Ethics and Professionalism for NGOs

While the NGO or the Non Profit sector is founded on the premise that they would propagate sustainable and equitable forms of development, the concept of internal accountability and internal structures of governance needs to be discussed as well. The point here is that NGO’s need to evolve mechanism for the practice of ethics and professionalism within to actualize change without. In other words, before they preach these terms to the external world, they need to practice them internally. Hence, it becomes imperative for NGOs to be ethical and professional in their dealings and to observe strict codes of conduct within themselves. Of late, there have been many instances of wrongdoing within the NGO sector and hence, the time for accountability and transparency within has arrived.

Any discussion of NGOs often begs the question as to what they are doing internally. In other words, as the saying goes, Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion and hence, the NGOs must be squeaky-clean first. In India, there have been several cases of financial wrongdoings by the NGOs and there have been cases where misappropriation and embezzlement of funds have been reported.

In this context, it is useful to highlight what happened to the United Nations wherein several of its bodies were found to be mired in corruption. Right from the food for oil scam to the misappropriation of funds by organizations like UNICEF and UNESCO, the UN has had to suffer reputational losses because of these cases. The point here is that the NGO sector is especially watched for any wrongdoing since it proclaims lofty notions of justice and equity.

Apart from this, the fact that the NGO sector does not have the scale or the size of the operations to have rigorous internal controls needs to be discussed. While the organizations mentioned above failed despite internal controls, many of the NGOs are simply functioning without any internal democracy or internal code of conduct. Indeed, it has been proved that dubious funding and acting as a conduit for black money and supporting money laundering are rampant among NGOs. Hence, there cannot be a better case for scrutinizing the activities of the NGOs and ensuring that they are above board in all respects.

Recently, the protests against the Kundankulam Nuclear Plant were alleged to have been motivated by Western governments using the Indian NGOs as a conduit. This kind of behavior must be avoided and a robust control system that does not abuse the goodwill that NGOs have must be put in place. The point here is that for society, the NGO sector is a beacon of hope and hence, the NGOs must not take society for granted. Neither should they hoodwink the government by hiding their sources of funding and operational measures.

Finally, in these times, when unethical behavior among all sectors of society is rampant, the temptation to follow the herd is strong and hard to resist. This applies to the NGO sector as well and given the large amounts of money that is flowing into the sector, the stakes are indeed high. In conclusion, one must practice what one preaches and hence, the NGO sector should have stringent codes of conduct that are ethical and professional in nature.


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