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Contributing to a growing literature on democracy beyond the nation-state, this article draws on aspects of national democratization theory in order to analyse empirical processes of democracy. By combining insights from transition theory and the theory of political opportunity structures, the article examines the case of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). While the ADB for a long time has been described as a closed, unresponsive and unaccountable international organization, a recent evaluation praised the Bank for its good practices concerning transparency, participation and accountability. The article uses the analytical framework to highlight the interaction between hard-liners and soft-liners within the ADB and explores the role of different transnational civil society actors in the processes that seem to have strengthened the democratic credentials of the ADB. While finding significant divisions within the ADB as well as amongst civil society actors targeting the Bank, overall the article argues that transnational civil society actors, interacting with soft-liners within the ADB, have contributed to the implementation of reforms, which in turn create political opportunities for further civil society activism. The reform processes, however, are best described as processes of liberalization – rather than democratization.
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