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Introduction to the External Conduct Standards

This article introduces the purpose of the External Conduct Standards for charities operating overseas.
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Around 10% of Australia’s registered charities operate overseas and they do so in a variety of ways.

Some send money or goods overseas to support projects or programs, while some directly undertake work ‘on the ground’ in another country. Others work in partnership with an overseas-based charity or organisation, supply staff or volunteers to overseas efforts, or even advocate on issues overseas.

If a charity operates overseas – or intends to – it needs to address a number of risks in addition to the ACNC Governance Standards. This includes ensuring:

  • Any money, assets, goods, resources or other items that it sends overseas are used in line with its charitable purpose.
  • Any overseas activities it conducts – or which it works with partners on – are overseen, recorded and managed responsibly.
  • The charity is not involved in fraud or corruption (nor are any third parties with which the charity engages).
  • Any vulnerable people it works with are protected. This might include clients and beneficiaries, as well as a charity’s own staff or volunteers.

Charities that work overseas must be able to identify and manage risks, handle money safely and protect staff and beneficiaries. Overseas activities are often harder to monitor than activities at home so charities may be exposed to greater risks.

A charity must have strong policies, processes and controls to mitigate those risks.

The External Conduct Standards (ECS) are a set of 4 standards that govern a registered charity’s operations outside Australia.

Compliance with the ECS helps charities minimise the risks that come with operating overseas and is required for a charity to maintain its registration.

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External Conduct Standards for Charities

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