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International advocacy NGOs, counter accounting, accountability and engagement

Mercy Denedo (Department of Accountancy, Economics and Finance, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Ian Thomson (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Akira Yonekura (School of Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 21 August 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how and why international advocacy NGOs (iaNGOs) use counter accounting as part of their campaigns against oil companies operating in the Niger Delta to reform problematic regulatory systems and make visible corporate practices that exploit governance and accountability gaps in relation to human rights violations and environmental damage.


This arena study draws on different sources of evidence, including interviews with nine iaNGOs representatives involved in campaigns in the Niger Delta. The authors mapped out the history of the conflict in order to locate and make sense of the interviewees’ views on counter accounting, campaigning strategies, accountability and governance gaps as well as their motivations and aspirations for change.


The evidence revealed an inability of vulnerable communities to engage in relevant governance systems, due to unequal power relationships, corporate actions and ineffective governance practices. NGOs used counter accounts as part of their campaigns to change corporate practices, reform governance systems and address power imbalances. Counter accounts made visible problematic actions to those with power over those causing harm, gave voice to indigenous communities and pressured the Nigerian Government to reform their governance processes.

Practical implications

Understanding the intentions, desired outcomes and limitations of NGO’s use of counter accounting could influence human rights accountability and governance reforms in political institutions, public sector organisations, NGOs and corporations, especially in developing countries.

Social implications

This paper seeks to contribute to accounting research that seeks to protect the wealth and natural endowments of indigenous communities to enhance their life experience.


By interviewing the preparers of counter accounts the authors uncover their reasons as to why they find accounting useful in their campaigns.



This paper would not have been possible without a scholarship from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. The authors would like to thank Professor John Ferguson, the two anonymous reviewers and the guest editor of this special issue for their invaluable, constructive and helpful comments. The authors are highly indebted to the participants of this study who due to confidential reasons cannot be identified. Early version of this paper was presented at BAFA 2016 held at the University of Bath UK; the Alternative Accounts Conference 2016, held at Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa Canada; Heriot-Watt PhD Workshop 2016; APIRA 2016 held at RMIT University, Australia; CSEAR 2016 held at the University of St Andrews, Scotland and Aston University – Accounting Seminar 2016. The authors highly appreciate the feedback received from the participants of these events. Finally, the financial support received from 1st Formation Business Scholarship, Heriot-Watt Annual Fund Grant and CSEAR/CIMA to participate in the Alternative Account Conference and CSEAR is greatly appreciated.


Denedo, M., Thomson, I. and Yonekura, A. (2017), "International advocacy NGOs, counter accounting, accountability and engagement", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 1309-1343.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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