The Credibility of Transnational NGOs: When Virtue Is Not Enough

In This Review

The Credibility of Transnational NGOs: When Virtue is Not Enough
Edited by Peter A. Gourevitch, David A. Lake, and Janice Gro
Cambridge University Press, 2012
248 pp. $32.99

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are increasingly integral to the governance of the global system: monitoring elections, investigating human rights abuses, providing humanitarian assistance, and certifying good business behavior. But who or what ensures that these transnational groups themselves act ethically? In one of the best studies yet of this conundrum, the editors of this volume concede that no global judicial bodies supervise the conduct of NGOs. Nonetheless, as the book demonstrates, NGOs are extremely sensitive to criticism and to the fact that their authority flows from a reputation for fairness and integrity. Chapters explore NGOs in areas such as child labor, elections, and human rights, identifying the ways these groups have strengthened their credibility by increasing their own transparency, professionalizing their staffs, and integrating themselves into the wider community of NGOs, which informally commits them to shared standards of conduct. And although NGOs are not regulated, this book makes clear that they are disciplined by the complex donor-client environment in which they operate.