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Christian Aid's accountability

Christian Aid ranks as a ‘top performer’ among 30 of the world’s most powerful global organisations in 2007's Global Accountability Report from the One World Trust, and comes first among ten international non-governmental organisations assessed.

But we’re cautioned against complacency and urged to adopt ‘constant vigilance’ to ensure our policy commitments are put into practice and embedded into our culture.

We’ve put together a few answers to questions that you may have about the report. If you’d like to know more, send us your questions - email info@christian-aid.org

What’s the Global Accountability Report?

The Global Accountability Project is an initiative by the One World Trust (OWT), a UK non-governmental organisation (NGO) promoting accountable global governance. Its report maps out the state of accountability among global organisations from public, corporate, and non-profit sectors and provides guidance on improving accountability.

Each year the OWT assesses the capability of 30 global organisations to be accountable to civil society, affected communities, and the wider public.

The report uses four widely-accepted measures of accountability - transparency, participation, evaluation, and complaint and response mechanisms - as the basis for assessing the extent to which organisations have policies and systems in place to enhance accountability to the people they affect.

In short, the report seeks to measure how much organisations are giving people a means to hold them to account or make their voices heard in decision-making processes.

Why is global accountability important?

Transnational actors from intergovernmental, non-governmental, and corporate sectors play an increasingly important role in global governance – setting financial standards, delivering aid, providing essential services, and coordinating responses to disasters and disease. Their decisions and actions profoundly affect people’s daily lives.

Yet recent crises such as the collapse of Enron, the leadership crises at the World Bank and growing concerns about NGO accountability have led to growing calls for greater accountability among such institutions if responses to global challenges are to succeed.

Why were we selected?

Christian Aid was selected for assessment in 2007 given its global scale of operations, sizable operating income and influence on public policy issues.

How accountable are we?

Christian Aid is one of four ‘high performers’ this year - alongside two UN agencies and the Asian Development Bank - that scored over 50% in all four dimensions.

As one of only three organisations exceeding 80% in its overall score, CA is ‘leading its sector’. Christian Aid ranks top overall among ten international NGOs assessed. It scores highest for transparency and complaints and response but fared less well in participation and evaluation capabilities.

Its open information policy and supporter and public complaints procedures are cited as examples of good practice.

What’s our response to the report?

Christian Aid welcomes this scrutiny by the One World Trust and is delighted to be identified as a top performer in the international NGO sector.

As an organisation which actively campaigns both in the UK and overseas, seeking to hold governments and big businesses to account for their actions, it is vital that we too are accountable to those we affect - poor communities, supporters, institutional donors, the public, our staff and overseas partners. This is core to our values and strategy.

As Christian Aid grows and decentralises, ensuring consistent accountability becomes an even greater challenge, but one which we aspire to meet.

The work we’ve done to strengthen accountability mechanisms is just a first step. Having policies and procedures in place is a necessary but insufficient measure of accountability practice; so we’re striving to build a culture of accountability within the organisation that ensures all staff are equipped to anticipate and respond to the accountability needs of our key stakeholders. This report helpfully pinpoints areas where we can clearly do much more.

What’s our view on NGO accountability?

We recognise accountability as a growing issue for the NGO sector. For this reason, we’ve joined forces with other NGOs and charities to highlight existing good practice in accountability within the sector and support inter-agency initiatives to strengthen it where it is weak.

In 2005 we joined the ImpACT Coalition, an initiative by most of the UK’s top 100 fundraising charities to improve accountability and transparency and promote better public understanding of how charities work and their benefits to society.

In 2006 we joined the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership. HAP members share a commitment to making humanitarian action accountable to disaster survivors and to complying with and promoting principles of accountability that take account of the views, needs and capacities of disaster survivors and place them at the centre of work to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian action.

How does the report relate to our ongoing efforts?

Strengthening accountability is a key organisational goal. We aim to ‘improve our ability to be an open, transparent and learning organisation, accountable for its actions and able to meet high standards of public and stakeholder reporting’ (Turning Hope Into Action 2005-10).

We’ve been working hard on this since 2005. One World Trust’s Global Accountability Framework is one tool we’ve been using to support this and we will use their 2007 report to add impetus to our internal efforts. Achievements so far include:

  • Clarifying Christian Aid’s key stakeholders, accountability codes and standards

  • Signing-up to the HAP beneficiary accountability standards and the Fund Raising Standards Board

  • Introducing an open information policy

  • Publishing an independently assured carbon footprint for Christian Aid

  • Revising our corporate involvement policy, which provides guidelines on private-sector fundraising, procurement and investment

  • Strengthening our supporter complaints procedures.

Next year we’ll continue rolling out our open information policy. Sharing more feedback from evaluations will be part of this.

We’ll also look into ways of strengthening our participation and evaluation capabilities – this can be challenging when working through partners, since this means we don’t have direct relationships with beneficiaries. But we’re taking steps to improve this; for example, when negotiating partnership agreements, selecting new partners to work with, and by introducing a complaints mechanisms for partners.

How are we training staff to be more accountable?

We’ve introduced accountability sessions for all new members of staff through the induction process, and will be including it in the appraisal process for existing and new staff once we’ve rolled out our new staff competencies framework. We’ve also undertaken sessions with senior management on their external accountability responsibilities and provided standard FAQs about Christian Aid for all staff.

 

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Christian Aid tops global accountability table.

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