Accountability in the Context of Transgovernmental Networks: A Conceptual Approach

TARN Working Paper Series 7/2017, May 2017

18 Pages Posted: 5 May 2017

Date Written: May 4, 2017


In the literature on transgovernmental networks (TGNs) a concern for a lack of accountability is oftentimes addressed. This type of network operates on an international level. In these networks a variety of governmental sub units interact. The cooperation of the sub-units is mostly highly technical. They operate at some distance from their executives. Because of this, an inadequacy of awareness of what these networks do, exists. This paper is about a lack in accountability literature and how it might be resolved. Current literature has paid much attention to the meso-level of accountability in relation to multilevel governance settings, yet it overlooks the importance of the other levels of analyses that are at play in these types of settings. These levels need to be assessed starting from the point of view of the individual bureaucrat. We argue that in TGNs there are a multitude of chains of accountability at play, which need not necessarily have a vertical nature. These lines may interact with one another.

The lines we distinguish are:

a) to the peers in the network;

b) to peers in their ‘home’ network of stakeholders;

c) to the organisation for whom the bureaucrat works on a day to day basis;

d) to the ministry to which the organisation belongs;

e) Parliament and/or the Senate and

f) the international actor involved in the network as a partner.

Even though the last level need not always be involved, in the case of European TGNs we frequently notice engagement of the European Commission. In this paper, we will thus propose an alternative way to address issues of accountability in TGNs. With the inclusion of these six different levels we provide a conceptual approach to the different lines of accountability in TGNs and add to the existing literature.

Keywords: accountability, democracy, multilevel governance, transgovernmental networks

Suggested Citation

van Osch, Daniëlle, Accountability in the Context of Transgovernmental Networks: A Conceptual Approach (May 4, 2017). TARN Working Paper Series 7/2017, May 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Daniëlle Van Osch (Contact Author)

Institute of Public Administration ( email )

Postbus 9500
Leiden, Zuid Holland 2300 RA

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