Vetterlein argues that there is a significant lack of conceptual clarity when scholars refer to responsibility. Often responsibility is used synonymously with accountability, which highlights the regulatory aspect of governance with a focus on rights, compliance and sanctions.
The concept of ‘responsibility’ has become increasingly significant in global governance and has begun to materialize across diverse policy fields. Scholarship has picked up on this and empirical studies have emerged investigating responsibility more explicitly, specifically on issues of the responsibility to protect or corporate responsibility. But responsibility is more than accountability. Conceptually, responsibility is closely linked to morality and ethics and thus highlights the normativity of international politics. Taken together, responsibility – as opposed to accountability – highlights the contestation of policy norms, and thus the negotiated nature of governance.