In a period where many people tend to be quite cynical towards the State and its organs – and regard governmental institutions as weak, over-bureaucratic or corrupt – non-governmental organisations seem to be an adequate alternative for they are a manifestation of the power of the civil society and the difference it can make.
The Global Accountability Report 2007 which has just been published by One World Trust makes this view look rather naive. One World Trust sets out to assess the many global intergovernmental orgaisations (e. g. UNDP, African Union, Concil of Europe), non-governmental organisations (e. g. Christian Aid, Save the Children, Greenpeace) and transnational companies (e. g. Coca Cola, Google, General Electric) based on wether they adhere to democratic principles. 30 of the major organisations are being assessed according to four principles: transparence, participation, evaluation, and complaint and response mechanisms.
The different types of organisations are characterised by contrasting strengths and weaknesses: international organisations like the African Union or UNDP show a relatively transparent structure and a systematic evaluation of their work, transnational organisations (like GE or Google) are proactive towards criticism, whereas international NGOs’ main feature is their constant attempt to involve their stakeholders in their work. On a more negative note, according to the report many charitable organisations (Doctors without Borders, among others) tend to shield from public criticism.