NGO accountability

Authored by: Angela Crack

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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Accountability is a word that does not have a direct translation in many of the world’s languages, and yet it is a concept that is inescapable in the NGO sector. Regularly intoned by organisations as being a touchstone principle in their work, accountability has acquired a ‘taken-for-granted’ status of a principle to which all NGOs should aspire. Donors attach more importance to information disclosure than ever before, and contemporary discourse about aid emphasises the right of recipients to demand answerability from aid providers. This was underlined by the intense backlash experienced by Oxfam GB when claims surfaced about the sexual exploitation of Haitian women by fieldworkers. Oxfam was lambasted for not disclosing full details to the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), having poor safeguarding procedures and failing to ensure that the perpetrators were not subsequently employed in humanitarian work. DFID threatened to withdraw Oxfam’s funding, and thousands of people cancelled their subscriptions in outrage at their ‘lack of accountability’ (Edwards 2018). Rarely discussed in the sector just a few decades ago, NGOs now risk reputational suicide if they fail to demonstrate high standards of accountability.

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