Melaia Kubuabola (PIANGO) and Emily Moreton (ACFID)

For the past three years, the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) and the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) have been working together to use the Global Standard as the foundation for developing a CSO accountability framework for the Pacific; the end goal to strengthen CSO accountability mechanisms.

The purpose of having such a Framework is twofold: 1) to articulate a Pacific-driven vision for what accountable civil society organisations look like; and 2) to provide Pacific civil society with shared language and tools to review their accountability practices and hold themselves and each other to account.

In December 2021, the Pacific Regional CSO Accountability Framework was completed. Drafting the Framework was a long and at times challenging process, requiring many talanoa, or open and inclusive dialogues. It was crucial that the standards set out in the Framework reflected a Pacific model and vision of accountability, and the values, strength and diversity of Pacific civil society. The Global Standard was a valuable starting point for our conversations, allowing us to test our own expectations against those of global civil society, whilst allowing the flexibility to incorporate other issues relevant to the Pacific, including humanitarian action and safeguarding.

In 2022, PIANGO and ACFID set out on the next stage of our accountability journey together and developed a self-assessment tool, based on the Regional Framework. Known as the Institutional Assessment & Mapping (IAM) Toolkit, it helps an organisation to reflect on their actions and behaviours, as well as their policies and procedures, and how these align with the standards set out in the Framework. Created through an iterative process, where it was tested by PIANGO first, the Toolkit is the next step in helping PIANGO and its National Liaison Units (NLUs) hold each other to account, creating a mechanism by which they can monitor and assess their progress.

PIANGO has adopted an accompaniment approach, whereby they provide resources and support to their NLUs to understand and complete the IAM process. Ten NLUs have now used the IAM Toolkit to self-assess, marking a significant first step in implementing the Regional Framework and taking concrete actions towards improving accountability mechanisms. The results are now helping shape the next stage of implementation, by identifying areas of strength and weakness to inform future peer-to-peer learning and targeted capacity strengthening from PIANGO.

Through this work, ACFID and PIANGO have been able to raise the profile of the Global Standard and both the Pacific and Australian CSO accountability standards with governments and donors. In Australia, ongoing conversations with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has raised the profile of the Global Standard and the value of CSO-driven accountability standards, along with contributions to the OECD DAC Recommendation on Enabling Civil Society. For PIANGO, having a documented CSO accountability framework is invaluable when advocating to government on their own accountability. Recently, when civil society practitioners were questioned about their accountability by Fijian government officials, they were able to explain the Regional Framework and demonstrate how they are ‘walking the talk’ on accountability.

While the work is ongoing, there have been significant achievements so far in implementing the Global Standard in the Pacific region. PIANGO is now driving this work, integrating it into our own organisation and across programs. In the future, for ACFID and other Global Standard partners, there is more work to be done in working with governments, donors and partners to encourage them to ‘walk the talk’ and support the implementation of locally-driven accountability standards, whether at a regional or national level; living up to their commitments to localisation and a strong and effective civil society.

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