High Levels of Engagement with Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) at World Humanitarian Summit

25 May 2016

Humanitarian leaders and decision-makers highlighted the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) as a way to improve humanitarian effectiveness during the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), May 23-24 in Istanbul, as reflected in the Chair’s unedited summary report.

Humanitarian leaders and decision-makers highlighted the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) as a way to improve humanitarian effectiveness during the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), May 23-24 in Istanbul, as reflected in the Chair’s summary report:

“Participants at the Summit recognized the need to ensure people affected by crises are not only informed and consulted, but put at the centre of the decision-making processes. People affected by crisis should be treated as partners, not beneficiaries. Numerous commitments were made towards addressing this shift by donors, UN agencies and NGOs including the adoption of the Core Humanitarian Standard.”

High Level Round Table: Changing people’s lives

During the high-level leaders’ roundtable on “Changing people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need”, the Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, announced Denmark would work with partners on implementing the CHS.

The President of World Vision International, Kevin Jenkins, also speaking at the event stated: “As a CHS Alliance member, we commit to the CHS and will carry out self-assessment against the standard by the end of 2017”.

Side-event: Quality and Accountability

The CHS Alliance, with Groupe URD and the Sphere Project, held a side-event at the summit which was hosted by the Swiss and Danish governments. Participants at the event, entitled “Quality and Accountability: It is not enough to do the things right, the right things have to be done”, highlighted the importance of humanitarian standards, such as the CHS, to improve aid effectiveness and better meet the needs of people affected by crisis.

Arno Wicki, Deputy Head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid and SHA, Head of Multilateral Division opened the event by saying the question for donors is “how can we make the most out of the limited resources we have?”

“Our opinion is that with standards and quality, we can put people at the centre while at the same time being more effective,” he said.

First-responder and community member Amina Labarakwe, Baringo county Kenya, shared her understanding of quality and accountability formed during the 2011 floods – a process through which policy makers account for what they’re supposed to do or have committed to do.

“In my community, I was a representative of a vigilance committee, which through its work was the eyes of the community. This is one way we help to hold organisations to account. Another one is involvement in decision-making process. For example, we were involved in procurement process to award contracts, which helped to improve transparency. Accountability is a bottom up process. It needs to involve community members, because we are key in responding to disasters.”

According to Stephan Schønemann, Director for Humanitarian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the humanitarian challenges we all face in coming years call for a renewed commitment to enhancing the quality, accountability and effectiveness of humanitarian assistance,

“Strengthening the coherence of standards across different sectors of humanitarian work on the basis of shared fundamental values, common structure and consistent language ensures greater ownership and enables increased effectiveness and efficiency,” he said.

Lise Grande, Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, highlighted the progress made in terms of accountability over the past 10 years.

“Today, the accountability agenda has moved forward with one of the best examples of this the Nine Commitments of the CHS that are a manifesto of how we should be working. The Standard is a very clear statement that humanitarians must see accountability to the people we serve as our fundamental responsibility–something all of us are obliged to do. The Standard is a way of concretising our ethical commitment and putting it literally at the centre of everything we try to do.”

Lise suggested four ways humanitarian country teams (HCT) can make the CHS work:

  1. Insist all organisations wishing to submit projects to a humanitarian response plan show that they are working to reach Sphere standards and the quality criteria in the CHS. 
  2. Insist all clusters develop work plans based on the CHS cycle and that all clusters are working to deliver assistance at Sphere standards. The HCT can collectively review these work plans to ensure full support for them across the operation.
  3. Only organisations which are working to reach Sphere standards and the quality criteria in the CHS are eligible to seek funds from the in-country pooled fund and from the United Nations central emergency response fund (CERF).
  4. HCTs conduct biannual strategic reviews of their operations to monitor collective progress against the CHS and Sphere standards.

If we do just these four things, this will put accountability at the very centre of our collective efforts, she said. Accountability is too important to leave to the good will and good intention of humanitarian actors. It’s time to make accountability compulsory.

Alejandro Maldonado, Executive Secretary, CONRED, Guatemala provided a perspective on how standards can be used by governments to help them better meet the needs of their populations.  Standards are indispensable tools for a better response, and highlighted the positive experience of applying the Sphere standards in Guatemala, emphasising that standards can be used by governments:

  • For accountability and transparency.
  • To help quantify the amount of assistance that ought to be provided in an emergency.
  • To plan and better prepare for future events.
  • To minimise the human factor and support objective decisions versus arbitrary decision-making.
  • To push us to improve, even when it means fighting our own legislation.

Detailed notes summarising the side-event can be downloaded here.

Special session: People at the centre

The CHS Alliance and some of its members took part in the Special Session on People at the Centre on day two where CHS Alliance members Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International and Manu Gupta, Director, SEEDS, both highlighted their organisations commitment to adopting the CHS.

The Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, concluded by saying we must work not only for people but with people and that we need to ensure we turn the commitments made at the WHS into practical actions.