Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Accountability begins at home

CI’s Luke Upchurch writes about recent developments in NGO accountability:

‘As civil society organisations, accountability must be at the heart of everything we do. That was the overarching consensus of a high-level meeting of some of the world’s leading international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) in Barcelona earlier this month.

CI joined Amnesty, Oxfam, World Vision and others to discuss the further development of the INGO Charter – a shared initiative helping our organisations and others become more accountable to our members, stakeholders, donors and the public at large.

The INGO Charter represents seven years of collaborative work among INGOs and, as a signatory since 2006, CI is committed to enacting its principles of accountability, responsibility, and good governance. Transparency is a condition of being a Charter signatory, and we are reporting our progress – both good and bad - openly on the CI website.

These working practices are vital to the credibility of organisations like ours, who often call on governments and corporations to do the same. It is also incredibly important as a means of retaining and building upon the trust we have gained from civil society. Without this trust NGOs have no credibility.

Climate change and the financial crisis have put the need for accountability even further up the agenda for every type on organisation. Just as businesses and politicians need to show how they are making a difference and why they are not part of the problem, NGOs need to demonstrate clearly that they are responsible for their actions and truly represent the needs and wishes of their members and supporters.

The INGO Charter continues to develop, with new members looking to join and stronger reporting mechanisms soon to be implemented. This will only increase the legitimacy of the Charter’s and, in turn, the work of its signatories.

Whilst its current focus is on international organisations, the INGO Charter can also provide a framework for national bodies, including consumer organisations, to improve their own structures. Implementing the principles of the Charter can help civil society organisations practice the qualities they so often wish to see in others – transparency, accountability and responsibility. Such an undertaking will further enhance the well-earn position of trust enjoyed by non-governmental organisations.'

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