"The Transparency Turn in International Law"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
The Chinese Journal of Global Governance
Publication Type
Journal Article

In all major fields of international law—e.g. environmental law, economic law, human rights law, international humanitarian law, health law, peace-and-security law—demands for more transparency have recently been voiced by civil-society actors, by states, and within the international institutions themselves—or transparency has been brought about by illegal means. In response, much more transparency has been created in international institutions and procedures in the last 10 years. This paper diagnoses a genuine “transparency turn” in international law, it analyses the functions and drawbacks of increased transparency in global governance (especially for the well-functioning of negotiations and deliberations); it asks whether a cross-cutting legal principle of transparency is emerging, and what this might mean for international law as a whole. It concludes that from a governance perspective, transparency is only a necessary, and not a sufficient condition for bringing about participation, accountability, and possibly democracy in the global sphere.

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