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Accountability-by-Proxy in Transnational Non-State Governance



Transnational non-state governance arrangements (NGAs) are increasingly common in areas such as labor standards and environmental sustainability, often presenting themselves as innovative means through which the lives of marginalized communities in developing countries can be improved. Yet in some cases, the policy interventions adopted by the managers of these NGAs appear not to be welcomed by their supposed beneficiaries. This article accounts for this predicament by examining the effects of different configurations of accountability within NGAs promoting labor rights. Most labor-rights NGAs incorporate “proxy accountability” arrangements, in which consumers and activists hold decision makers accountable “on behalf” of the putative beneficiaries of the NGAs: workers and affected communities in poorer countries. The article shows how and why different combinations of proxy versus beneficiary accountability influence the choice of policy instruments used by NGAs, and applies the argument to three prominent non-state initiatives in the domain of labor standards.