WINGS – Improving the accountability of international philanthropy

As part of the Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative, WINGS is conducting a review and update of the Principles of Accountability for International Philanthropy.  

Over the past decade there has been increased emphasis on the merits and crucial role of accountability in philanthropy, both to donors and to grantees. Today the importance, or even requirement in the case of grant recipients, of publishing information on an organization’s operations can hardly be disputed. Nevertheless, that is easier said than done, and accountability practices face a host of barriers such as organizational culture, lack of incentives and expertise, and a non-systematic approach to current knowledge and practices.

If accountability presents a daunting task for organizations working within their countries, cross-border giving makes it quasi herculean. Some of the challenges faced by organizations working globally include language and cultural differences, disparate legal and accounting practices, long-distance communication, and working in the distinctive realm of international politics. In 2007, to address the issues surrounding international accountability practices, the European Foundation Centre and the Council on Foundations created a Joint Working Group that developed a set of Principles of Accountability for International Philanthropy. It presented seven principles to guide international philanthropic work: integrity, understanding, respect, responsiveness, fairness, cooperation and collaboration, and effectiveness.

Five years later, WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support) is engaging in a global review and update of the document, with the aim of deepening the understanding and practice of international philanthropy accountability, as well as introducing voices and perspectives from the global South. This will be done through regional consultations to globalize the Principles of Accountability document, vetting it regionally in Africa, the Arab Region, Asia and Latin America. Once the document is reviewed, it will be the basis for a practical toolkit, allowing for the operationalization of the Principles.

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