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The paradox of greater NGO accountability: A case study of Amnesty Ireland

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  • O'Dwyer, Brendan
  • Unerman, Jeffrey

Abstract

Despite mounting public, governmental and corporate interest in issues of non-governmental organisation (NGO) accountability, there are few academic studies investigating the emergence of accountability mechanisms in specific advocacy NGO settings. Drawing on the theoretical constructs of hierarchical and holistic accountability, this paper addresses this research gap by investigating recent developments in accountability practices at the Irish section of the human rights advocacy NGO Amnesty International. Through analysis of a series of in-depth interviews with managers in Amnesty Ireland, supported by extensive documentary scrutiny, this study examines reasons why Amnesty's historical reliance on internal forms of accountability has been augmented with a range of ad hoc external accountability mechanisms. The study reveals that while managers favoured the development of holistic accountability mechanisms exhibiting accountability to a wide range of stakeholders, a hierarchical conception of accountability privileging a narrow range of (potentially) powerful stakeholders, has begun to dominate external accountability discourse and practice. It was widely perceived that this trend could, somewhat paradoxically, prove counterproductive to the achievement of Amnesty's mission. Resolving this paradox will, at a minimum, involve Amnesty Ireland's leadership becoming more open to and more knowledgeable about a broader, more holistic accountability conception. The paper considers the possible implications of these findings for the development of NGO holistic accountability practice more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Dwyer, Brendan & Unerman, Jeffrey, 2008. "The paradox of greater NGO accountability: A case study of Amnesty Ireland," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(7-8), pages 801-824.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:33:y:2008:i:7-8:p:801-824
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    2. Steven Dellaportas & Jonathan Langton & Brian West, 2012. "Governance and accountability in Australian charitable organisations: Perceptions from CFOs," International Journal of Accounting and Information Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 238-254, July.
    3. Vassili Joannides & N. Berland, 2008. "Grounded theory: quels usages dans les recherches en contrôle de gestion?," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00676580, HAL.
    4. Dorothea Baur & Hans Schmitz, 2012. "Corporations and NGOs: When Accountability Leads to Co-optation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 106(1), pages 9-21, March.
    5. Contrafatto, Massimo, 2014. "The institutionalization of social and environmental reporting: An Italian narrative," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 414-432.
    6. Hélène Rainelli Weiss & Isabelle Huault, 2016. "Business as usual in Financial Markets? The creation of incommensurables as institutional maintenance work," Post-Print hal-01275254, HAL.
    7. Ranis Gustav & Xiong Shirley & Singer Olivia, 2012. "NGOs and Development Reconsidered," New Global Studies, De Gruyter, vol. 6(3), pages 1-24, December.
    8. repec:dau:papers:123456789/1375 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Carolyn Cordery & Rachel Baskerville & Brenda Porter, 2010. "Control or collaboration?: Contrasting accountability relationships in the primary health sector," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 23(6), pages 793-813, August.
    10. Claudine Grisard, 2012. "Accountability and Bottom of the Pyramid projects: the two sides of the mirror," Post-Print hal-00690956, HAL.
    11. Anne Vestergaard, 2014. "Mediatized Humanitarianism: Trust and Legitimacy in the Age of Suspicion," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 120(4), pages 509-525, April.
    12. Ramanath, Ramya, 2014. "Ethical implications of resource-limited evaluations: Lessons from an INGO in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 25-37.

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