Leadership accountability

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Leadership accountability describes the personalization of protest and questioning concerning "up system" responsibility for political violence; corruption; and environmental and other harm. There is similar "second track" movement, challenging local power elites in public service, the workplace, and religious organizations. This is evidenced by new institutions such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) (est. 2002); laws such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption (2003); and individual accountability for environmental victimization, e.g., U.S. Environment Agency action against executives of the asbestos company Grace (2005). Global civil society, making innovatory use of modern information technology, has been central to this social movement. Examples are the protests at the meetings of the G8 leaders and against the American and British leaders responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Historical context[edit]

Traditionally, leaders and other power elites have not seen themselves accountable as individuals. They were either above the law, as sovereign -- rex non potest peccare ("the King can do no wrong") -- or they had immunity just because they were leaders (immunity rationae materiae). Alternatively, they were considered mere representatives of a state or organization which, it was believed, carried the responsibility for any wrongdoings. Writing in 1915, historian R. Michels was not optimistic about change: "Historical evolution mocks all the prophylactic measures that have been adopted for the prevention of oligarchy. If laws are passed to control the dominion of the leaders, it is the laws which gradually weaken, and not the leaders."

But the globalization of personal accountability is now catching up with the globalization of personal power. Names such as Milošević, Estrada, Cheng, Pinochet, Fujimori, Berlusconi, Enron, Union Carbide, and Grace have been brought into the accountability frame, as were Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair. Violence surrounding the 9/11 attacks on America represented "retributive accountability" by all parties; but this "global feuding" does not follow the traditional retributive ethic of an "eye for an eye" and is, therefore, uniquely problematic.

Implications of the movement[edit]

It is likely that "direct democratic accountability" -- ongoing daily questioning through media, correspondence, courts, and peer networks -- will soon parallel voting systems as a means to address the abuse of power by elites.

A Global Leadership Responsibility Index (GLRI) can assess leadership conduct by using indicators such as ratification of international agreements, aggressive intervention in other countries, perceptions of corruption, and ecological footprint. America comes below China, Japan, and South Korea, and the Index proposes that leadership in smaller countries is more responsible than in large states.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Leadership accountability in a globalizing world, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, Williams, Christopher.
  • Leaders of integrity: ethics and a code for global leadership, Amman: UN University Leadership Academy, 2001, Williams, Christopher.
  • The prosecution of former military leaders in newly democratic nations, London: McFarland & Co., Roehrig, T.
  • Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power - Adopted by General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985. See UNHCHR home page.
  • The Allure of Toxic Leaders: Why We Follow Destructive Bosses and Corrupt Politicians -- and How We Can Survive Them Oxford University Press, 2004, Blumen-Lippman, Jean.
  • Understanding Ethical Failures in Leadership (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Public Policy), Cambridge University Press, 2005, Price, Terry L.