The INGO Accountability Charter is an initiative of international NGOs demonstrating their commitment to transparency, accountability and effectiveness. The Charter provides the only global, cross-sectoral accountability framework for NGOs. The Charter defines commitments towards which our Members report annually. This triggers organisational developments which have significantly improved the effectiveness of NGOs.
Why an INGO Accountability Charter?
Over the last 20 years the INGO sector, and many INGOs within it, have grown enormously in size and influence. INGOs are consistently rated as the most trusted sector in global public trust surveys, yet are felt by many to be unaccountable.
INGOs’ challenges to governments, businesses and other institutions has been met with some pushback, some of it legitimate, which has forced the non-profit world to think hard about who they are accountable to, for what, and how. While in many countries there is well developed NGO regulation, in many others there is not, and there is no global regime for setting INGO standards and norms.
The INGOs involved in the INGO Accountability Charter conceived the Charter as both a statement of the rights-based values of civil society organisations – freedom of speech and association – but also as a commitment to excellence. As a sector we are not immune from accountability challenges, whether governance, management or quality of delivery. For this reason we have taken the initiative to self-regulate, aware of the limitations of this, but with a serious intent to build in ‘teeth’ around compliance with reporting and standards.
The Charter has been developed drawing on a wide range of existing codes. It is intended to complement existing codes, and over time, simplify the number of reporting frameworks facing INGOs (there are well over 350 globally.) We believe that the Charter provides an umbrella for convergence to a more streamlined and coherent approach. In order to accomplish this, the Charter needs to be widely used and recognised as a seal of approval by the donor community.
What are the unique characteristics of the Charter?
♦ It is the only multi-sectoral INGO accountability framework
♦ The only comprehensive NGO accountability framework with global reach
♦ Signed by most of the most global NGOs
♦ Explicitly addresses accountability for advocacy work
♦ Explicitly rights based, covering all relevant issues of accountability
♦ The Charter has ‘teeth’; an Independent Review Panel of respected experts to vet Reports from INGOs and a legal structure which enables the Charter to exclude or expel INGOs who do not meet the requirements
♦ Outreach to NGOs in developing countries looking for regulatory tools; as a practical example of a code of conduct, but also an advocacy tool for asserting civil society rights
♦ The Charter uses the acknowledged GRI NGO Sector Supplement developed with public consultation, owned /governed by NGOs to give their view on accountability a strong voice.
What advantages does the Charter offer to signatories?
The collective agreement on core principles of best practice across the sector and with global reach allows for substantial improvement of the quality and effectiveness of NGO work as it:
♦ Provides a one stop shop for accountability issues of our sector; an umbrella that complements national regional or sectoral codes
♦ Presents clear guidance on relevant accountability issues
♦ Is an excellent platform for collective sharing and learning in Member workshops, Member expert networks and internet spaces for knowledge exchange
♦ Strengthens Members’ accountability as a driver for quality and effectiveness through a rigorous vetting and feedback process and continuous development of the Charter to reflect cutting edge developments
♦ Allows stakeholders much greater comparability and hence understanding of NGO accountability thus strengthening their legitimacy
♦ Helps counter public criticism of NGOs by demonstrating a thorough approach to accountability
♦ Has a good chance of reaching donor recognition due to its unique positioning.
The Charter was registered as the International NGO Charter of Accountability Company Ltd, a company limited by guarantee in the United Kingdom in 2008. It is owned by its Member Organisations and governed by a Board of Directors.
Since 2010, the Charter Secretariat is based at the International Civil Society Centre (earlier: Berlin Civil Society Center). The Centre is the global action platform for the world’s leading civil society organisations and owned by a number of the major INGOs.