Participants at the CIVICUS World Assembly, held 21-25 June in Glasgow, chose the issue of ‘unaccountable leaders’ as the key problem facing the world today – above other issues such as the dominance of a market-based economy or the lack of solutions to key development problems. Reflecting this, it was one of the key themes of the Assembly and a number of sessions looked at the question of the accountability of government, business and civil society itself.
There was great interest in the new Charter of Accountability, launched by CIVICUS and a group of other international advocacy NGOs (INGOs) earlier in the month, which seeks to provide a framework for INGO accountability. It also shows that they are not taking their credibility and trust for granted, but are taking steps to preserve this trust. Currently, a website with more information on the Charter is being set up, which will be hosted by CIVICUS.
First findings from the CIVICUS Civil Society Index show that accountability also emerges as a key challenge for civil society at national level. In about 35 of the more than 50 countries where the CSI has been implemented, accountability was identified as a key weakness of the sector. Preliminary analysis suggests that the current tools to tackle this (Codes of Conduct, certification systems, etc) are not always seen as effective. What is needed, according to CSI participants, is to create a culture of accountability within the sector. These questions were explored at the international CSI workshop, which convened around 100 representatives of CSI country partners and external stakeholders.
These discussions all show that internal and external accountability are closely linked. Unless their own conduct is transparent and accountable, CSOs will not be able to effectively hold government and business leaders to account, and at both the individual and sector levels, there is much work to do to ensure this. CIVICUS, together with the increasing number of organizations working on this issue, is keen to continue to provide leadership on this crucial challenge for civil society worldwide.
For more information
For more about the CSI Workshop and a preliminary analysis of the CSI’s findings, see http://www.civicus.org