 Do IO's suffer from a 'democratic deficit'?

1. Could IO's be made more democratic?

  • Many have argued that comparing IO's to an 'ideal' democratic system is nonsensical, as IO's do not have a 'demos' or public (unlike states). Thus, there is no election procedure and attached accountability falls through.
  • Others regard precisely this to be the problem; while IO's are seen to have a great impact on the everyday personal lives of individuals across the globe, their influence on IO policy is hampered through the lack of transparency in their internal procedures. This 'closed-doors approach' undermines the deliberative process. This is seen to be especially problematic as IO's are seen to be twice removed: many citizens, it is argued, are unable to influence their own governments and IO's are one more step away from individuals' lives.
  • IO's are also criticized for playing into the hands of powerful states. This, it is argued, reinforces global economic, political and social inequalities.

2. What would a democratic IO look like?

  • One way of democratizing IOs would be to practice more direct democracy. In other words, one might reform voting structures, so that the populous influenced by the policies of such IOs have the possibility to direct the executives of the IOs. Another policy one might make use of is the notion of referendum. However, as can be seen contemporarily, this often causes ambiguous problems in relation to notions of states' sovereignty.

3. What are the benefits, if any, of not having a democratic IO?

  • One potential argument for supporting an undemocratic system is that consensus among IO member states is already a prolonged process, which would only be more drawn out if the public of these member states were also consulted. Ad hoc decisions could therefore lead to more swift action, which is sometimes necessary.