|NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice (Commonwealth Foundation)|
|Part I: NGOs: what they are and what they do|
|7. The legal and institutional frameworks within which NGOs operate|
Taken together, trends and developments noted in earlier chapters are beginning to produce a basis on which problems related to regulation, set out above, might be addressed.
Improved operations within NGOs represent in a very real sense, them taking more steps to regulate themselves. The more such developments can be encouraged, the less should be required in terms of external regulatory mechanisms.
At the same time, improved networking among NGOs is leading to more and more consensus- based collective regulation, at the very simplest level by enabling NGOs to measure themselves against the benchmarks of others, and at a more sophisticated level, by the collective determination of standards. Such standards have been set down by the collective action of NGOs in a number of countries. These commonly take the form of Codes of Ethics or Codes of Conduct. Those produced by the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB), the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN), and the Association of Non- Governmental Associations (TANGO) of The Gambia are good recent illustrative examples.
One specific area in which the collective determination of standards is emerging is that relating to gender sensitivity.
Through the collaboration of local and international agencies as well as gender researchers, increased attention has been given to how NGO programmes and projects impact on women, and how the different social experiences of men and women can be taken account of in such activities to make programmes more effective.
There will always be a need for NGOs to be regulated by law to protect the public interest. But the extent of such external regulation should, however, be influenced by the level and extent of collective and self-regulatory arrangements put in place by the efforts of NGOs themselves. Funders and governments should thus encourage and support such efforts, as some already do.