2022 – making accountability to people in crises a reality

26 January 2022
Tanya Wood

by Tanya Wood

Executive Director, CHS Alliance

Whoever you are, wherever you are, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, everyone has the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to have their voice heard. Aid organisations have a vital role to protect and restore humanity, respecting people’s dignity and rights. With this comes an obligation to use power responsibly by taking account of, and being held to account by, the people they seek to assist.

Despite the immense challenges of the last few years of the pandemic, societal upheavals in the face of inequality and the ever-worsening climate crisis, we’ve seen more and more organisations making concerted efforts to deliver on their Commitments to people affected by crises.

Now, as 2022 starts, we need to build on this momentum and focus on the concrete ways we can challenge ourselves to be truly accountable to people in crises.

For the Alliance, we will be working closely with our growing membership to create this change, driven by our new strategy, which will be launched in the coming months. We will focus our efforts on two areas to drive the change we want to see:

Support to organisations

Accountability to affected people is not a programmatic activity. It requires a culture of accountability embedded throughout the whole organisation.

Mindsets, attitudes and behaviours championed and modelled at the most senior levels will allow for more open workplace cultures, that are more respectful and inclusive, fulfilling our duty of care to staff and volunteers. The change in mindset and behaviour should be reflected in the way staff and volunteers engage with communities they serve and their partners. This means adequately resourcing and supporting staff, wherever they work and whatever their roles. It involves ownership by leaders, and it means organisations measuring how they apply the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and improve against it.

The Alliance looks forward to working with our members to support them in this whole of organisational approach to deliver on the CHS Commitments, from supporting them in their verification journey, continuing to provide its training courses, supporting how organisations manage and address complaints and investigations, and developing tools and guidance to deliver on their Commitments.

Driving systemic change

Accountability to affected people is not only an organisational responsibility but requires a collective and global effort to change unequal power dynamics.

While there is a good collective will for this change, we need to accelerate the momentum for the systemic change needed. We have a long way to go to tackle the power imbalances among aid organisations and shift power to local and national organisations working closest to communities.

The CHS is a universal accountability framework focussed on meeting commitments to people in crises, as opposed to organisational mandates. If we are to meet our vision of people affected by crises being able to hold us to account, it needs a widespread commitment by all organisations – UN agencies, the Red Cross Movement, national and international NGOs and Governments – working across the humanitarian, development and peace nexus to unite around this Standard.

We will continue to invest our energy in learning from national NGOs and other actors uniting around these commitments about what it will take to drive improvements, as well as continuing to work with the IASC members on how we can progress more collective tracker on accountability to crisis-affected people.

The CHS Alliance team is energised to work with you to roll out our ambitious new strategy, and I look forward to soon sharing with you more details about our approach over the next four years. We are ready to work with our members and partners to co-create a future in which all organisations working with people affected by crises deliver on their CHS Commitments.