Responsibility and new governance - 中欧社会论坛 - China Europa Forum

Responsibility and new governance

Citizen coalitions: accountable for their project? A contribution to the international debate on civil society responsibilities

Authors: The Foundation for Future Generations in partnership with the Bernheim Foundation, the GRESEA, the CEDAC and the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation

Date: 2007

The question of the ethics and responsibilities of associations is of a recent date and must still find its way. This publication has the objective to provide the reader with a series of reference points with regard to this topic, starting from a number of questions: when and in which context have these concerns on ethics and responsibilities of associations started to emerge? Which are the tracks for the future? Which paths to turn to?

The notions of responsibility and accountability are at the heart of any ethical commitment. This publication questions these notions, taking into account the International NGO Accountability Charter (London 2006). After having claimed pledges of virtuousness from multinational corporations, the associations found themselves obliged to behave decently too.

The philosophical reflection on the responsibility of associations, following that of the private sector, turns around four key questions. Who should be responsible? To whom? What for? How? But we need other questions to go deeper into the discussion. Who defines the terms of this discussion? Can the responsibility of associations coexist with a mental prefabricated mould? Are the European « civil dialogue » and the European legalization of associations part of the problem or of its solution? Will large professional associations be able to survive? Is there still room for pluralism in a landscape of associations that is increasingly dominated by competition?

Still this reflection, carried out by the associations, is under a double external pressure: by the public opinion and by the donors. Consequently there is a risk that it might embrace the real or supposed requirements of donors.

The conclusions are necessarily provisional, since the debate is still in progress. The reflection on ethics and responsibilities of associations is a promising path to determine the purpose of associations.


This publication follows upon a long development, punctuated with milestones like the Charter on Human Responsibilities of Lille (2001) and the International NGO Accountability Charter of London (2006).

It is the result of workshops and interviews, carried out all over Europe with representatives of associations from 2003 to 2007, by the Foundation for Future Generations, in partnership with the Bernheim Foundation, the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation and CEDAC.

The main lessons from this work have been gathered by Erik Rydberg, journalist and director of GRESEA.

This publication should be considered as a contribution to the current international debate on the ethics and responsibilities of associations.

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