Code of Conduct for NGOs


  1. The following represents the work of several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working from late 1991 through the NGO Conference in Paris, the outcomes of the Agenda Ya Wananchi, from meeting during the New York PrepCom and in the intervening months up to and including the Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro in June, 1992.
  2. The goal of this NGO Code of Conduct process is to eventually have a Code that NGOs can sign on to.
  3. We pledge to continue to engage in the process to analyze and deepen this activity and make recommendations that groups may adopt.
  4. There has been a dramatic growth of community groups and NGOs during the past 10 years. The work of community and citizen groups and organisations and NGOs now constitutes the best option for citizen action to change the forces against a sustainable future.
  5. In order to build up our constituency base, to truly serve the people within our community/organization, certain ethical and accountable agreements need to be acknowledged.


  6. An NGO Code of Conduct could contain the following principles:
  7. National and local NGOs (in North and South) should:
    1. be rooted in issues at home
    2. have some definable constituency or membership
    3. have open democratic working systems, gender parity, consultative problem-solving, non-discriminatory practices
    4. have clear conflict of interest guidelines
    5. have a code of ethics for staff
    6. publish an annual report and audited financial statements
    7. be non-profit, non-party political
    8. foster justice and equity, alleviate poverty and preserve cultural integrity
    9. endeavor to enhance the total environment - physical, biological and human
    10. have a fair wage structure, with a credible scale between highest and lowest paid worker
    11. be truly with people and not impose their agendas on them
    12. base all their work on the resources available to the people, their expertise, existing institutions, culture and religions; be self-sufficient while remaining open to the assistance offered by their various partners
    13. avoid being corrupted both materially and spiritually
    14. facilitate people's efforts
    15. share information with all members; set up necessary mechanisms to gather and exchange experiences; and get actively involved in environmental education (awareness-building) and training
    16. articulate a broad political framework and code of ethics to guide their internal operations and their work with community groups and people's organisations, as well as their relations with the South, NGOs and the North
    17. ensure the highest levels of accountability, starting with their own constituencies - the people. This includes uncompromising evaluations involving the participation of the local populations. Campaigns
  8. Northern and Southern NGOs often have non-project or non-funding based relationships. Generally, these relationships are the basis for campaigns to protest certain social or environmental problems in a Northern or Southern country; or the campaigns may be on international issues, like the World Bank's Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
  9. This treaty should be designed to make clear the process of consultation and decision-making among all the participants to facilitate a process of dialogue between Northern and Southern NGOs on campaigns. At this point, we have only questions, not answers:
    1. The overriding principle this treaty seeks to ensure is consultation among NGOs before anyone takes a position that might affect another. But that is not as easy as it seems.
    2. If a group in one country sends out an international action alert about a problem in its country, what obligation does it have to first assure that there is a consensus among the NGOs in that country about that problem? Conversely, what obligation has a group that receives an action alert to first assure that the alert is the result of a consensus position in the country of origin before responding to the action alert?
    3. Who has the obligation to compile a reasonable list of NGOs in each country (without a list it is not possible for groups elsewhere to consult with NGOs in one country before taking positions on issues that might affect that country)?
    4. What constitutes reasonable consultation? How many groups is "enough"?
    5. How long should the consultation process be allowed to take? Can deadlines be set for responses if there is a hearing or legislative action coming up? What if there is no response - is that consultation?
    6. Can a contact person be chosen in each region or country to facilitate communications and consultation? How would that person be chosen? In a crisis, may that person speak for their constituency without consultation?
    7. What if groups within a region disagree? Who gets listened to? What if regions disagree? Declaration of Solidarity
  10. Before making public expression of solidarity for NGOs and individuals a proper consultation process should be undertaken to ensure the safety of the affected parties.

    Regarding NGOs working outside their country

  11. Northern and Southern NGOs should collaborate on the basis of:
    1. equitable and genuine partnership
    2. two-way flow of all information, ideas and experiences
    3. financial transparency.
  12. Southern NGOs not Northern NGOs have the major responsibility for activities within their own countries.
  13. Northern NGOs when working in the South must have transparent advisory systems within the country of operation; there must be transparent criteria for selection of working partners.
  14. Northern NGOs should monitor Northern government/corporate activity in their host country.
  15. Northern NGOs in their host country should live in an appropriate comparative level as counterpart NGOs, not in expatriate style.
  16. Northern NGOs should develop effective policy on international issues.
  17. Because development groups get most of their funding from their national governments, most Northern NGOs hardly question the policies and activities of their governments in the South. On the contrary, they have become accessories to the hidden agendas pursued by their governments and transnational corporations in gaining control over the resources of the South. In order for Northern NGOs to be able to forge genuine people-to-people solidarity, they should:
    1. build a relationship that is based on mutual respect and collaboration as equal partners, and that fosters self-determination and self-reliance
    2. use their comparative advantage of easy access to information and pass it on to their partners in the South
    3. challenge their governments and educate the public in order to change the prevailing inequitable international economic order and development paradigms which have been largely responsible for the deteriorating global environment
    4. campaign for genuine grassroots democracy in their own countries
    5. campaign for sustainable life-styles based on their own local resources as much as possible, and paying fair (ecological) prices for imported products. Action Plan for Follow-Up
  18. Regional focal points to publicize and maximize NGO input
  19. Broad correspondence
  20. 1993 meeting to prepare final copy for widespread adoption.

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