General Definitions

There is no absolute consensus on the definitions of many general terms used in the aid and development sector, although there is reasonable agreement. The following definitions are provided for the clarification of the use of key terms with reference to the Code of Conduct.

Accessible: Easy to approach, reach, speak with or use. Presented in a form, format, language or media that is readily useable.

Accountability: The processes through which an organisation makes a commitment to respond to and balance the needs of stakeholders in its decision-making processes and activities, and delivers against the commitment (Pathways to Accountability, the GAP Framework One World Trust, 2005).

ACNC: Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission.
Actors: An organisation, government department or individual with a role or influence (Safety with Dignity, Action Aid, 2009)

Advocacy: Activities undertaken to change the systemic and structural causes of poverty and disadvantage which may include popular campaigning, lobbying, research, policy positions, alliances and use of the media. It may occur both in Australia and globally (Australian Tax Office).

Affiliate: An organisation to which the signatory organisation has some form of membership, formal association or alliance.

Capability: A feature, ability, or competence that can be developed or improved. (‘Differentiating Competence, Capability and Capacity’, Innovating Perspectives, Vol. 16. No. 3, 2008).

Capacity: ‘The ability of individuals, organisations, and whole societies to define and solve problems, make informed choices, order their priorities and plan their futures, as well as implement programs and projects to sustain them’ (‘Nurturing Capacity in Developing Countries: From Consensus to Practice’, Capacity Enhancement Briefs, No 1. World Bank Institute).

Child Safeguarding: Actions, policies and procedures that create and maintain protective environments for children to protect them from exploitation and abuse of all kinds (adapted from DFAT Child Protection Policy).

Civil society organisation (CSO): Includes non-government organisations (NGOs), not-for-profit organisations (NPOs), charities and community-based organisations (CBOs). Can also include religious organisations, trade unions, foundations and any institutions outside of the corporate and government sectors (Pathways to Accountability: The GAP Framework, One World Trust, 2005).

Collaborate: A process in which two parties contribute core competencies and share the risks and decision-making to achieve mutual objectives. Typically considered less formal than a partnership (see Partnership).

Communities: Locally organised or informal groups or networks (Safety with Dignity, Action Aid, 2009).

Complaint: An expression of dissatisfaction (International Standards Organisation standard on complaints handling).

Counter-terrorism: The practice, techniques, and strategy used to combat or prevent terrorism.

Development: Improving the conditions of communities in a sustainable way. It is based on working with communities, rather than for or on behalf of communities (see Sustainable Change).

Development and humanitarian initiatives: Activities undertaken in order to reduce poverty and address global justice issues. In the non-government organisation sector, this may occur through a range of engagements that includes community projects, humanitarian response and emergency management, community education, advocacy, volunteer sending, provision of technical and professional services and resources, environmental protection and restoration, and promotion and protection of human rights.

Dignity: The feeling of having decision-making power, freedom and autonomy over life choices, together with the feeling of self-worth and self-confidence, and feeling that one has the respect of others (Safety with dignity, ActionAid 2009, based on Protection: an ALNAP Guide for Humanitarian Agencies, Slim and Bronwick 2005).

Disability: People with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (United National Convention on the Rights of People with a Disability).

Diversity: Understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences. These can be along dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Due diligence: Research and analysis of an organisation done in preparation for a business transaction, prior to signing a contract.

Efficiency: Implementation performance against time and budget parameters, value for money, and the quality and professionalism of deliverables (DFAT).

Effectiveness: Promoting sustainable change that addresses the causes as well as the symptoms of poverty and marginalisation. (ACFID, NGO Effectiveness Framework, 2004).

Emergency: A threatening condition that requires urgent action (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UN ISDR 2004).

Emergency management: Plans, structures and arrangements established to engage the normal endeavours of government, voluntary and private agencies in a comprehensive and coordinated way to respond to the whole spectrum of emergency needs (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UN ISDR, 2004). This includes preparedness, mitigation, response, rehabilitation, reconstruction, development and prevention activities.

Ethical: Being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the standards of a profession.

Fraud: Dishonestly obtaining a benefit, or causing a loss, by deception or other means (Fraud Control Framework, Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department).

Fundraising: The process of gathering voluntary contributions of money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies.

Gender: Socially constructed roles and relationships between men and women which affect their ability and incentive to participate in development activities and lead to different project impacts for women and men (Guide to Gender and Development, AusAID, 2007).

Gender analysis: The process of considering the impact that an initiative may have on women and men, boys and girls, and the economic and social relationships between them (Guide to Gender and Development, AusAID, 2007).

Gender equality: Equal opportunities and outcomes for women and men, girls and boys (Guide to Gender and Development, AusAID, 2007).

Gender equity: Fairness in access to resources and in the distribution of benefits from development, according to the different needs of women, men, girls and boys (Australian Government, 2007).

Good practice: A technique, methodology or approach that, through experience and research, has proven to work well reliably, produce desirable results and can be recommended.

Governance: The way in which an organisation is run, including who makes decisions and how they are made (ACNC).

Governing body: The body which makes decisions about how an organisation is run and is responsible for its governance as defined by the governing document (ACNC).

Governing document: The formal document/s that includes the organisation’s purpose, activities and processes. Examples include constitution, trust deeds, articles of association, rules (ACNC).

Guidelines: Information which outlines an organisation’s expectations for a given process; a guide for a course of action or activities that can include rules, checklists, plans, procedures.

Human rights: Legal statements by the international community that assert the equality and dignity of all human beings. Includes civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. The core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols are located on the ACFID website.

Humanitarian response: Action taken with the objective of saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity during and after human-induced crises and natural disasters, as well as action to prevent and prepare for them (Core Humanitarian Standard).

Legislation: Laws made by parliament, also called Acts of Parliament or statute laws (ACNC). Local actors: In-country NGOs, CSOs, Disabled Persons Organisations and other entities involved in the implementation of development and humanitarian initiatives.

Local people: The women and men, boys and girls who are participants in, and directly affected by, development and humanitarian initiatives in the geographical area in which the initiative is undertaken. May also be known as beneficiaries or primary stakeholders.

Marginalised: A person or group who is isolated, pushed to the edge, treated or considered unimportant, insignificant and powerless.

Members: Current formal Members of ACFID and signatories to the Code of Conduct

Monitoring and evaluation: Monitoring and evaluation are systems or processes used to manage and assess the progress and results of their work. They are conducted in order to provide accountability to affected stakeholders and donors, to improve performance, to enable learning and adaptation, and to communicate information about results and impact.

Monitoring: The continuous or ongoing assessment of work over time.

Evaluation: The periodic assessment at a specific point in time (Sharpening the Development Process: A Practical Guide to Monitoring and Evaluation, INTRAC Praxis Guide No. 1).

Non-development activity: Includes activity undertaken to promote a particular religious adherence or to support a particular party, candidate or organisation affiliated to a political party.

Non-government organisations: Voluntary, not-for-profit, organisations formally registered with government that are run by a governing board that is accountable to its members.

Not-for-profit (NFP): An organisation that has rules that do not allow it to distribute profits or assets to its members, the people who run it or their friends or relatives with which it is operating or winding up. An organisation that is not-for-profit does not carry out activities for the benefit of its members (ACNC).

Other resources: Includes (but is not limited to) funds raised, gifts in kind, property, assets, staff and volunteers of signatory and partner organisations.

Participatory: Affording the opportunity for individual and/or collective participation.

Participatory development: Process through which stakeholders can influence and share control over development initiatives, and over the decisions and resources that affect those stakeholders.

Partner: Individuals, groups of people or organisations that collaborate with ACFID Members to achieve mutually agreed objectives in development and humanitarian initiatives. This may include affiliates.

Partnership: An ongoing working relationship where risks and benefits are shared (Partnership Brokers Association).

Policy: High level principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organisation to guide conduct and reach its long-term goals.

Primary stakeholders: The term used in the Code of Conduct to refer to those whom we seek to support, work with and directly benefit through development and humanitarian initiatives. The women and men, boys and girls who are participants in, and are directly affected by, development and humanitarian initiatives. They may also be known as beneficiaries or local people.

Privacy: Personal information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably easily identifiable (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner).

Privacy legislation: The Australian Commonwealth Government Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) which regulates the handling of personal information about individuals (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner).

Promoting a particular religious adherence: Activities undertaken with the intention of converting individuals or groups from one faith and/or denominational affiliation to another.

Protocols: A system of rules that explains the correct conduct and procedures to be followed in formal situations.

Psycho-social support: Any type of local or outside support that aims to promote psychological and social wellbeing and/or to prevent or treat mental disorder.

Resources: Stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organisation in order to function effectively.

Rights: See Human rights.

Sector: An area of the economy in which businesses share the same or a related product or service. In the context of the Code, this refers to organisations and entities engaged in international development and humanitarian initiatives.

Signatory: An organisation which the Code of Conduct Committee has accepted as a signatory to the ACFID Code of Conduct and which has not resigned or been removed and has paid all its fees.

Staff: People employed by an organisation.

Stakeholders: Individuals and groups that can affect or are affected by an organisation’s policies and/or actions (Pathways to Accountability, the GAP Framework One World Trust, 2005).

Strategic: Relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.

Supporting a particular party, candidate or organisation affiliated to a political party: Agency personnel or their representatives (when using the agency name or resources in paid time) being involved in party political activities; using funds or resources to facilitate or support a specific political party, candidate, or party political organisation in a local, regional or general/national election; using funds or resources to facilitate or support a particular politician or faction to gain power within a government or within a party-political structure.

Sustainable change: Change that is lasting and durable.

Sustainable development: Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).

Third parties: May be a contractor, partner or an affiliate of the non-government organisation.

Transparency: An organisation’s openness about its activities, providing information on what it is doing, where and how this takes place and how it is performing (Pathways to Accountability, the GAP Framework, One World Trust, 2005).

Volunteer: A person who willingly gives their time for the common good and without financial gain. Volunteering includes formal volunteering that takes place within organisations (including institutions and agencies) in a structured way, and informal volunteering, acts that take place outside the context of a formal organisation (Volunteering Australia).

Whistleblower: A member of staff, volunteer, contractor or partner who reports suspected wrong-doing, including suspicion of fraud, misuse of resources, neglect of duties or a risk to health and safety.