Transparency – more than a buzzword?

  • Paul Beckmann
  • Karolina Gombert
  • Alexander Hoppe
  • Katharina Jautz
  • Miriam Lindner
  • Jessica Roome
  • Hanna San Nicoló
  • Lara Schartau
  • Julia Schmälter
  • Tassilo Stiller
  • Anne Theunissen

Abstract

The concept of transparency can be applied to nearly every domain of human activity. In each of these diverse domains transparency is thought to provide the public with information in order to make reasoned judgements: be it information about who to vote for, who to employ, which medications to take, or which Non Governmental Organization to support. If people are sufficiently informed, the argument goes, they are able to hold political officials accountable, find more competent staff, and even punish mismanagement and corruption. As Bessire (2005) puts it, “transparency is strongly related to information – and information is power” (p. 429). This line of reasoning ignores the fact that the availability of information is not the only aspect of accountability. If the public does not know what is happening behind closed doors, it naturally has no incentive – and indeed no chance – to hold somebody accountable necessary. As well as having access to relevant information, people must have measures at their disposal to punish responsible actors.

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Published
2012-07-01