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The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 3, Issue 3, March 2001

A publication of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor


The State, Laws and Nongovernmental Organizations in Bangladesh
By Mokbul Morshed Ahmad

China's Nongovernmental Organizations: Status, Government Policies, and Prospects for Further Development
By Guangyao Chen

The Czech Government and NGOs in 2001
By Petr Pajas

The Italian Legal System Relating to Not-for-Profit Organizations: A Historical and Evolutionary Overview
By Alceste Santuari


The Legal System Between the State and Civil Society
By Jurgen Nautz, Emil Brix, and Gerhard Luf
Reviewed by Thomas Notter

Foundations of Charity
By Charles Mitchell and Susan R. Moody
Reviewed by Karla Simon

Case Notes

Middle East and North Africa:

North America:
the United States

Country Reports

Asia Pacific:
| Australia | Cambodia | Indonesia | Japan

Central and Eastern Europe:
Regional | Albania | Lithuania

Latin America and the Caribbean:
Brazil | Chile | Venezuela

Middle East and North Africa:

Newly Independent States:

North America:
the United States

South Asia:

Sub-Saharan Africa:
| Ghana | South Africa

Western Europe:
France | Germany

Self-Regulation Reports

Northern NGO Guidelines and Codes of Conduct: Conflicting Rights and Responsibilities?
By Julie Gale

Building Trust in NGOs
By Simon Heap

Nigeria: Draft Code of Standard Practice for NGOs

Switzerland: New Accounting Rules for Not-for-Profit Organizations (NPOs)

International Grantmaking

Bar Association Task Force Revisits Private Foundation Rules: Implication for Foreign Grantmaking
By Richard S. Gallagher

Donating to U.S. Charities
By Arthur B.C. Drache, Q.C.

The Council on Foundations Secures Information Letter that Permits Use of Expenditure Responsibility for Most International Grants


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Editorial Board

Self-Regulation Reports

Northern NGO Guidelines and Codes of Conduct: Conflicting Rights and Responsibilities?*

By Julie Gale, INTRAC

The last two decades have seen a phenomenal increase in the numbers and influence of NGOs in both North and South. At the same time, questions have been raised relating to quality, transparency, accountability and legitimacy. NGOs have gained an often high-profile role in policy advocacy at national and international levels, and in many cases their funding base has shifted away from public donations to increasing reliance on government and multilateral funding. Concern over the need for public accountability can be articulated in terms of respecting rights – of donors, supporters, and beneficiaries (or clients) – and NGO responsibilities to their various constituencies.

For Northern-based NGOs, three distinct sets of questions arise, related to their activities in fund-raising, programme and advocacy work:

As NGOs have sought to address these issues, a number of guidelines, charters and codes of conduct have been developed to regulate their conduct, guarantee minimum standards, and safeguard rights. In 1995, the Commonwealth Foundation published its ‘NGO Guidelines for Good Policy and Practice’, the result of three years of research and consultation. It includes guidelines for governments dealing with NGOs, for NGOs themselves, for the policy and practice of funders, for Northern NGOs and international agencies, and a plan of action for the implementation of the guidelines.

Some guidelines are designed specifically to provide assurance to official donors and the general public that their money is being spent responsibly. Examples include the adoption in 1998 of a set of standards for agencies engaged in child sponsorship by the US NGO umbrella organisation InterAction, and the recent draft ICFM ‘Donors’ Rights Charter’, which sets out high professional standards on the part of fund-raisers. Other guidelines set out standards of good practice for NGOs and agencies working in developing countries and emergency situations. Examples include the SANGOCO ‘Code of Conduct for International Funding Agencies Working in South Africa’, adopted in 1998, and the Sphere Project’s ‘Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response’. In some cases NGOs may be required to sign up to charters in order to become eligible for government funds.

The fact that many of the guidelines, charters and codes address one or other of the three sets of questions reflects an underlying issue of conflicting NGO responsibilities: ‘upwards’ to donors and supporters, and ‘downwards’ to beneficiaries and staff. Whilst the need to ensure minimum quality standards in all areas of NGO activity is undeniable, there are areas of ambiguity. For example, donors’ rights may not always be fully compatible with effective programme design, particularly when the donors’ specifications contradict the priorities of intended beneficiaries. Furthermore, the complex nature of development work does not always translate into simple fund-raising messages. It is important, therefore, to avoid the adoption of codes of conduct which are based on mutually incompatible assumptions about rights and responsibilities in the aid relationship.


ICFM  Institute of Charity Finance Managers
SANGOCO  South African National NGO Coalition

*First published in ONTRAC (the newsletter of the International NGO Training and Research Centre, Oxford), 17, p. 6.


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