A Revised Code of Conduct for the International Aid and Development Sector

Sarah Burrows

01 Dec, 2016

On 1 December, at a special AGM, members of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) adopted a new Code of Conduct to further enhance transparency and improve accountability to the public and stakeholders. But what is the Code? And why is it important to our members?

What is ACFID’s Code of Conduct?

It is a voluntary code of good practice for the not-for-profit aid and international development sector. It was initially developed in 1997 to enhance the trust of stakeholders and the public through accountability and transparency of ACFID members.

It is a commitment that ACFID members make to all their stakeholders regarding how they work as an NGO and how they work with their broad range of stakeholders.  It goes beyond minimum standards to be a code of good practice standards.

Why has the Code been reviewed?

The Code of Conduct is regularly reviewed to respond to changes in the sector and its operating environment. The review this year has explored key issues facing the sector such as changes to the way members are funded, moves to greater collaboration in the sector and the increasing need for overseas humanitarian assistance.  

It drew extensively on the collective wisdom and expertise of the sector, independent subject matter experts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission. It now better aligns with other global codes and standards maintaining its global reputation.

What is different about the revised Code?

The revised Code looks quite different from its predecessor, though much of the content will be familiar to our members. At the core of the revised Code is a set of 9 principles and 32 commitments. The principles reflect good development practice and as such are relevant to all development actors whereas the commitments are specific to ACFID’s members.

The key changes include:

- The revised Code has been shaped to be easier to read, understand, share and communicate. This means ACFID members can use it to share their commitment with their stakeholders and their donors, partners and communities can use it to hold them to account.

- The revised Code includes good practice indicators which describe a higher standard of practice that goes beyond compliance indicators. These will facilitate continuous improvement.

How is the Code implemented?

ACFID provide guidance, tools, support and advice for our members to help them ensure they meet the Code standards and continually improve their practice, but the responsibility for maintaining compliance with the Code rests primarily with members themselves. Members must be compliant with all 89 compliance indicators in the revised Code.

ACIFD has strengthened compliance assessment on application for new members and has shifted to triennial rather than annual compliance self-assessment for existing members.  If members are found not to be complaint with the Code they can have their signatory status removed by the independent governing committee.

The revised ACFID Code of Conduct shows our members’ commitment to accountability to donors, partners and the communities they work with.

Crucially, it helps set a path for our members to continuously improve their work. As a peak body, we will do the same and strive for higher standards.

Read more about the revised Code of Conduct here.

  • Sarah Burrows
    Sarah Burrows

    Sarah Burrows is ACFID's Code of Conduct Coordinator.

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