CSO Ethics: (II) The importance of respecting the Istanbul Principlesadmin
This is a series of articles aimed at helping the actors contributing to the development of the Republic of Moldova, in particular the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), to respect certain ethical principles. In these texts, the Platform for Active Citizenship and Human Rights Partnership (CAP) has sought to use accessible language, with concrete examples and arguments of people working in organizations that apply ethical principles in their current work. The CAP team and its constituents thank the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) for their inspiration and support for promoting ethical principles!
CAP wanted to see how many of the organizations with which it communicated „follow the Istanbul Principles or another Code of Ethics / Conduct”. Here are the answers received:
„Yes, all the Istanbul Principles of are incorporated in the internal policies existing in the organization. Employees adhere to them by signing declarations. Additionally, general provisions are mentioned in all contracts issued by the organization – which refer to the rational use of resources, recycling, etc.” Iulia Sîrghi-Zolotco, Expert-Group.
„The National Youth Council of Moldova (CNTM) has a Code of Ethics, which basically is also inspired by the Istanbul Principles. Thus, organizational policy is directed towards respecting them.” Roman Banari, CNTM.
„The Istanbul Principles and their observance are included in the statute of the organization.” Adrian Băluțel, Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE).
„In May 2017, CICO adopted its own Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct which takes into account and includes principles from The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR), some principles of the Law on the Code of Conduct for Civil Servants and the Istanbul Principles on the development effectiveness of projects implemented by CSOs. The provisions of the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct apply systematically in the work of the organization.” Tudor Lazăr, Center for Organizational Consultancy and Training (CICO).
„Yes. Within the Legal Resources Centre from Moldova, a policy manual (amended and regularly adjusted to different criteria), which corresponds to or transposes the Istanbul Principles, is approved.” Ion Guzun, Legal Resources Centre of Moldova (CRJM).
„Generally – yes.” Iuliana Cantaragiu, National Environmental Center.
„CONCORDIA “Social projects” has a single code of conduct that applies to all 5 countries. The Code of Conduct provides the mission, values of the organization, organizational culture, the situation of employers and employees.” Oxana Miron, CONCORDIA / Secretariat of the National NGO Council of Moldova.
„The Platform for Gender Equality and its Secretariat (Gender Center) has their own code of conduct, the observance of which is monitored by the Board, but it is also the responsibility of each person to take into account the code of conduct.” Valentina Bodrug, Platform for Gender Equality.
„We have approved an internal document that provides for the observance of ethical principles, the promotion of human rights and the promotion of gender equality.” Sergiu Neicovcen, CONTACT Center.
„TDV respects the Istanbul Principles and has had its own code of ethics, which assumes that certain ethical values are respected in any activity of our members, for more than 20 years,.” Andrei Gaiu, „Youth for the right to live” Association (TDV).
Notice that some organizations have developed internal policies that are in some cases included in policy manuals, or have internal documents that include ethical principles. The existence of codes of ethics and / or professional conduct and the use of general ethical conduct provisions are mentioned in the contracts issued by the organization as well as in the organization’s statute. Seven out of ten respondents noted that the Istanbul Principles were used in formulating internal ethical principles or largely correspond to them.
CAP received the following responses to the question „Why is it important for CSOs to respect the Istanbul Principles or other Code of Ethics / Conduct?”:
„It is important because the Istanbul Principles establish a minimum framework of principles and rules of conduct. The Istanbul Principles are a statement of common values and approaches to guide the work of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), with adaptability to the extremely diverse and different context, depending on each country and CSOs. These principles are universally applicable to the roles and practices of CSOs in all situations, including in situations of interpersonal conflict or interest, transparency, areas of activity, from service delivery to policy support and long-term development. These incorporate principles from various international agreements and development agreements that we want to apply as a basis for CSOs to continually reflect, evaluate and continuously improve the effectiveness of practice and its development. The Istanbul Principles form a Code of Conduct to guide CSOs that are accountable and track the effectiveness of development projects. Assuming these principles places civil society organizations as independent development actors and equal partners at the negotiating table with regard to the compliance with international commitments regarding the effectiveness of development assistance assumed by donors.
According to the Barometer of Public Opinion conducted by the Institute for Public Policy (IPP) in November 2018, the level of confidence in CSOs amongst the population is very low (only 19%). Often CSOs are accused by politicians, media or citizens of political partisanship, money laundering, lack of transparency, etc. In the context in which the level of trust of the population in civil society is poor, the adoption of a Code of Ethics and Conduct, or at least of a declaration of compliance with and adoption of the Istanbul Principles, would improve the image of CSOs and achieve a better level of transparency for them. At the same time, applying and observing these principles could also help CSOs, community partners, CPAs, LPAs and donors to become more connected through common standards. At the same time, donors would find it easier to understand what to expect when organizations implement different programs and projects.” Tudor Lazăr, Center for Organizational Consultancy and Training (CICO).
„For equity, respect for the environment and others around, and because all this forms the image of the organization.” Iuliana Cantaragiu, National Environmental Center.
„As CSOs are the main actors in developing and promoting a range of values: focusing on sustainable changes, efficient and effective implementation of all projects, diversity, respect for human rights and much volunteering, civil society organizations are the greatest impulse in the development of a society and must be guided in their work by certain rules, including the Istanbul Principles.” Oxana Miron, CONCORDIA / Secretariat of the National NGO Council of Moldova.
„The need to respect these principles lies simply in the fact that CSOs contribute to the creation and development of a harmonious environment of humanity and of the environment, where human values and the rule of law are a benchmark. These principles allow us to share our accumulated knowledge and to undertake a mutual learning process, thus contributing to the dissemination of good practice in the areas of reference – which facilitates the process of applying these principles in various fields, not just within CSOs.” Roman Banari, National Youth Council of Moldova.
„This thing is important for developing a favorable and balanced development environment for NGOs. Moreover, the implementation of the Istanbul Principles ensures that civil society organizations operate on the basis of the „live the way you preach” principle, which is to respect internally the values and desiderata that they promote. These principles further ensure the development of organizational culture in CSOs and the rooting of respect for the principles stated in the statements.” Adrian Băluțel, Institute for European Policies and Reforms
„CSOs use taxpayer resources in their work. So it is important to ensure that they are used rationally. In addition, CSOs are often road openers, so their own example is very relevant in the context of interaction with partners and beneficiaries in the regions.” Iulia Sîrghi-Zolotco, Expert-Group
„CSOs must respect and promote human rights through the development and implementation of human rights activities and good practices. CSOs should promote gender equality by promoting women’s and girls’ rights and environmental sustainability. It is important for organizations to implement the principles of transparency and ethics by demonstrating a sustained commitment to transparency, accountability and integrity of the internal activity of the organization.” Sergiu Neicovcen, CONTACT Center
„It is important for CSOs to respect the Istanbul Principles as a precondition for democracy. Promoting democracy is through personal example and compliance with rules of conduct; by assuming transparency in cooperation with other civil society organizations and other actors in development – based on equality, values and goals of shared development, respect, trust, autonomy, long-term support, solidarity and principles of global citizenship.” Valentina Bodrug, Gender Center / Secretariat of the Platform for Gender Equality
„During the implementation of activities, CSOs must follow rules which are similar or comparable to those of state institutions. Transparency criteria at the general level are required by state institutions, but are not respected by CSOs. Thus, an unjustified discrepancy is created. Similar commitments to the framework of the international mechanisms of the state, and accountability for the activities implemented, must be assumed and have a minimal negative impact on values of the rule of law, the environment and the assumption of compliance with human rights, by implementing some guarantees for ensuring gender balance and promoting partnerships.” Ion Guzun, Legal Resources Centre of Moldova
Respondents emphasize that the Istanbul Principles promote human rights, equality of human values and desiderata of the rule of law, common approaches, similar rules and common standards, and transparency criteria that guide action for all actors. As road openers, CSOs are the main actors in development, which, through their own relevant example, allows the dissemination of knowledge and good practice. This creates a harmonious environment, continuously increases the efficiency and development of practice, confidence level, improves the image and promotes partnerships.