Do Non-State Actors Enhance the Accountability of Global Governance? – The case of WTO Dispute Settlement


  • Michael Strange Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Global Political Studies, Malmö University



Accountability, Non-state actors, World Trade Organization, WTO Dispute Settlement, Global governance


The World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement body provides the teeth of the global trade regime – empowering it with substantial means to adjudicate in disagreements between Member-states over the implementation of WTO law.

The WTO’s teeth have, however, also helped make the organisation controversial as part of a general critique from civil society groups concerned that global trade governance has become unaccountable to the societies it affects. Could the growing presence of NGOs and other non-state actors in WTO dispute settlement – empirically identified within a growing body of literature – solve this apparent accountability deficit?

Drawing upon existing findings and new research, the article argues that non-state actors have significant consequences for the accountability of WTO dispute settlement, but to whom the system is accountable and whether these consequences are good or bad is not pre-determined. Rather, as the burgeoning literature on accountability shows, the term itself is multi-faceted. Only by engaging with specific cases, as is done here in the case of WTO dispute settlement, can research properly draw out the shape of accountability in global governance.