What is the Global Standard for CSO Accountability?
The Global Standard is a reference standard that has been created by 9 civil society organisations (CSO) accountability initiatives from across the world. Its job is to connect civil society with people, partners, supporters, and donors to build trust and leverage impact in times of shrinking civic space. It is a strong commitment to the public and an invitation to hold civil society to account, and to get involved. The 12 Commitments in the Global Standard describe what we, as civil society actors, aspire to achieve and how we must work to implement positive change. It provides a strong narrative of what the sector wants to achieve and how, and it encompasses the entire sector – not just humanitarian work.
Why a reference Standard?
The Global Standard brings together key elements of accountability from a wide-range of existing standards into one comprehensive and integrated document. Informed particularly by the Core Humanitarian Standard and the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness, the Global Standard complements these standards by integrating the Dynamic Accountability concept.
We call it a reference Standard also because it is applicable across different areas of work as well as acknowledges the needs of organizations and their contexts. Additionally, the Global Standard aims to strengthen engagement across these existing or new accountability standards and codes. It is not intended to replace them.
Who can use the Global Standard?
The Global Standard can be used on a voluntary basis as a benchmark by:
● Civil society organizations, networks, and advocacy groups of any size to improve their own standards, hold each other accountable, and enable meaningful stakeholder engagement.
● Donors, philanthropists, and government agencies to integrate principles of dynamic accountability in their regulations and funding policies.
● Social impact groups and enterprises to foster their accountability practices and to cultivate trusting relationships with the people they work with.
Why is the Global Standard important?
The role of the civil society sector in recent times has never been more crucial. Global challenges like climate change, human rights violations, and wider inequality gap, among others, call for stronger, responsive, impact-driven, and accountable civil society.
The Global Standard presents the people we work with, either donors, governments, or local communities, of our commitment to delivering positive change by being open and holding us accountable. Trust can be strengthened with the people we work with. Our voices will be heard by governments. Our effectiveness and transparency will be acknowledged by donors. That’s why the CSO community has created the Global Standard, so we can reconnect to, improve, and celebrate why we’re really here: to make society better for all.
How does the Global Standard contribute to achieve the SDGs?
The Global Standard takes into account the various dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it focuses on human rights obligations, social justice, good governance, sustainability, reducing vulnerability, addressing the exclusion of marginalised populations and improving the lives of the poorest of society. The 2030 Agenda puts great emphasis on the fact that governments will need the broad involvement of other stakeholders, such as CSOs, to meet their goals. Against this background, the Global Standard offers a framework for CSOs to strengthen their collective capacity and credibility, which will be critical in delivering on the SDGs.
Do you provide guidance for implementation?
Supplementary Guidance Materials provide advice on how to use the Global Standard, including how to assess whether CSOs are living up to the commitments and whether accountability standards align with the global reference standard.
Who created the Global Standard?
The Global Standard is an initiative by 9 well-established CSO accountability networks from around the world. Over the last 3 years, we collaborated and learned from each other to develop the Global Standard with the aim to strengthen accountability codes and practices of the sector and our own.
The project is financially supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Read more about our story
FAQs about Dynamic Accountability
Why is CSO Accountability important?
Recent times have seen an alarming rise of measures by governments to restrict and to close space for civil society to advance citizens’ rights and to hold governments accountable. At the same time, a growing number of global protests reveal popular mistrust of established political institutions and actors[ 1]. While governments are narrowing the possibilities for civic participation through legal and regulatory restrictions and public de-legitimisation, citizens are demanding for active roles in shaping activities and decisions of governments, businesses and the CSOs who claim to represent them.
At a time when civic space is shrinking in many places, CSOs need to take action to preserve this space and to protect enabling and safe environments for civic action. One important step CSOs can take is to prove their legitimacy as actors that are accountable to all people. If they want stakeholders to trust them as legitimate representatives of their concerns, CSOs have to engage in an ongoing dialogue with them, and ensure that decisions are informed, co-created and validated by these stakeholders. They need cultures, structures and mechanisms that are open to participation and that are flexible to changing needs on the ground. Furthermore, CSOs have to abide by the laws and norms and be willing and able to learn and to adapt. Only then can CSOs leverage the full potential of people’s skills, resources and capacities towards their shared cause and strengthen the impact of their work.
What is a CSO Accountability Initiative?
The Global Standard defines Accountability Initiatives as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and networks that influence, promote and drive the agenda of CSO accountability on national, regional or global levels. Their activities include the promotion and management of CSO codes of ethics or accountability standards as well as advocacy, research, and capacity development. These are all aimed to improve the accountability practices of CSOs worldwide.
Why is the use of feedback so important in the Global Standard?
The concept of ‘Dynamic Accountability’ is more than just gathering and working with feedback. In order to increase accountability and thereby effectiveness, organisations need to close the feedback loop.
To be successful, we need to be in constant dialogue with our stakeholders about what they want, what they have to offer and how we can work together effectively to achieve change. Feedback from our stakeholders needs to inform our decisions so that we can both continuously improve our performance and build trusted relationships. We should be in an ongoing dialogue which drives learning and change, develops trust with our stakeholders and enhances the legitimacy and credibility of CSOs, all of which are critically important in these times of shrinking civic space.
The Global Standard consulted with and is following the model of Feedback Labs on closing feedback loops. Check out their website to learn more. Feedback Labs