What is Accountability to Affected People?

Accountability to Affected People is the process of using power responsibly. It involves taking account of, and being held accountable to those who are primarily affected by the exercise of such power

In practice, this means that aid organisations are answerable to people and communities for the decisions they make and how these decisions affect people’s lives.

By definition, crises are times of disruption and upheaval. Affected people are likely to be in vulnerable situations. They can be especially dependent on those with access to resources and those who make decisions. Abuses of power can easily occur in these conditions.

Therefore, it is vital that all aid organisations regardless of how big, small, local or international, recognise the power they hold to do good or to cause harm.

Being accountable means ensuring that people affected by crises have agency over the services they are provided with, are treated with dignity and are not subject to power abuse from the organisations meant to help them.

It means that aid organisations fulfil their obligations to provide accurate and timely information. They must also make the time and space to listen and respond to people’s needs and concerns on an ongoing basis.

It is a fundamental right for people and communities to participate in decisions that aid organisations make. Aid organisations must adapt their ways of working so that their decision-making processes are more inclusive, more transparent and offer more opportunities for people affected by crisis to be in the driving seat of the decisions that affect their lives.

However, participatory decision making on its own is not enough. To be truly accountable to people and communities, it is critical that aid organisations have systems and mechanisms to hear about when things go wrong, or when the people they work for are dissatisfied. Importantly, aid organisations need to acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes or unintended consequences, do everything they can to put it right.

Accountability to Affected People is not a destination; it is a journey.

It is ever evolving, and changes based on the context that aid organisations operate in and the people they support. There is no one size fits all approach to being accountable to all people, all the time, in all contexts.

This journey requires aid organisations to understand the diverse groups of people they work with. Organisations must recognise how people’s identities and characteristics affect who they trust, how they communicate, what risks they face and what services they need.

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) sets out a framework for delivering high-quality, accountable humanitarian assistance regardless of the context or aid agency or volunteer group implementing it. Each of the Nine Commitments of the CHS sets requirements for aid organisations on how to be accountable to affected people.

CHS Alliance Services at a Glance

  • Community of Practice (CoP): please do join our AAP CoP to share experiences and challenges, learn from others, access expert advice and gain peer support. You can join by clicking here
  • Learning and collaboration opportunities, such as
    webinars, events and conferences on the issue of Accountability to Affected People to share experiences, good practices and challenges to move forward in a more coordinated way. Tailored support for our members upon request. For more information, please email Collective Accountability Manager, Catherine Skehan (cskehan@chsalliance.org).
  • The CHS Alliance Approved Trainers Scheme,
    with a pool of independent consultants who can be contacted by any agency to undertake training on PSEA and investigations. For more information contact training@chsalliance.org
  • Access tools and resources: Have a look around the tools and resources section of our website. We have lots of resources available to support https://www.chsalliance.org/get-support/resources/ organisations to implement AAP. If you can’t find what you are looking for please email Collective Accountability Manager, Catherine Skehan (cskehan@chsalliance.org).

Sign up to our CoP!

Reach out to our Collective Accountability Manager, Catherine Skehan, for more support and guidance on Accountability to Affected People.

“I’ve spent many years supporting international, national and local organisations to implement the CHS and strengthen their accountability to affected people. I have learnt that the CHS is a whole of organisation approach that encourages all departments to acknowledge their power, responsibilities and how they can become more accountable to those they work for. I am passionate about supporting people and organisations to be accountable. I would love to hear from you and provide support on any challenges you might be facing.”