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Global accountability communities: NGO self-regulation in the humanitarian sector

  • Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre (a1)

Abstract

How do humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) define and institutionalise global accountability standards? This article process-traces the case of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership-International (HAP-I), a voluntary, self-regulatory collective accountability initiative, to investigate the processes through which NGOs define collective rules, standards, and practices for accountability. This article shows the limitations of traditional representative and principal-agent models of NGO accountability when applied to the global inter-organisational realm and argues that mutual accountability better conceptualises these relationships. In this important case, the article finds that transnational coordination of NGO accountability practices results from social learning that generates a global accountability community (GAC) constituted by mutual engagement, joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire of practices. Data from the process tracing shows a collaborative not hierarchical or coercive relationship between NGOs and states, where salient donors changed their understandings and practices of accountability during the process of developing the HAP-I benchmarks. Thus, GACs both regulate the behaviour of members and constitute their social identities, interests, and practices.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Correspondence to: Maryam Z. Deloffre, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Department of Historical and Political Studies, Arcadia University, 450 S. Easton Rd, Glenside, PA 19038, USA. Author’s email: deloffrem@arcadia.edu

References

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36 Gugerty, and Prakash, , ‘Nonprofit accountability clubs: an introduction’, p. 16 .

37 Gugerty and Prakash distinguish between strong and weak accountability clubs and it is important to note this continuum. Strong accountability clubs are expected to have maximum impact on correcting agency slippage, which is the primary problem they propose clubs intend to resolve. Weak clubs have lenient standards that require marginal effort above legal and donor requirements; and weak sanctions, that is, simply pledging adherence to a code with little verification. Gugerty, and Prakash, , ‘Nonprofit accountability clubs: an introduction’, pp. 2021 ; Vogel, D., ‘Private global business regulation’, American Review of Political Science, 11 (2008), pp. 261282 .

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39 By contrast epistemic communities are formed by experts with formalised knowledge, training, and educations who share ‘a belief in a common set of cause-and-effect relationships as well as common values to which policies governing these relationships will be applied’. Haas, Peter M., ‘Do regimes matter? Epistemic communities and Mediterranean pollution control’, International Organization, 43:3 (1989), pp. 377403 .

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42 Wenger, , Communities of Practice, pp. 73 , 77–8.

43 Ibid., p. 78.

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69 Official Aid Agency Programme Evaluator, 10 January 2010.

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76 Davis, Concerning Accountability of Humanitarian Action, p. 8.

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79 Christoplos, ‘Humanitarianism, pluralism and ombudsmen.’

80 van Brabant, Koenraad, ‘Regaining perspective: the debate over quality assurance and accountability’, Humanitarian Exchange (2000), pp. 2225 .

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82 Executive Director, French NGO, 20 June 2008, trans. by author.

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85 Executive Director, French NGO, 20 June 2008, trans. by author.

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88 Field Operations Project Specialist, US NGO, 18 April 2008; CEO Australian NGO, 21 May 2008; Country Representative Sierra Leone and Guinea, US NGO, 3 June 2008; Doane, ‘Outcome & Next Steps’; Doane, ‘The Humanitarian Accountability Project; van Brabant, ‘Regaining perspective’.

89 Official Aid Agency Programme Evaluator, 10 January 2010.

90 HAP was renamed HAP-I in 2003.

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92 The 13 members included: CARE International, Caritas International, Danida, DFID, DRC, Fundemo, IFRC, OFADEC, Oxfam International, Sierra Leone Association of NGOs (SLANGO), SSRC, UNHCR, and World Vision International (Jordan 2007), fn. 5; Doane, ‘The Humanitarian Accountability Project’; Jordan, ‘A rights-based approach to accountability’, p. 160.

93 Davis, Concerning Accountability of Humanitarian Action; Jordan, ‘A rights-based approach to accountability’.

94 Manager, Programme Effectiveness, Australian NGO, 27 April 2008; Jordan, ‘A rights-based approach to accountability’, p. 162.

95 Chief Executive Officer, Australian NGO, 26 November 2009.

96 (1) Commitment to humanitarian standards and rights; (2) Setting standards and building capacity; (3) Communication; (4) Participation in programs; (5) Monitoring and reporting on compliance; (6) Addressing complaints; (7) Implementing partners. Standards, available at: {http://hapinternational.org/standards.aspx} accessed 10 January 2013.

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106 Jennifer Birdsall and Monica Oliver, ‘HAP Standards Development Process Field Assessment Phase Results: Short Report’ (Geneva, Switzerland: Humanitarian Accountability Partnership-International, 2006), pp. 1–22.

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109 Includes contributions to consolidated appeals, natural disasters response, bilateral aid, and all other reported humanitarian funding.

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111 DEC raises funds from the public on behalf of its members following a major emergency. Of DEC’s fourteen members, five (CAFOD, CARE, Oxfam, Tearfund, and WVI) are major NGO donors to HAP-I.

112 Devonport, Annie and Roe, Cait Turvey, ‘Accountability: the DEC’s experience’, Humanitarian Exchange (2011), pp. 2326 .

113 Devonport and Roe, ‘Accountability: the DEC’s experience’.

114 Scharr, ‘The birth of good humanitarian donorship’, p. 39.

115 Meeting Conclusions, International Meeting on Good Humanitarian Donorship, Stockholm, 16–17 June 2003.

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119 Ebrahim, ‘Towards a reflective accountability in NGOs’.

120 Djelic, Marie-Laure and Sahlin, Kerstin, ‘Reordering the world: Transnational regulatory governance and its challenges’, in David Levi-Faur (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 745758 .

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Keywords

Global accountability communities: NGO self-regulation in the humanitarian sector

  • Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre (a1)

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