Developing a code of conduct for NGOs

Filed under - Civil society

Published on 23 April 2009 as a U4 Helpdesk answer
Do you have any information on codes of conduct for civil society organizations?


We are looking for possibilities to develop a code of conduct for civil society organizations to (i) strengthen their internal governance structures and therefore make them more transparent and minimize the risk of corrupt influence; (ii) build up their reputation in order to increase acceptance of state and other key stakeholders.


Part 1: Benefits and Challenges of Introducing a Code of Conduct for NGOs

Part 2: Developing a Code of Conduct for NGOs

Part 3: Examples of NGO Codes of Conduct and Accountability Mechanisms

Part 4: Further Reading


As the concept of „civil society1“refers to a wide range of different actors, with specific interests, incentives and challenges, the value of developing a generic allencompassing code of conduct for organisations as diverse as NGOs, trade unions, cooperatives, social movements, faith-based organisations, etc can be questioned. As a result, this query will more specifically focus on the development of codes of conduct targeting the NGO community.


With the growing prominence of the non profit sector, NGO accountability has become an emerging issue of concern in recent years. NGO accountability covers issues such as organisational management, project implementation, financial management, participation and information disclosure that can be addressed in a Code of Conduct. In addition to setting core values and guiding principles, NGOs (non governmental organizations) codes of conduct typically provide for establishing strong oversight boards that are independent from management, complaints procedures towards external and internal audiences, conflict of interest policies, whistle blower protection policies, etc. Many organisations face major challenges of implementing and maintaining the code. As non-binding and rather generic instruments, codes of conduct often remain ineffective since they do not include clear mechanisms for their implementation and compliance checks.

Author(s): Marie Chêne, U4 Helpdesk, Transparency International, [email protected]
Reviewed by: Finn Heinrich, PhD, Transparency International
Publication date: 23 April 2009
Number: 200

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Country / Territory - International   
Region - Global   
Language(s) - English   
Topic - Accountability   |   Civil society   |   Governance   
Tags - Civil society   |   Integrity   |   Accountability   

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