Theorising accountability for NGO advocacy

Jeffrey Unerman, Brendan O'Dwyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to develop a staged theoretical argument regarding whether non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can be considered responsible and accountable for the direct and indirect consequences, on a wide range of stakeholders, flowing from their advocacy activities. Design/methodology/approach: The paper is primarily theoretical and conceptual, developing a structured, conditional and staged model illustrated with empirical examples. Findings: The paper finds depending upon the theoretical arguments accepted at each stage of the model, the advocacy activities of an NGO may be considered to cause a widespread and often unintended negative impact upon the lives of many stakeholders who are either close to, or remote from, the NGO. Also, that depending upon the theoretical position taken regarding the scope of accountability, all entities - including NGOs - may be regarded as responsible and accountable for the impacts which their activities directly and indirectly cause to a broad range of stakeholders. Research limitations/implications: The model is primarily theoretical, so it can benefit from empirical studies to assess its applicability in practice. It also has the scope to be applied in assessing the responsibility and accountability of a range of other entities for their advocacy - such as businesses, religious bodies, political parties, and academics. Practical implications: The paper presents a ontribution to the growing debate on NGO accountability. Originality/value: The paper uses the synthesis of various philosophical positions to develop a conditional, staged model which may be used to establish whether NGOs (and other organisations) can be regarded as having responsibilities and accountabilities for the direct and indirect impacts of their advocacy activities on a broad range of stakeholders. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-376
Number of pages27
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Advocacy
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Society


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