Q&A training brings together all parts of the Syrian humanitarian response

29 October 2019

Earlier this month the CHS Alliance co-hosted an OCHA Turkey led initiative to promote greater accountability in the Syrian humanitarian response.

Pioneering training

Together with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Turkey and Sphere, the CHS Alliance supported a pioneering Training of Trainers (ToT) for Syrian humanitarian workers.

Held in Gaziantep, Turkey (close to the Northern border of Syria) the ToT provided a truly inclusive learning course on Quality and Accountability to Affected Populations in humanitarian work, adapted specifically to the Syrian humanitarian context. Three co-trainers delivered the capacity building workshop in Arabic for 26 aid workers from across Syria.

Participants at the ToT. Photo credit Christie Bacal-Mayercourt, IOM.

A truly inclusive learning process

The Training of Trainers brought together Syrians aid workers from different regions of the country, the Government-held area, the North West and the North East.

“The ongoing conflict in Syria has split the country into different zones controlled by various de facto authorities. This has had a tremendous impact on the lives of Syrians as well as on the humanitarian access and response in Syria. Gathering Syrian humanitarian workers from all areas of control is a powerful way to reaffirm the humanitarian principles guiding our work and is also a small contribution to peacebuilding. As one of the participants declared at the end of the ToT: ‘Being all together despite our various religious, ethnic and sectarian backgrounds and despite our different experiences and perspectives of the crisis in Syria, made us feel again part of the human family.’ ” Tamara Hallaq & Omar Durbas, Humanitarian Affairs Officers, OCHA Turkey.

The training also demonstrated the positive impact of cooperation between agencies. OCHA Turkey, IOM Turkey, the CHS Alliance, Sphere and Sida all joined forces to enable this unique Q&A training opportunity for those on the ground in Syria. Mark Cutts, Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, summarised the power of collaboration in his opening speech at the ToT:

“We work on different sides of the front line, but we are one team with one goal, which is to get humanitarian assistance and protection to those who need it most. Our effectiveness and our credibility depend on our adherence to humanitarian principles, our professionalism and the quality of our work. That’s why this workshop is so important. The more we can demonstrate that our staff on both sides of the front line operate according to the same set of humanitarian principles and based on the same core humanitarian standards, the more we will be respected and the more effective we will be.”

Practical takeaways

The aim of the ToT was to develop a pool of Q&A specialists that can train Syrian humanitarian workers, enhancing Q&A capacity within the Syrian national response. The objective of the ToT was to increase participants’ knowledge and capacity on Q&A, equip them with tools and resources on Q&A – including the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS), the Sphere handbook, the Humanitarian Standards Partnership as well as other key international and regional Q&A guidelines – as well as adult learning and facilitation skills, enabling them to deliver Q&A trainings to Syrian humanitarian workers.

It was an incredible learning experience to accompany and build on people’s ability to share, trust, learn and explore the use of Humanitarian Standards for Quality and Accountability together, for the benefit of communities.” Sylvie Robert, Quality and Accountability Specialist, Designer and Advisor for this Learning Strategy for Syria.

Participants left the training equipped with the skills to use these standards at every stage of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle used at Inter-Agency level. The training also covered how to implement Q&A standards within the programme cycles used by participants’ organisations.

“In a context as complex as Syria, we really need to understand minimum standards to ensure that we preserve people’s dignity.” Male INGO participant, Turkey.

A central topic identified by participants as a way to improve their programmes was guidance on how to improve the management of feedback and complaints:

“In Syria we were not adapting our complaints mechanisms. Learning about quality and accountability standards will help us to adapt better and so improve the quality of our interventions.” Female ToT participant.

Next steps

This ToT’s added value comes from the learning strategy which embeds a cascading approach. Participants will now act as advocates and peer leaders on the importance of quality, accountability and good people management in humanitarian action. They will be coached by the three co-trainers who delivered the ToT. Supported by OCHA and the IOM, participants will facilitate 3-day trainings on Quality and Accountability for their peers before the end of the year, in multiple locations across Turkey and Syria.

“It was very helpful to learn what certain quality and accountability terminology really means, some of which I hadn’t come across before while working in North East Syria. I will now take it up as my responsibility to train additional staff on the CHS, and the importance of quality and accountability in our work.” Female local NGO participant, North East Syria.

“I think no one disagrees that the quality of our assistance, and our accountability as aid actors to the people we assist, are crucial to the humanitarian response in the challenging context in Syria. IOM conducted its AAP training for its implementing partners back in 2018 and received feedback on the need to expand the training to help them be on the same page as regards accountability, humanitarian principles and standards. We continue to support the ToT’s remarkable collective effort enhancing the capacity of our Syrian partners on the ground who bring life-saving assistance to the people left vulnerable in this crisis. The ToT is only the start.” Christie Bacal-Mayencourt, IOM HQ Geneva.

A global version of this ToT will be hosted by Community World Service Asia in Bangkok this November. Learnings from these different trainings will be used to improve capacity building opportunities on Q&A, for the CHS Alliance as well as for future inter-agency initiatives.

Read the full training report and keep an eye on our training pages for upcoming CHS ToTs happening soon.