This paper aims at providing a background document concerning accountability and transparency, defining each term, explaining how they are relevant to global governance, to what extent they have been reflected in UNHCR’s activities, and what significance they could have in the future. While the paper focuses on transparency and its meaning for accountability, it often refers to more general issues of accountability, since the two concepts are inextricably intertwined. On the other hand, it does not claim to provide a comprehensive view on accountability. For instance, the paper does not explicitly deal with accountability in human resources or in financial management.
Part I focusses on clarifying accountability and transparency, proposing short and clear definitions. Furthermore, it gives a more detailed explanation of what accountability specifically implies.
In Part II, an assessment is made of the different costs and benefits of increased transparency. While transparency is generally seen as something positive, it will appear that its costs are also significant, although they are outweighed by the benefits under right circumstances.
Part III gives an overview of different transparency initiatives of key donor States, other inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). On the basis of this assessment, it is argued that there exists an emerging consensus that transparency is an essential feature for enhancing accountability in (global) governance.
Subsequently, Part IV analyzes to what extent this emerging consensus has been reflected in UNHCR’s activities. It focuses particularly on transparency within UNHCR’s main oversight mechanisms. This includes the Inspector General’s Office (IGO), the Internal Audit Service, and the Policy Development and Evaluation Service. It also refers to transparency in results-based management (RBM), and the Archives Access Policy.
Finally, two concluding recommendations are formulated, with respect to the development of a general accountability framework, and the drafting of a disclosure policy.