Cs regulation part iii assessment of the codes of conduct for ethiopian ng os 1999
Part III: Assessment of the Code ofConduct for Ethiopian NGOs1 IntroductionRelevanceIs the code of conduct relevant to the CSO context in Ethiopia? for the legislative /mandatory regulation framework for CSOs in Ethiopia? for the profile and membership of CCRDA? the number and profile of organizations intended to be covered?ComprehensivenessDoes the code of conduct have all the relevant sections? general section indicative of organizational aspirations; a detailed section setting down specific principles, rules and policies which members of the organization are expected to adhere to; and, a third section dealing with the management of the code of conduct including structures, procedures and standards for the implementation and enforcement of the substantive provisions.Is the level of detail under each of these major sections appropriate for the nature and purpose ofthe code?The Code of Conduct for NGOs in Ethiopia (March 1999) has three sections: a background, standardsof conduct and code observance. In terms of content, the first section could be considered the formwhile the latter two constitute the body of the Code. The first section covers the following items: abrief introductory section focusing on the process of code development, a preamble with aparagraph on the need for the Code as well as statements on its constitutional basis and a statementon form, citation and definition of four key terms/references, purposes of the Code, and a genericstatement of NGO mission. The second section presents statements of commitment under elevenprinciples, namely: people centered, fairness and equality, moral and ethical integrity, transparencyand accountability, good governance, independence, communication and collaboration, genderequality, environmental consciousness, sustainability, and impact. The last section of the Codeprovides for the establishment, composition and functions of the General Assembly and the NGOCode Adherence Committee to ensure observance of the Code as well as complaints procedures, anda provision on revision.
The first issue that needs to be considered to determine the comprehensiveness of the code iswhether the code of conduct has incorporated all the relevant sections. In general terms, threesections are expected, namely: a general section indicative of organizational aspirations; a detailedsection setting down specific principles, rules and policies which members are expected to adhereto; and, a section dealing with the management of the code of conduct including structures,procedures and standards for the implementation and enforcement of the substantive provisions.The NGO Code of Conduct does contain separate sections for specific standards as well asimplementation and enforcement. While not stated in a separate section, the contents of thebackground section and the eleven headings for the standards of conduct cumulatively constitute ageneral statement of organizational aspirations. In the following sections, we will assess whether thelevel of detail under each of these major sections appropriate for the nature and purpose of theCode.2 General SectionThe general section of a code of conduct is expected to cover four major items: the rationale andobjectives of the code; its scope of application; the underlying value framework, and definition ofterms.The NGO Code of Conduct refers to its rationale in the introduction, preamble and statement ofpurpose. The last paragraph of the introduction relates how the Code has introduced for the firsttime standards for previously unregulated activities and is expected to encourage more effective andefficient ways of working, improve the partnership between the NGO sector, the government and theprivate sector, and ultimately contribute to an enabling environment for all sectors and to thesustainable development of Ethiopia and its people. The preamble to the Code similarly highlights theneed for the NGO sector to devise and implement a Code of Conduct that reflects its own core values,ensures the observance of its norms, and leads to effective and efficient co-ordination and collaborationwith the Government, the general public and other partners. Finally, the provision on ‘Purpose of theCode’ specifically identifies its objectives as ensuring and improving transparency and accountability,quality of service provision, communication, and performance in the sector. As such, the generalsection of the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs does provide for the rationale and objectives ofthe Code in sufficient detail.The scope of application for the provisions of the Code is stated under article 10 of the last section.This provision stipulates that the Code is applicable to NGOs operating in Ethiopia and having signedthe document as well as their officials and staff. The provision also refers to the definition of NGOswithin its provisions, i.e. item one of the definitions provision. The Code also provides for a brief butsufficient conceptual and descriptive explanation of elements of the NGO definition. As such, theCode of Conduct does cover its scope of application.The underlying value framework of a code of conduct consists in the vision, statement of mission,guiding principles, and values shared among its signatories. The Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOsclearly states its mission in the last provision of the general part entitled ‘NGO Mission’. The provisionalso identifies the strategies to be employed to realize the stated mission as empowerment andpartnership with stakeholders. Though not stated as such, the headings of provisions outlining thestandards of conduct obviously constitute the basic and operational guidelines of the Code. Some ofthese heading, such as independence, integrity and fairness, similarly represent values. However, theCode does not make any clear reference to the shared vision of signatories, presents its underlying
value framework (guiding principles, operational principles, and values) in a somewhat haphazardmanner, and is lacking in comprehensiveness and consistency. For instance, ‘good governance’ ispresented on the same footing as its key elements, i.e. ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’, andoperational standards such as sustainability and impact have made the list along with the corevalues.Finally, the definition of important or repeatedly used terms has been provided in the backgroundsection of the Code. The terms defined in this section are code of conduct, NGOs, signatories andcivil society. However, other equally important terms have not been defined. These include, interalia: good governance, accountability, transparency, integrity and independence. Defining theseterms might have precluded some of the confusion in the ‘Standards of Conduct’ section.2.1 Rationale and ObjectivesIn assessing whether the general and specific objectives properly designed and presented, the keyindicators identified in the previous section refer to a clear statement of objectives, and relevance tothe problem to be addressed. The provision on ‘Purpose of the Code’ identifies its objectives as: ensuring transparency and accountability in the operation of NGOs by voluntary self- regulation; improving the quality of services provided by NGOs by helping NGOs to adopt high standards of conduct and to devise efficient decision-making processes; improving communication between the NGO community and the various stake holders. improving the performance of the NGO community by encouraging the exchange of experiences among its members and learning from proven best practices.The rationale for developing the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs is described in terms ofanticipated benefits rather than problems encountered. However, the first two paragraphs of theCode describe changing contexts demanded changes in the role of NGOs. The Code first elaborateshow the droughts of 1973-74 and 1984-85, which directed the focus of NGOs to relief, were replacedby rehabilitation and development as the major development challenges in Ethiopia. Then it states: “This change from emergency relief to sustainable development is of far-reaching significance to Ethiopia and needs to be handled with care, transparency and accountability. There is also an increasing involvement of NGOs in advocacy, in human rights and civic education. As NGOs have emerged as important development partners, they need to inform what they stand for, their policies, achievements and what they plan to do in the future”.Thus, the problem the Code sought to address relates to clarifying and aligning the role of NGOs tothe evolving development challenges in the country. This conclusion is also supported by the focusof the code development process on the role of civil society.The key question then is whether and to what extent the objectives identified in the Code arerelevant to this problem. In this light, the identification of objectives with focus on ensuring andimproving transparency and accountability, quality of service provision, communication, and
performance in the sector had been appropriate. By the same token, more recent changes in theoperational context for the civil society sector, especially in the regulatory framework, demands anoverhaul of the self-regulation system designed in 1998.2.2 ScopeThe designation and presentation of the scope of application must be consistent with the purpose ofthe code, relevant in the context of the regulatory framework, and appropriate to the intendedsubjects. The Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs identifies its scope as covering “all signatories,which fall under the definition of NGOs in the Code of Conduct and operate in Ethiopia”. In thedefinition of the Code, an NGO is “a voluntary, not-for-profit, non self-serving, non-governmental, non-partisan and independent organization or association involved in the promotion of social justice anddevelopment” irrespective of features such as level of operation, religious or secular nature, or formof organization. Although the same provision of the Code refers to other informal or formal groups,this definition covers the whole range of structures in the civil society sector.The issue of consistency with the purpose of the Code, already identified as aligning the role of NGOsto current development challenges, does not pose much problem. Such a broad scope is in factnecessary if the Code is to achieve its stated purpose. The same was also true for the other criteria atthe time of the Code’s development. However, changes in the legal framework since the late 1990smay have implications for the relevance and appropriateness of the above definition. For one, thereare no longer NGOs but charities and societies designated Ethiopian, Ethiopian resident or foreignwith their potential roles and areas of engagement determined by law. This will have implications forthe profile of intended subjects as well as the purpose of the Code. Thus, while the scope wasrelevant and appropriate at the time of development, its continued propriety needs to be reassessedin the current context.2.3 Vision, values and guiding principlesThe design and presentation of shared visions, missions, principles and values in a code of conducthas to be seen in terms of providing sufficient detail to inform a comprehensive accountabilityframework as well as relevance to the regulatory context as well as propriety to the profile ofintended subjects. The last point relates to whether the shared value framework is compatible withthe organizational vision, mission, principles, and values of potential signatories.The Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs does not articulate a vision. It has however explicitlyidentified the shared mission of NGOs operating in Ethiopia as improving and advancing the publicgood, the quality of life of those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable and the proper managementof the environment for future generations. This shared mission is to be achieved through initiativesto empower and build community capacity, provide services for sustainable development, and workin partnership with each other the Government donors community partners and the public. Thoughpresented as standards of conduct, the Code also contains statements of principle and values. Theseare, in order of presentation, people centered, fairness and equality, moral and ethical integrity,transparency and accountability, good governance, independence, communication andcollaboration, gender equality, environmental consciousness, sustainability, and impact.As general statements of aspiration, mission statements, principles and values are hardly responsiveto changes in context. This is especially true for the Code’s statement of mission which had beendesigned to accommodate a range of institutions falling within its scope. Moreover, conflict with
organizational profiles is not likely to arise since the elements of the value framework have not beenclearly defined. However, the statements can barely inform the development of specific rules andimplementation framework for the Code for the same reason putting their very utility in to question.For instance, since there is no stated vision and none of the principles and values of the Code havebeen identified as such, a conceptually consistent link cannot be made at any level. It would thus benecessary to overhaul the general section of the Code and develop a comprehensive, internallyconsistent and clear set of principles and values in line with a shared vision and mission.3 Specific Rules and PoliciesThis section of a code of conduct is expected to cover, at the very least, four core issues. These are:the internal governance rules for organizations, accountability rules, rules for professional conduct,and complaint procedures.The Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs has a section dedicated to “Standards of Conduct”understood as the norms to which signatories of the Code are expected to adhere. These standardsare presented in the form of declarations of commitment under the principles and values dealt within the previous section. While the generality of the statements may be a concern, issues of internalgovernance have been covered under the ‘good governance’ provisions of the section. Similarly, the‘transparency and accountability’ and ‘people-centered’ provisions deal with issues relating toaccountability rules, while the ‘fairness and equity’, ‘moral and ethical integrity’, and ‘independence’provisions deal with individual conduct. One could thus surmise that the Code makes reference tothe core issues that are expected to be dealt with in the specific rules section. However, thepresentation of this section as well as the gaps identified in the value framework raise concerns as towhether the formal existence of provisions is matched by sufficiently detailed, consistent, andrelevant standards in the substance of the rules.3.1 Internal GovernanceA code of conduct is expected to have rules on internal governance that are stated clearly and insufficient detail, consistent with the general provisions of the code, relevant in the context of theregulatory framework, and consistent with the organizational rules of intended subjects. Asufficiently detailed statement of rules should at least cover issues of separation of management andgovernance, transparent and democratic rules and procedures governing appointments andelections, terms of office, and balanced regional or gender representation. Consistency with generalprovisions, on the other hand, is about the congruence with the rationale and objectives of the code,and the shared value framework (vision, mission, principles and values). Since the same issues ofinternal governance are normally dealt with through legislation, comparable rules in a code ofconduct have to take into account mandatory legal stipulations on internal governance structures,mandates, processes and standards. Similarly, the constituting documents of potential membershave to be taken into account in designing the code provisions.The good governance provision of the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs contains commitments: to have a written constitution or a memorandum of association that clearly defines our mission, our objectives and our organizational structure;
develop a written policy that affirms our commitment to equal opportunities in: our employment practices; the promotion of staff; and board composition; and, ensure that the services of the governing body is given freely and voluntarily other than reimbursements for essential costs incurred during service.Other issues of internal governance, such as separation of functions or membership rules, are notdealt with in the Code. Moreover, since these same provisions form the general section and owing tothe generality of the same, it is not possible to consider whether the rules of internal governance areconsistent with the general provisions of the code or relevant in the context of the regulatoryframework. The same is unfortunately true for consistency with the constituting documents ofpotential subjects.3.2 Accountability RulesThe proper design and presentation of rules on accountability will be clear and address the keyelements of accountability in sufficient detail in line with the general provisions of the same code,the regulatory framework, and the organizational rules of intended subjects. The details expected inthis part relate to rules addressing both downward and upward accountability in the form ofmechanisms such as regular reporting, financial independence and transparency, sound financialmanagement and accounting, annual audited financial statements, and annual general meetings aswell as participatory processes.The ‘transparency and accountability’ provision of the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs startswith a general commitment to be transparent and accountable in dealings with all stakeholders,including the Government and community partners, the public, donors and other interested parties.This is specifically stated in the context of informing stakeholders on the origin and use of resources.Accountability mechanisms enumerated within the commitments under this provision includemaking available periodic audit, financial and activity reports, developing sound financial policies andsystems, conducting independent annual audits, and making reports available to ‘relevant andinterested parties’. The provision also includes a commitment to conform to the constitution, laws,rules and regulations of the Government of Ethiopia and, where necessary, lobby for change. Theprovision on people-centeredness in the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs also refers to acommitment to involve all the men, women, young people and children of target communities to thegreatest possible extent, making them responsible for the conception, implementation andevaluation of projects and programs.These provisions of the Code clearly address the key issues falling within the scope of accountabilityrules in terms of accountability to key stakeholders, mechanisms and participatory processes toengage beneficiaries. Consistency with the mandatory regulation framework as well as propriety topotential members, i.e. charities and societies, is also not a major concern since the same issues aredealt with by law. The only concern here, other than the challenge of comparison with generalprovisions of the Code, is the reference to some of downward accountability mechanisms which istoo general for meaningful implementation. A case in point is the commitment to involvebeneficiaries in programming, which is not covered in the relevant legislation.
3.3 Rules of Professional ConductAssessment of code of conduct rules on professional conduct relates to examining whether the rulesare stated clearly and in sufficient detail and consistent with the general provisions of the code, thelegislative framework, and the profile of organizations to be governed. These rules are expected toprovide clear standards of behavior-permitted and prohibited - in a range of situations, defineconflict of interest, and stipulate the development of organizational code of conduct.The provision of the Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs on ‘fairness and equity’ commitssignatories to exercise and promote fairness, impartiality and equity in all of their activities and indealings with interested parties, community partners and the general public. Similarly, the ‘moral andethical integrity’ provision refers to commitments to be truthful, refrain from practices thatundermine the moral and ethical integrity of organisations, and utilize resources for designatedorganizational purposes. The issue of conflict of personal and professional interest is also mentionedunder the ‘good governance’ provision. These provisions do touch upon the core issues ofprofessional conduct. However, the generality of statements as well as lack of clarity as to the ‘how’of acceptable conduct is likely to make them impotent to guide behavior. For instance, the Codeneither defines ‘conflict of interest’ nor commits signatories to develop rules on the issue. In fact,these provisions of the Code more properly identify general values rather than standards of conduct.In this context, it is not possible to assess whether the provisions are consistent with the generalprovisions of the code, relevant in the context of the regulatory framework, or appropriate to theprofile of potential signatories. One point that is clear is that the mandatory provisions on conflict ofinterest provided for in the current regulatory rules provide a more useful set of standards. (CSPstipulations on officers; conflict of interest in the regulation)3.4 Compliant ProceduresRules on compliant procedures, properly designed and presented, take into account the potentialconcerns of external and internal stakeholders, direct organizations to assign a designatedombudsman, and provide for protection of whistleblowers. Consistency with the regulatoryframework and propriety for the expected profile of signatories are also important. The NGO Codeof Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs has stipulated detailed rules on who may lodge a compliant and towhich organ, procedures for consideration, and appeal in its code observance section. Theseprovisions are stated clearly and in sufficient detail and are in line with the general provisions of theCode, which they are designed to implement. Consistency with the regulatory framework is not aconcern since the procedures supplement legislative processes such as stipulations on mandatorydisclosure of misconduct. The only concern here relates to protection of whistleblowers and thepotential benefits of assigning an ombudsman.4 Implementation and EnforcementThis section of a code of conduct is expected to cover three key issues: identifying implementationchallenges, putting in place mechanisms for implementation, and enforcement provisions. At theoutset, implementation challenges should be clearly identified and addressed. Implementationmechanisms, on the other hand, should provide sufficient detail on the structures and procedures,responsible persons or bodies, and regular reporting mechanisms. It is also advised that signatoriesbe directed to develop an implementation strategy for the code of conduct as a whole. Finally,enforcement mechanisms should be stated clearly and in sufficient detail including non-compliance
reporting mechanisms, consequences to apply in cases of breach, a system of positive incentives,awareness and dissemination, and assessment and review of the code.The Code of Conduct for Ethiopian NGOs does not identify implementation challenges. It doeshowever provide in detail for implementation mechanisms including the establishment of codeobservance structures and mandates. Gaps in this respect relate to the absence of provisionsdirecting signatories to designate a code observance officer and absence of regular reportingmechanisms. Enforcement mechanisms stated in the Code cover non-compliance reportingmechanisms, a range of soft measures as well as the possibility of cancellation of membership by theGeneral Assembly, a system of positive incentives, awareness and dissemination, and assessmentand review of the code.4.1 Process of Development Evidence of a process involving analysis aimed at addressing the four key questions of accountability described earlier – who, to whom, for what, and how, as well as a possible fifth – with what outcome? Establishing shared values among intended subjects of the code Engagement of all stakeholders, especially beneficiaries Approval at the highest levels5 Conclusions and Recommendations5.1 Conclusions5.2 Recommendations