Insights from Part IV
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In contrast to procedural criteria, substantive and structural criteria do not provide the normative orientation that helps us judge the legitimacy of NGOs as partners of corporations. Relying on substantive criteria in order to define whether an NGO is serving public interests is risky because it may exclude certain groups a priori. Moreover, even if we can distinguish public from particularistic claims, substantive criteria cannot differentiate between activists and NGOs. Nor does relying on structural criteria clarify the blurred boundaries among the three actors, as internal democratic structures do not reveal anything about the actor’s commitment to public interests. Disclosing interest ties might help to expose cases of co-optation or corporate front groups, but with respect to the distinction between NGOs and activists, it risks driving a wedge between them and grassroots activists. And legal accountability must not be confused with normative legitimacy. Structural criteria thus only provide limited normative orientation. In general, they fail to appreciate the fine distinctions amongst the three actor types.