Source: (-0001) In Michael W. Dowdle, Ed., Public Accountability, Designs, Dilemmas and Experiences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 271-300.

"With the recent rise of NGO power in global civil society, the question "to whom are NGOs accountable?" has been a key topic for discussion. Two fatal flaws have characterized most of the ensuing analysis. The first is that all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are generally lumped into one generic category, regardless of significant differences in function, scope, structure, constituency, and boundary. The second is that traditional state-based democratic and corporate-economic notions of accountability have been simply lifted from these contexts and applied to the NGO world. The NGOs and accountability debate is examined in the first and second sections of this chapter. In the third section, specific sub-set of international NGOs is introduced in order to narrow the discussion and allow for more detailed analysis later. That subset consists of the memebers of the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance. In the fourth section, a few examples taken from the ISEAL Alliance and its members are used to put forward the argument that accountability regimes can evolve over time through pragmatic responses to pressures and demands as they arise, rather than solely as the outcome of pre-envisaged institutional design. The fifth section develops this further outlining how institutional "learning" can play an important role in the evolution of accountability regimes. Based on insights gained from examining the accountability mechanisms of the ISEAL Alliance members, the sixth section offers a conceptualization of accountability relationships based on the concept of differentiated accountability boundaries. The seventh and final section then outlines some thoughts on the limits to NGO accountability." (excerpt)