Developing A Code Of Ethics For Ngo Practice Presentation


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Dr Margaret Leppard of the Institute for International Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh presents on ethical issues for NGOs working in international development. NIDOS is currently working on good practice in international development with its members - learn more about our key activities to date at

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Developing A Code Of Ethics For Ngo Practice Presentation

  1. 1. Developing a Code of Ethics for INGO practice Dr Margaret Leppard Institute for International Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
  2. 2. Acknowledgements <ul><li>Harini Amarasuriya , PhD student University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University </li></ul><ul><li>Dr. Mark Duffield is Professor of Development Politics, Department of Politics, Bristol University </li></ul>
  3. 3. Objectives <ul><li>Analyse the reasons for the increasing debates about ethics in international development </li></ul><ul><li>Access diverse models for ethical codes </li></ul><ul><li>Identify questions to guide the NIDOS debate about ethics in development practice </li></ul>
  4. 4. A space for reflection <ul><li>What is development? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s your motivation for working in development? </li></ul>
  5. 5. The reasons for the increasing debates about ethics in international development <ul><li>Development assistance is approximated to national and international security efforts which derive from a particular world view. </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing professionalism among growing numbers of development practitioners in the ‘industry’ requires regulation and a professional code of practice </li></ul>
  6. 6. Who are development practitioners? <ul><li>Local and expatriate staff </li></ul><ul><li>Who is included as employed (and volunteering) in development? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Major corporations - Price Waterhouse Coopers, Bechtel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Bilaterals (DFID, USAID), multilaterals (WHO, UNICEF) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NGOs (OXFAM) INGOs (Red Cross, Red Crescent) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. The changing nature of international development <ul><li>Development as ‘change for the better’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What change? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Whose better? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unintended consequences? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Linear ideas of progress, modernity, industrialisation – to be like the west </li></ul><ul><li>Potential assets/ lack of assets/ assets not being developed </li></ul>
  8. 8. Antibiotics – a new miracle! <ul><ul><li>Modernisation – post WW2 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Collective responsibility for social order; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>International regulation (UN and Bretton Woods institutions); </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Apply technology to achieve development </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Can you buy Lux soap? <ul><ul><li>Dependency - Wealthy centres and impoverished periphery (Wallerstein, 1974) although associated or dependent development may occur </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World systems - Core, periphery, semi-periphery; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expansion and inclusion </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Efficiency, effectiveness and trickle down development <ul><li>Neo-liberal economic development - Partnerships (so long as they are focussed on facilitating a stable environment for continued economic growth); </li></ul><ul><li>Benefits of economic growth to trickle down to the poor </li></ul><ul><li>Expansion and exclusion </li></ul>
  11. 11. Neo-liberal economic development in the ascendancy (Duffield, 2001) <ul><li>Into the late1970s, capitalism moderated by </li></ul><ul><li>Third-worldism (Duffield, 2001: 22) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Southern, state based models of modernity </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Communism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Contained ethnic animosities (Duffield, 2001: 111) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sustained modest social welfare and national infrastructure </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. ‘ Global liberal governance’ rules! <ul><li>Power linked to control over information, technology and international banking institutions; in hands of a global ruling class </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Work is insecure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Governments experience shrinking tax base and increasing social benefits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Increased urbanisation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The fit survive! </li></ul>
  13. 13. Currently development assistance is … <ul><li>Less concerned with helping pro-Western and strategically placed countries </li></ul><ul><li>Now promotes global economic growth </li></ul><ul><li>Concerned with transforming whole societies towards having the same goals as the West. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Development assistance is delivered in the context of national security discourse <ul><li>In the context of economic globalization, states are looking for ‘organisational stability…systems of government and ideologies that give them legitimacy’ </li></ul><ul><li>One way states can bolster their system is to find a legitimate and credible other who poses a threat from which they must be defended </li></ul>
  15. 15. Currently … <ul><li>Economic meltdown, </li></ul><ul><li>Environment (See also Daly and Cobb,1994) </li></ul><ul><li>Energy crisis </li></ul><ul><li>Drugs and disease (Price-Smith 2002) </li></ul><ul><li>National, religious and ethnic fundamentalism </li></ul><ul><li>Jobless growth (Rifkin, 1995) </li></ul><ul><li>are seen as threats to national security </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Thus on one hand, the state seeks to bolster its power and credibility using a discourse of risk and threat </li></ul><ul><li>On the other hand, neo-liberal economics requires that there is civil stability so that production and consumption can proceed unhindered </li></ul><ul><li>It therefore promotes the notion of LIBERAL PEACE </li></ul>
  17. 17. Liberal peace … <ul><li>Is not territorial </li></ul><ul><li>Concerned with management and regulation of the economic, political and social processes across national boundaries </li></ul>
  18. 18. Development assistance is therefore… <ul><li>Expressed through ‘partnership’. </li></ul><ul><li>People in the South willingly [sic] comply with standards and frameworks </li></ul><ul><li>Non-cooperation involves degrees of conditionality in terms of receipt of aid and isolation </li></ul><ul><li>Hence ethical issues for development workers </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>Is development practice promoting a particular (neo-liberal) ideology? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it either exclude or exploit other motivators? </li></ul>
  20. 20. Also because of … <ul><li>Increasingly contractual nature of development employment </li></ul><ul><li>The focus on output and outcome targets </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns about standards of good practice in relation to career development </li></ul><ul><li>And an increasingly litigious context … </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>Development workers cannot assume that good intentions are adequate </li></ul><ul><li>They may be accused of malpractice </li></ul><ul><li>THEREFORE </li></ul><ul><li>There is a growing concern about professional ethics and regulation </li></ul>
  22. 22. Ethical codes in just a few institutions … <ul><li>WANGO </li></ul><ul><li>World Bank </li></ul><ul><li>Carnegie Council </li></ul><ul><li>UN agencies </li></ul><ul><li>These describe standards and procedures that relate to the running of organization in a way that meets external regulatory frameworks with regard to e.g. finance and human resources. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Ethical Codes - an overview of the gaps in accountability (Cavill and Sohail, 2007) <ul><li>Are we clear about organizational mission and values ? Should they be revisited? Do we model those values in our organization? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ If you are disempowering within the organization, then how on earth can you be empowering outside?’ (Cavill and Sohail, 2007:240) </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>Accountability? </li></ul><ul><li>Are we missing the service users, beneficiaries, partners ? What does it mean when we are engaged in advocacy on their behalf? How do we deal with the messiness of participation and multiple voices? Is there a complaints procedure for users/ beneficiaries? </li></ul><ul><li>How can trustees hold us accountable when they don’t understand the business? </li></ul>
  25. 25. Donors, funders, host governments, Board of trustees, Charity Commission Partners, clients, beneficiaries, service users Peers and fellow professionals Staff to organization Staff to own core values NGO Accountability
  26. 26. <ul><li>Professionalism </li></ul><ul><li>Are we honest about our successes and failures? How effectively do we use log frames? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ I could write something in a report […] that would more than satisfy the board and donors and they would think it was all hunky dory, whereas in reality nothing had changed.’ (Cavill and Sohail, 2007:241) </li></ul><ul><li>Do we really reflect on and learn from experience? </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>Are HR policies robust? Good quality staff? Commitment to professional development? Addressing the expat/ local staff differentials? Dealing with poor performance? </li></ul><ul><li>Summary INGOs are better at practical than strategic accountability </li></ul>
  28. 28. INGO Accountability Charter: Principles <ul><li>Respect for universal principles </li></ul><ul><li>Independence </li></ul><ul><li>Responsible advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>Effective programmes </li></ul><ul><li>Non-discrimination </li></ul><ul><li>Transparency (reporting, audit, accuracy) </li></ul><ul><li>Good governance (clear mission, governing body, defined procedures that are followed) </li></ul><ul><li>Ethical fundraising </li></ul><ul><li>Professional management </li></ul>
  29. 29. Conclusion <ul><li>Analyse the reasons for the increasing debates about ethics in international development </li></ul><ul><li>Predominance of the economic neo-liberal model as a driver for development assistance </li></ul><ul><li>Professionalism and regulation in a growing ‘industry’ </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>Access diverse models for ethical codes </li></ul><ul><li>Codes mostly focus on governance and upwards accountability </li></ul><ul><li>How can we be accountable to service users, beneficiaries and partners? </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Identify questions to guide the NIDOS debate about ethics in development practice </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss strategic and practical accountability </li></ul><ul><li>Work through INGO accountability charter principles as a start </li></ul>
  32. 32. References <ul><li>Amarasuriya , H (2007) Southern perspectives on development presentation at NIDOS Workshop 23 March 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Cole, K (2000) Economy, Environment, Development Knowledge. London Routledge </li></ul><ul><li>Duffield, M. (2001) Global governance and the new wars . London: Zed Books </li></ul><ul><li>Cavill, S., Sohail, M (2007) Increasing strategic accountability: a framework for international NGOS Development in Practice 17(2):231-248 </li></ul><ul><li>International Non Governmental Organizations Accountability Charter available at accessed 30 May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>WANGO (2004) Code of Ethics and conduct for NGOs available at accessed 30 May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>World Bank Living our values Code of Professional Etthics available at accessed 30 May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>Carnegie Council The Voice for Ethics in International Policy available at accessed 30 May 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>UN agencies Human resources handbook available at see especially </li></ul><ul><li>Lemon, J (2006) Trickle down development available at (used with permission) </li></ul>