[hepr-vn] IDRC is partnering with the UK’s One World Trust to strengthen the accountability of research institutes.
vern at coombs.anu.edu.au
Fri Feb 15 11:45:49 EST 2008
Article Released Thu-14th-February-2008 16:55 GMT
Contact: Vivien Chiam Institution: International Development Research Centre of
Canada, Regional Office for Southeast and East Asia
Partnering for accountability
IDRC is partnering with the UK’s One World Trust to strengthen the
accountability of research institutes.
By K.J. Shore
It sounds simple. Setting accountability principles for policy research in
developing regions could clearly benefit both research organizations and those
affected by their work. But the process to do so may be less straightforward,
say representatives of the One World Trust, a British based research group
dedicated to strengthening the accountability of policy and decision makers in
Michael Hammer, One World Trust Executive Director and researcher Brendan
Whitty, spoke about the challenges of applying the organization’s work to
research bodies, which is the focus of a new project funded by the International
Development Research Centre (IDRC). Hammer and Whitty were at IDRC’s head office
in Ottawa to provide a progress report.
The One World Trust has its roots in an all-party advisory group founded in 1951
by members of the British parliament to educate politicians and the public in
the UK on global governance issues. Continuing its long standing mission the
Trust today conducts research into the changes required within global
organizations in order to achieve the eradication of poverty, injustice, and
war, educating and advising decision-makers in government and international
institutions on opportunities for cross-sector learning and institutional reform.
IDRC’s Evaluation Unit and the One World Trust are currently partnering to adapt
the latter’s Global Accountability Project framework for use by research
The framework was developed over four years of research and stakeholder
workshops by the One World Trust. It is a principles-based tool that enables
organizations to develop accountability systems that take into consideration
One World Trust’s 2006 Global Accountability Report used the GAP framework to
create an index that annually measures and ranks the accountability of 30
powerful organizations from across the public, non-profit, and private sectors.
Participants included the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) and the World Health Organization; Amnesty International,
Oxfam, World Vision, and the WWF; and Dow Chemical, Microsoft, Nestlé, Toyota,
and Wal-Mart, among others.
On the release of the 2007 report, Hammer stated that “Accountability makes
powerful organizations more effective and legitimate. Without it, solutions to
global challenges will fail. The One World Trust is looking forward to
continuing to work with organizations to provide tailored accountability solutions.”
A road map to accountability
The work undertaken with IDRC will see the One World Trust develop a tool, based
on the Global Accountability Framework, that research institutes can use to map
out their accountability relationships through an open and transparent process.
Speaking at the IDRC meeting, Hammer said the new project will set guidelines to
help research groups ask and answer deceptively simple questions about
themselves. They include defining their own accountability; deciding to whom
they’re most accountable; and what they need to do to become truly accountable.
It’s in these groups’ best interests to make themselves accountable to their
stakeholders, even the ones that aren’t big players, or obvious at first glance,
he said, adding, “One of the things we’re saying is that power alone should not
define the terms of accountability,”
The project will build on the GAP’s original consultations with about 400
organizations, which led to the framework that zeroes in on organizations’
transparency, participation, evaluation, and complaint and response mechanisms.
A new global public sphere
Overall, the One World Trust’s work is aimed at improving the understanding of
the role power plays in an increasingly interconnected and new global public
sphere which accompanies economic globalization. “In the end citizens of this
world, independent of where they live, should not be simply subject to power,
but be part of a relationship with global organisations and decision makers
which is just and democratic”, Hammer remarked.
“People connect across international boundaries,” he said. “In that global
public sphere we see IGOs, NGOs, and transnational corporations alongside each
other, affecting the same people and engaging with each other.”
For example, he said, all three types of organizations delivered drinking water
to refugees during post-tsunami reconstruction in Indonesia’s Aceh province.
“The organization that has a strong relationship with me has a very strong
interest in me accepting what they are offering as services.... if I feel that
an organization has related to me in a good way, then I will be happy to
continue my relationship with them.”
Researcher Brendan Whitty observed that it may not be clear whether a policy
researcher’s greater responsibility is to policymakers, or to the people whom a
policy affects on the ground. However, setting an evaluation framework for
policy research suggests an ethical responsibility to the people who are
Other stakeholders may exist. “If you purport to work on behalf of somebody
else, what accountability mechanisms ought you have in place? What sort of
participation processes should you go through before you start lobbying under
their name? Most often, it’s been brought up with the question: “Who elected the
NGOs?” It’s really an open question, and it’s something I’d like to take forward
and investigate in the course of the research,” he said.
The challenge for members of policy communities may be in settling on degrees of
responsibility for policy impacts to their different stakeholders, such as
decision-makers, those affected by a policy, and those in between who bring it
Whitty added that while there’s a lot of literature on organizational
accountability, there’s almost none balancing all stakeholders of
policy-research groups. The IDRC/One World Trust project, at four months in, is
still working to ground itself in the arena.
“It’s quite difficult to draw much in the way of conclusions at the moment,”
said Whitty. “There’s just a series of questions.”
“The challenges, I think, when we’re going forward with the research, are going
to be to capture, on the one hand, the complexity of the subject. And at the
same time, to boil it down into some really practical tools which can be used by
research institutes without incurring a great deal of cost, without involving
resource-heavy methods,” he said.
The One World Trust will be hosting an e-forum for parties interested in the
framework discussions, beginning on February 25, 2008. If you are interested in
participating in this forum, please contact Brendan Whitty at
bwhitty at oneworldtrust.org
K.J. Shore is an Ottawa-based writer.
For more information:
One World Trust
3 Whitehall Court
London SW1A 2EL
Email: mhammer at oneworldtrust.org
For interest in the online forum:
bwhitty at oneworldtrust.org
Tricia Wind, Senior Program Officer
International Development Research Centre
PO Box 8500
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1G 3H9
Email: twind at idrc.ca
Keywords associated to this article: accountability
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