CHS Alliance response to Emergency Relief Coordinator’s proposal on Independent Commission for Voices in Crisis (ICVIC)

22 April 2021

CHS Alliance welcomes the Emergency Relief Coordinator’s call for the humanitarian sector to be more accountable to people affected by crisis, while urging that his proposal reinforces existing accountability initiatives which put the voices of affected people at the core of a humanitarian response.

Tanya Wood, Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, responded to Mark Lowcock’s announcement today of a proposed Independent Commission for Voices in Crisis, saying:

“From our roots in the exploration of a Humanitarian Ombudsman in the mid 1990s, we have known that the humanitarian system needs to get far better at listening to people in crises. This is a moral imperative for humanitarian response.

“Therefore, while it is positive to see the ERC proposing bold solutions to this challenge, we have the following requests:

  1. New efforts build on the substantial investments already being made. The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) sets out Nine Commitments the sector has made to affected people. It is expressly designed so affected people can hold organisations to account. It is a measurable, verifiable standard. We highly commend the 114 organisations who have put themselves through extensive scrutiny to evaluate and assess how well they meet the Standard, based on the opinions of people in crisis. Many of which who have been independently audited by HQAI.
  2. Development of independent mechanisms should not distract from the essential work every organisation needs to make to increase their accountability to affected people. While independence of this commission holds value, an independent body cannot distract or substitute for the hard work that is needed by every organisation to build accountable processes and organisational cultures internally.
  3. We need bolder incentives from donors and the UN to drive change. We fully support the ERC that “finding the right incentives to change the system is key and donors are powerful levers”. We have been advocating for donors, including  government donors, UN agencies and INGOs to request adherence to the CHS. We are seeing some donors rise to this challenge – and hope the UN pooled funds will follow suit.
  4. We need to shift the power. Critical attention needs to be paid to who holds the power, and who governs this proposed arrangement. Accountability to affected people requires a power shift and the localisation of aid. Whatever form this independent commission takes, it should not be another top-down institution.”

CHS Alliance is committed to working with its 150+ member organisations, partners, the IASC, and OCHA to strengthen accountability in aid, and would welcome further discussions with the outgoing Emergency Relief Coordinator and his successor on how the sector builds greater accountability to those we serve.