Home 5 Good Practice Toolkit 2023 5 Definitions 5 General Definitions

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: Taking responsibility for actions and impacts; being answerable and honest to all stakeholders – employees, communities, donors – in a transparent and easy to understand way; doing the utmost to achieve mission goals in a fair and just
manner; and openly sharing information. (Global Standard for CSO Accountability)

ACNC: Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission, the national independent regulator of charities

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).

Anti-racism: Anti-racism refers to everyday deliberate actions that aim to eradicate the racism that exists at interpersonal and systemic levels. It means actively standing up to and challenging racism. (Diversity Council Australia, Racism at Work: How Organisations Can Stand Up to and End Workplace Racism, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia, 2022)

Bribery: The offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal, unethical or a breach of trust. Inducements can take the form of gifts, loans, fees, rewards, facilitation payments or other advantages (Transparency International, ‘Global Anti-Bribery Guidance’, https://www.antibriberyguidance.org/guidance/5-what-bribery/guidance). Within Australia, bribery is defined in the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth).

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).

Carbon footprint: the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by an individual or organisation’s actions.

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).

Climate Action: actions taken to reduce the overall climate risks that communities, economies and ecosystems are facing across the world by addressing both the causes and the impacts of climate change. Climate action includes activities that support adaptation, environmental restoration and mitigation. These activities may relate to an organisation’s operations, programming or policy/ advocacy work. (Adapted from ACFID’s Climate Action Framework)

Climate Change: Climate change refers to any long-term trends or shifts in climate over many decades. These changes may be due to natural variations (such as changes in the Earth’s orbit) or caused by human activities changing the composition of the atmosphere. (CSIRO)

Climate Justice: Climate justice is a concept that addresses the just division, fair sharing, and equitable distribution of the burdens of climate change and responsibility for its mitigation. A climate justice approach sees climate change as an issue of social and environmental injustice. It recognises that vulnerability to climate change can reflect existing structural injustices in society, and that climate action must explicitly address these structural power imbalances.

Collaborate/Collaboration: 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).

Complaint: An expression of dissatisfaction made to or about an organisation, its services, staff or the handling of a complaint where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required. (AS/NZ 10002:2014)

Conflict of interest: A conflict of interest is when a person’s personal interests conflict with their responsibility to act in the best interests of the charity. A conflict of interest may be actual, potential or perceived and may be financial or non-financial. (ACNC)

Contact with Children: Working on an activity or in a position that involves or may involve contact with children, either under the position description or due to the nature of the work environment (see also Working with Children definition)

Corruption: Dishonest or illegal behaviour for private gain, especially by people with power or influence (ACNC External Conduct Standards).

Cost-effectiveness: Value-for-money. Consideration of reasonable opportunities to reduce cost. However, this requires consideration of the impact or priority of the task, alternative ways of achieving it, and the costs and benefits of different approaches. It may not always be the lowest-cost option.

Core Humanitarian Standard: The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) is a globally recognised voluntary standard that sets out Nine Commitments that organisations and individuals involved in humanitarian response can use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide. It is available from https://corehumanitarianstandard.org/ and is updated from time-to-time.

Cultural safety: Cultural safety is about creating a workplace where everyone can examine our own cultural identities and attitudes, and be open-minded and flexible in our attitudes towards people from cultures other than our own. A culturally safe workplace is committed to anti-racism and has a defined set of values and principles, and demonstrates behaviours, attitudes, policies, and structures that enable all workers to work effectively cross-culturally.

Development 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.

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

Environmental stewardship: The responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices to enhance ecosystem resilience and human well-being. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Environmental sustainability: Making decisions and taking actions that minimise harm to the environment and people through the relationship they share with it, and ensuring the environment is not degraded beyond its capacity to maintain critical ecological processes.

Financial Wrongdoing: Behaviour that is illegal or immoral with regards to financial transactions. Includes bribery, corruption, fraud, money-laundering, terrorism financing and violation of sanctions imposed by the Australian government.

Focal person: A focal person provides a key role in raising awareness, coordinating, supporting and advising on the development and implementation of policy and practices relevant to the topic area, e.g. child safeguarding.

Formal Partnership: A partnership between a member and a partner where the partner is responsible for the oversight or delivery of an aspect of a development or humanitarian initiative. It will involve a documented arrangement, signed by parties and will often involve the sharing of risk and resources. This term includes ‘implementing partners’ used by DFAT Accreditation.

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

Free, prior and informed consent: Free, prior and informed consent is permission that a person grants to have their information, images or stories collected, with full knowledge of where, when, how, and for what purpose the material will be used, and with the understanding that they can say “no” without consequence.

Fundraising: The act of seeking and obtaining donations – voluntary contributions or bequests of money, property, goods, or services – on behalf of or to further a cause (Fundraising Institute of Australia).

Gender: The social, historical and cultural construction of norms and behaviours attributed to people differently on the basis of their sex assigned at birth.

Gender analysis: A type of social analysis that requires the collection, analysis and application of sex disaggregated data and information. It considers the different impacts that a problem, policy, organisation, project/program or issue may have/is having on women and men, girls and boys, and on people of diverse gender identities and on the economic and social relations between them. (ACFID Gender Audit Toolkit)

Gender equality: Equal status, opportunities, outcomes, and rights for people regardless of gender. This requires the removal of discrimination and structural inequalities in access to resources, opportunities, and services and the promotion of human rights. (IWDA)

Gender equity: This means treating people of different genders with fairness, recognising that people are starting from different points, and may need different kinds of assistance if we are to achieve gender equality. (ACFID Gender Audit Toolkit)

Gender identity: A person’s innate sense of their own gender. This may or may not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth, for example, trans men and women and non-binary people, and people of other genders as differently expressed in the different contexts and cultures in which we work.

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 systems and processes that direct and control an organisation (Australian Institute of Company Directors, Not-for-Profit Governance Principles, 2019)

Governing body: The group of Responsible People who make decisions about how an organisation is run and are responsible for its governance as defined by the governing document

  • Generally, a charity’s Responsible People are its board or committee members,
    or trustees (including insolvency trustees or administrators). (ACNC).

Governing document: A charity’s formal document/s that includes sets out the organisation’s charitable purpose or purposes, that the charity operates on a notfor-profit basis, and the way the governing body (such as a committee or board) makes decisions and consults members. Governing documents may have different names depending on an organisation’s structure or form, including a statement of purpose, rules or articles of association, constitution, or trust deed. (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. This includes the core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols.

Humanitarian initiatives: Action taken with the objective of saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity during and after human-induced crises and disasters, as well as action to prevent and prepare for them (Core Humanitarian Standard). In the context of this Code, humanitarian initiatives include activities undertaken directly, funded, or supported by members. It is recognised that ‘nexus’ activities span development and humanitarian purposes; throughout this Code typical usage is the combined ‘development and humanitarian initiatives’ to cover all initiatives without distinction.

Humanitarian Principles: The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence provide the foundation for humanitarian action. They are derived from the Red Cross Movement’s ‘fundamental’ principles, and have since been endorsed by UN General Assembly and other resolutions. Commitment to the principles is expressed at an institutional level by most humanitarian organizations, as well as through Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Relief, the Sphere Project and the Core Humanitarian Standard.

  • Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of
    humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings
  • Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage
    in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.
  • Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone,
    giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on
    the basis of nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinions.
  • Independence: Humanitarian action must be autonomous from the
    political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with
    regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented.

Implemented: The process of communicating a policy and providing training to governing body members, staff, and volunteers as is appropriate, and applying the policy to the members’ systems, procedures and programs accordingly.

Legislation: Laws made by parliament, also called Acts of Parliament or statute laws (ACNC).

Local actors: Describes a wide range of individuals, organisations and institutions, who have the knowledge and expertise to understand and respond to the needs of their communities. This can include local and national governments, local and national NGOs, civil society organisations, community-led organisations and communities.

Locally-led action: Locally-led development and humanitarian action recognises, respects and strengthens the leadership and decision-making of local actors who are best placed to understand and respond to the needs of their communities. By its nature, this will look different in each country context, and even within countries or programs. Successful locally-led action recognises how power imbalances influence development and humanitarian initiatives. It is facilitated by strong and equal partnership, quality direct funding, transparency and mutual accountability, and diversity and empowerment in staffing and leadership. (adapted from draft ACFID Locally-led Action Framework)

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

Members: Current formal Full Members of ACFID, which must be signatories to the Code of Conduct (Rules and Objects of ACFID).

Money Laundering: The process of concealing the origin, ownership or destination of illegally or dishonestly obtained money and hiding it within legitimate economic activities to make them appear legal (Source: Transparency International AntiCorruption Glossary https://www.transparency.org/glossary/term/money_laundering)

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 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 refers to the continuous or ongoing assessment of work over time.
  • Evaluation is a systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed development or humanitarian initiative.

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 while it is operating or winding up. An organisation that is not-forprofit generally does not operate activities for the profit, personal gain or other benefit of particular people (for example, benefit of its members). (ACNC).

Partner: Organisations, individuals and other parties we work jointly with, who have defined roles and responsibilities for achieving common goals.

Partnership: An ongoing working relationship between partners where risks and benefits are shared.

Personnel: Personnel are either employed by an organisation, engaged by an organisation on a subcontract basis, or engaged by an organisation on a voluntary or unpaid basis. Personnel can include paid staff, volunteers, interns, trustees, board members. (DFAT, Child Protection Policy)

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. All individuals who are participants in, and are directly affected by, development and humanitarian initiatives. They may also be known as beneficiaries or local people.

Privacy: A fundamental human right that generally includes the right to be free from interference and intrusion, to associate freely with whom you want, to be able to control who can see or use information about you. (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner)

Privacy legislation: The Australian Commonwealth Government Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) Covers how personal information must be handled by organisations. The Act’s 13 Australian Privacy Principles govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal information, the governance, accountability and integrity of personal information, and the rights of individuals to access their personal information (Office of the Australian Information Commissioner).

Prohibited Entities: Includes those individuals and organisations within the Australian National Security Listed Terrorist Organisations, and the ASO Consolidated List of all persons and entities listed under Australian sanctions laws, recognising these are not exhaustive, nor the only such listings. For example, the Consolidated List only includes persons and entities listed under Australian
sanctions laws, and Members are encouraged to consider whether activities may be subject to other Australian laws, or sanction laws of other countries.

Racial Justice: The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. The pursuit of racial justice seeks to remove the racial hierarchies that deny justice to people of colour.

Regular review: Includes monitoring, reviewing, evaluating, and amending a policy, process or guideline as is necessary.

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.

Responsible People: Responsible People refers to individuals who are responsible for governing a charity. Generally, a charity’s Responsible People are its board or committee members, or trustees (including insolvency trustees or administrators). (ACNC)

Safeguarding: Actions, policies and procedures that create and maintain protective environments to protect people from exploitation, harm and abuse of all kinds.

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.

Sexual abuse: The actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions. (UN Secretary General’s Bulletin on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse)

Sexual exploitation: Any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes. It includes profiting monetarily, socially, or politically from sexual exploitation of another. (UN Secretary General’s Bulletin on protection from sexual exploitation and abuse)

Sexual harassment: Australian law states that sexual harassment occurs when: a. a person makes an unwelcome sexual advance, or an unwelcome request for sexual favours, to the person harassed; or b. engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed; in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated. This definition is used in the Sex Discrimination Act and Fair Work Act and is also recognised in WHS codes of practice.

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.

Sustainable change: Change that is lasting and durable.

Systemic change: Systemic change means that change has to be fundamental and affects how the whole system functions. It involves confronting root causes of issues (rather than symptoms) by transforming structures, customs, mindsets, power dynamics and policies. It’s about changes that spread and behaviours that become a new normal, rather than benefits remaining confined to a narrow group. (Catalyst 2030; ILO)

Terrorism Financing: Providing or collecting funds and being reckless as to whether those funds will be used to facilitate or engage in a terrorist act. (Criminal Code Act 1995)

Third party: A third party is an organisation or individual that formally or informally collaborates with a charity to advance the charity’s purposes. (ACNC)

Transactional sex: The exchange of money, employment, goods, services or other benefits for sex or sexual acts (DFAT Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment Policy).

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).

Volunteers: A person or people willingly giving their time for the common good and without financial gain (Volunteering Australia). In the context of the Code, the focus is on formal volunteering, taking place within or for member organisations in a structured way. While the vast majority of volunteering is undertaken by individuals, entities also donate employee time and this is included within this definition.

Whistleblower: someone with inside knowledge of an organisation who reports misconduct or dishonest or illegal activity that may have occurred within that organisation.

Whistleblower Protections: Protections provided to whistleblowers to enable them to come forward to report misconduct without fear of retribution or personal detriment. It is illegal to fire, harass or discriminate against a whistleblower or potential whistleblower because someone thinks they made a disclosure (whistleblowers can be compensated for any loss, damage, or injury they suffer, and people breaching whistleblower confidentiality or causing detriment can face criminal or civil penalties)

  • Some whistleblower protections are mandated by legislation, including through the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth).
  • Eligible whistleblowers, for mandated whistleblowing protection can be an officer or employee, an individual or employee of a person that supplies services or goods to the entity (including volunteers), an individual who is an associate of the entity, a relative or dependant of any of the above, or a dependant of the spouse of any of the above, or an individual as otherwise prescribed by the regulations. An eligible whistleblower can remain anonymous and still qualify for protection.
  • Disclosures that qualify for protection are those reports of conduct by a charity, or an officer or employee of the charity, that represents misconduct, an improper state of affairs or circumstances, or a breach of the law. To qualify for protection, the whistleblower must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the information they will disclose indicates misconduct.
  • Eligible Recipients: To qualify for protection, a whistleblower must make their disclosure to an eligible recipient, including as relevant ASIC, APRA, a Commonwealth body nominated for this purpose in the regulations, a legal practitioner if seeking advice about whistleblower protections, an officer or senior manager of the charity, and auditor or member of the audit team for the charity, an actuary of the charity, a person that the charity has authorised to receive a disclosure (this may be a person external to the charity).

Working with Children: Being engaged in an activity with a child where the contact would reasonably be expected as a normal part of the activity and the contact is not incidental to the activity. Working includes volunteering or other unpaid works (see also Contact with Children definition).