Accountability for civil society by civil society: A Guide to Self-Regulation Initiatives


As civil society organisations (CSOs) often assert that they speak on behalf of minority voices, regularly demand greater accountability from other sectors and manage increasing volumes of public funds, they are being asked to improve their practices internally, among themselves and in their relations with other stakeholders. There have been repeated calls for higher professional standards within the civil society sector, greater information disclosure, increased financial transparency and greater cooperation between CSOs themselves.

In reaction, CSOs have also been working for decades on developing their own initiatives to address these demands, as they understood the importance of finding effective ways of regulating themselves and balancing their rights with their responsibilities.

This guide is intended to further reflection on CSOs’ accountability and self-regulation initiatives. It can assist both individual CSOs and umbrella organisations who are considering joining an existing self-regulation initiative or developing a new one in their sector, country or network.

What’s in the tool

The guide is designed to serve as a reference on self-regulation initiatives and also as a compendium of best practices to strengthen either a developing or an existing initiative. We recommend consulting relevant sections and subsections of the guide according to specific concerns related to your context.

Several tables of contents, tables and tip-boxes are included to help the readers choose which sections they should consult to access ideas, information or advice of importance to them. This way, organisations or networks can use the information at their own pace.

Part 1 seeks to help in choosing a self-regulation initiative that best fits particular contexts and needs. Two sections will guide you through different steps for that purpose.

  • Use Section 1 to assess the internal and external context of a self-regulation initiative.
  • Use Section 2 to learn more about the difference between principles and standards, and about the five modalities of self-regulation initiatives.

Part 2 presents many different recommendations, best practices and innovations gathered through CIVICUS’ research on transparency and accountability. We recommend adapting or using them to improve practices within a self-regulation initiative, foster greater accountability and increase overall sustainability.


Download the guide in English, French and Spanish.