Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


In recent years, the number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the international arena has vastly increased, generally making a positive impact. But, as this influence has deepened, governments in the developing world and scholars have scrutinized the work and accountability of NGOs given they are mostly independent and not subjected to international law. While NGOs must adhere to the domestic laws of the places within which they work, adherence is dependent upon the strength of enforcement of those laws. Proponents argue that this independence is essential for NGOs to effectively carry out their work. However, a review of healthcare programs funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Gates Foundation) calls into question current accountability measures of NGOs in the healthcare sector and can shine a light on weaknesses and potential areas of improvement in the current accountability regime for NGOs.

The shortcomings of the current accountability regime for NGOs must be addressed in two critical areas: monitoring projects and monitoring potential influences and exploitation between donors and NGOs. Through the review of recent Gates-funded healthcare campaigns in Africa and India, this paper seeks to highlight and analyze these shortcomings by looking at the failures of the current accountability regime to prevent and resolve human rights abuses committed during these programs. This paper will offer recommendations to strengthen the accountability regime for NGOs through a more active role by the local governments and through community outreach and development. The findings in this paper will have implications for all NGOs working in the healthcare sector and potentially other sectors.

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