Asking the Do-Gooders to Prove They Do Good (JON CHRISTENSEN, 1/03/04, NY Times)
Wanting to know how a charity or foundation spends the millions it collects, or, more important, whether the programs it runs do any good, would seem reasonable, even necessary, to most people.
But reasonableness and need have never been sufficient to put ideas into practice. There are millions of these groups – commonly referred to as nongovernmental organizations, or NGO’s – worldwide, but few are subjected to that kind of meaningful oversight, say the specialists studying NGO accountability.
For some advocates that lack of oversight is a blessing. “Any attempt to explain, formalize and/or hold accountable the NGO community is dangerous,” writes Rob Gray, a professor at the Center for Social and Environmental Accounting Research at Glasgow University, in response to the report “The 21st Century NGO: In the Market for Change.” That study, published in June
by SustainAbility, an international consulting company, concluded that an “accountability squeeze” was one of the major challenges facing nonprofit organizations.
Even activists like Ralph Nader and the anti-globalization firebrand Naomi Klein, who have often been at the forefront of efforts demanding accountability from corporations and governments, have lashed out at calls for holding NGO’s similarly responsible. Mr. Nader, for example, objected to