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NGO Accountability Mechanisms and Strategies Bibliography PDF Print E-mail

Bluemel, E. B. (2004). Overcoming NGO Accountability Concerns in International Governance. New York University.


Part I of the article outlines the theoretical concept of accountability in international regimes and establishes a general typology of accountability mechanisms.  Part II describes the various functions performed by NGOs in global governance, ranging from policy formulation, over administrative duties, to enforcement. The author’s central argument is that the accountability required of NGOs when participating in international governance should depend on the particular functions they perform. Part III therefore seeks to redefine NGO accountability theory by proposing a new model to guide NGO participation in international governance which links accountability to function and identifies some concerns in implementing the theory. The conclusion calls for further research to detail the contours of a function-based accountability theory, to assess the costs to organisations and ensure the right levels of accountability to the appropriate individuals or entities.


Brown, D., and M. Moore (2001). Accountability, Strategy, and International Non-Governmental Organizations. Working Paper No 7, Hauser Centre for Non-Profit Organisations, Harvard.


The authors seek to develop an understanding of the concept of accountability for international NGOs, with particular focus on groups active in the fields of development and environmental protection. They point out that increased prominence and greater influence expose these INGOs to increased demands for accountability from a wide variety of stakeholders-donors, beneficiaries, staffs, and partners among others. The paper focuses on developing the concept of INGO accountability, first as an abstract concept and then as a strategic idea with very different implications for different INGO strategies. It argues that accountability should be treated as a key strategic issue that will help the organisation to define and achieve it highest value. Three different INGO roles are examined: welfare and service delivery, capacity-building for self-help, and policy and institutional influence. The authors suggest that INGOs committed to service delivery may owe more accountability to donors and service regulators; capacity-building INGOs may be particularly obligated to clients whose capacities are being enhanced; and policy influence INGOs may be especially accountable to political constituencies and to influence targets. INGOs that are expanding their activities to include new initiatives may need to reorganize their accountability systems to implement their strategies effectively.


Ebrahim, A. (2003). Accountability in Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs. World Development, 31 (5): 813-829


This paper examines how accountability is practiced by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Five broad mechanisms are reviewed: reports and disclosure statements, performance assessments and evaluations, participation, self-regulation, and social audits. Each mechanism, distinguished as either a ‘tool’ or a ‘process’, is analyzed along three dimensions of accountability: upward-downward, internal-external, and functional-strategic. It is observed that accountability in practice has emphasized upward and external accountability to donors while downward and internal mechanisms remain comparatively underdeveloped. Moreover, NGOs and funders have focused primarily on short-term 'functional' accountability responses at the expense of longer-term 'strategic' processes necessary for lasting social and political change. Key policy implications for NGOs and donors are discussed. The author points to social auditing and self-regulation as two possible mechanisms for improving accountability within NGOs themselves. It is emphasized that accountability is both about being held responsible by external actors and standards, as well as about taking internal responsibility for actions.


Frangonikolopoulos, C.A. (2004). International Non-Governmental Organisations and Humanitarian Crisis of Legitimacy, New Realities and Old Dilemmas. Agora Without Frontiers 9(4): 339-359


The author refers to the danger of NGOs becoming subcontractors for government policy and power in the increasingly commoditised sector of humanitarian action and argues that questions concerning donor relations, funding and issues of independence, the place of advocacy, standards, rules and cooperation between members of the NGO community, have now acquired a more urgent character. He outlines some of the specific challenges facing humanitarian INGOs in a post-9/11 world and argues that in order to avoid painful dilemmas, NGOs need to aim at increased strategising, establishing basic principles and ground rules for their activities and participation in humanitarian crises. They need to come up with creative networks (North-South, transatlantic), assert greater control over their activities, and establish codes of conduct during crises.


Jordan, Lisa (2005). Mechanisms for NGO Accountability. Berlin: GPPi Research Paper Series No.3.


The first section of this paper places the issue of NGO accountability in its political context. It establishes three types of accountability questions that NGOs are being asked by a wide variety of actors: effectiveness questions, questions of organizational reliability and legitimacy questions. It also asks who is posing these questions and points to donors, political opponents, governments, sector associations, advocacy partners and academics. The second section of the paper looks at accountability mechanims and investigates whether there are differences in the use of these mechanisms across types of NGOs. The third section looks at the costs associated with accountability mechanims and at the possible trade-offs (for example with effectiveness) and the built-in biases. The author also discusses the implications of the accountability debate and the reasons and ways for NGOs to strengthen their accountability.


Miller, Chris (2002). Toward a self-regulatory form of accountability in the voluntary sectors. Policy & Politics 30(4): 551-66


The article concentrates on the relationship between the voluntary sector and those stakeholders, beyond government and funding bodies that are without formal levers of power. It draws upon three Ontario-based case studies that have experienced considerable change and share a strong commitment to self-regulatory accountability to their multiple stakeholders. It illustrates both the importance of particular organisational features and the immense difficulty and complexity of implementing the practices. The article argues that for such practices to succeed, NGOs must be both internally reflexive and in constant dialogue with their constituencies.


SustainAbility, The Global Compact, UNEP (2003). The 21st Century NGO: In the Market for Change.

The 21st Century NGO project identifies several key issues which the authors see as having a profound influence on the role, relationships and responsibilities of 21st century NGOs. These include the shift from market intelligence to intelligent markets; globalization; a civil society boom; and NGO governance. They recommend that NGOs recognise that markets are central to their future and constitute legitimate channels for social change. NGOs also need to establish where they are and need to be against a five-stage model presented in the report; and explore aspects of the internal agenda, including spotlighted strengths and weaknesses. The report also offers recommendations for NGO funders and guidance for businesses interested in working with NGOs.

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