In recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the importance, number and diversity of non-governmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations now impact policies and advance initiatives that once were nearly exclusively the domain of governments and for-profit corporations, and their humanitarian service has become vital to the well-being of individuals and societies throughout the globe. In many cases, NGOs have proven more adept than government in responding to particular needs.
This powerful “Third Sector” existing between the realms of government and business, is bringing an unprecedented vitality and ability to bear on critical issues related to service and world peace. NGOs flexibility and connections to grassroots communities aid them in mobilizing resources quickly to the affected areas. Their often single-minded commitment and strong motivation affords them a civic power that other institutions may lack.
However with their increased importance comes increased responsibility. NGOs have the responsibility to be transparent, honest, accountable and ethical, to give out accurate information, and to not manipulate situations for the personal benefit of their boards and staff. NGOs have a calling to go beyond the boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity, culture and politics. They have the obligation to respect each person’s fundamental human rights.
NGOs are to have a system of proper governance. They must be careful to treat all public monies with utmost seriousness as a public trust and not to misuse public money for selfish purpose. NGOs have an obligation to not align themselves with, or stand in opposition to, any particular government for purely selfish shortsighted means, nor to become controlled by a government body. In short, NGOs have the responsibility to dedicate themselves for the sake of others and do so according to the highest code of ethical conduct.
All NGOs, even the most sincere and selfless, can benefit from a code of ethics and conduct that systematically identifies ethical practices and acceptable standards. The adoption and internal enforcement of a suitable code not only provides an ethical check for an NGO, it also serves as a statement to beneficiaries, donors and the public that the NGO takes seriously the importance of maintaining high standards. Such a code can assist stakeholders in identifying and avoiding “ pretenders” and irresponsible NGOs.