Reforming NGO Accountability: Supply vs. Demand-driven Models
School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development
Proposed solutions to INGO accountability problems frequently conflict. Dominant scholarship focuses on promoting self-regulation within the INGO community, while an alternative body of literature focuses on generating external incentives for accountability, using state/IO regulations or conditional funding. This article analyzes the causes and implications of this disjuncture. We first show that self-reform requires a high degree of INGO autonomy, whereas external reform requires a high degree of donor control. We next conceptualize INGO autonomy as a price funders pay for INGO services. Using this framework, we show that INGO self-reform implicitly assumes that the demand for INGO services outstrips the supply (scarce supply), forcing funders to pay a high price in terms of INGO autonomy. Proposals for external incentives assume the opposite (abundant supply), such that competition among INGOs effects a downward pressure on autonomy, increasing donor control. These findings reveal that solutions to NGO accountability cannot be an "all of the above" proposition. Moreover, because demand for services may vary between sectors of NGO activity, effective solutions need to be sector-specific, rather than universal.
International Studies Review
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