Integrating the Core Humanitarian Standard and Inclusive Programming in Christian Aid’s PPA Extension

Jane Machira

by Jane Machira

Programme Development Advisor – Inclusive Programming for the Africa Division in Christian Aid.

In this blog, Jane Machira, Christian Aid, describes the organisation’s four inclusion pillars and corresponding CHS commitments, and how integrating the two has transformed the Kenya programme for greater inclusion and accountability.

I write this blog with a deep sense of celebration and accomplishment at the Programme Partnership Agreement (PPA) funding mechanism. The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) and Christian Aid’s four inclusion pillars have become intertwined within our programming – thanks to a Department for International Development (DFID)-funded PPA extension. Christian Aid’s Kenya programme has adopted an innovative approach to roll out the CHS and inclusive programming at the same time, demonstrating the links between the two, and engaging PPA partners in the field for the practical application of the tools. As part of this, six PPA partners and staff in the Kenya programme gathered for five days training on inclusive programming and links to the CHS in June 2016. This experience was transformative! I was thrilled to see partners working on diverse projects (markets, health and resilience) embracing the nine CHS commitments and the four inclusion pillars in a seamless manner, and adapting the PPA projects within the two frameworks so effectively and in the spirit of ‘leave no one behind’. Gender, age and disability (GAD) and other forms of diversity were central to the training as critical identities that increase vulnerabilities.

This blog piece walks you through the four inclusion pillars and corresponding CHS commitments, and how this helped to transform programming for greater inclusion and accountability of the Kenya programme.

Inclusion pillar 1 (Challenge power imbalances) and CHS commitment 1

CHS commitment 1 is about appropriateness and relevance of humanitarian and development response for the people affected by crisis, to ensure they receive assistance appropriate and relevant to their needs. The power pillar speaks to this in depth because it requires us to take a deeper look at our assumptions on vulnerability and really proves, through analysis and data disaggregation that we are justified in our decision making on who we target. Both the CHS and the inclusive programming pillars ask similar questions: who are the most vulnerable groups in the community and how do we decide? Is our analysis enough? What information do we gather and how? The power thread runs through this because often we need to challenge the status quo to break the normal patterns of exclusion. Making the invisible visible is not a neutral action. It seeks to empower, to challenge and to change. Inclusion challenges power imbalances.

Reflecting this back on their PPA projects, and with inclusion lenses on one hand and CHS commitments on the other, the workshop participants went through the motions of power and gender analysis using the tools provided such as the ‘power walk‘ exercise. The power walk is a way to think about power dynamics within communities and what makes people vulnerable, and how this affects an individual’s ability to access services. We also used the inclusion checklist which made it easy for partners to gauge where they were at on the power pillar and CHS commitment in order to guide their action plans.

Inclusion pillar 2 (Meaningful access and participation) and CHS commitments 2 and 4

Meaningful access and participation is about ensuring people’s access to impartial services and assistance in proportion to need without any barriers such as discrimination. It’s about paying special attention to individuals and groups who may be particularly vulnerable or have difficulty accessing assistance and services on the basis of sex, age, disability and other identities. It’s about ensuring they have a voice and are able to actively and effectively participate in decision making processes and activities that affect them. This pillar complements CHS commitment 2 which focuses on ensuring communities and people affected by crisis have access to the humanitarian and development assistance they need at the right time. It also links with CHS commitment 4 which ensures that response is based on communication, participation and feedback from the affected population in an inclusive manner.

Participants reflected on meaningful access and participation, and what this means in practice, and how these barriers can be addressed during the entire project cycle.

Inclusion pillar 3 (Safety, dignity and do no harm) and CHS commitment 3

The overriding question in this pillar was “Do our good intentions, when put into practice do more harm than good?” This pillar relates to commitment 3 of the CHS which aims to ensure that response strengthens local capacities and avoids negative effects. It focuses on ensuring communities and affected people are more prepared, resilient and less at risk as a result of the humanitarian and development action. Participants engaged on exercises of do no harm analysis, to demonstrate their understanding of this principle and how it impacts on programming. They did their scores against PPA projects and some of the gaps noted included lack of mechanisms to address risks such as gender-based violence (GBV) and limited capacity for inclusion of vulnerable and diverse groups.

Inclusion pillar 4 (Accountability) and CHS commitments 5 to 9

Inclusive accountability is about setting up appropriate mechanisms through which affected populations can measure the adequacy of interventions, or address concerns and complaints. It calls for provision of relevant information in a timely and appropriate manner and ensures that codes of conduct are well understood and applied effectively. The key for inclusion is that these protocols and standards are accessible and available to everyone in an emergency, not just the select few who can read and write or who have power to speak up. This pillar complements CHS commitments 5 to 9 which seek to ensure complaints are welcomed and addressed, accountable use of resources, and learning and continuous improvement, among others. Some of the gaps partners identified in projects had to do with language and communication, as most of the materials are written in English and not specific for the target audience, the code of conduct is not always well understood, and information provided is not always accurate. Power factors were mentioned as playing a role impacting on feedback from communities to partners, and partners to Christian Aid. This is an area that partners and Christian Aid are making improvements on.

Field visit

What did you see, what did you hear? How did you feel?” These were the questions participants were armed with when they left for the field that chilly Saturday morning. Inclusive programming and CHS training would not have been complete without field experience and meeting with communities and beneficiaries. The focus group discussions (FGDs), key informant interviews (KII) and transect walk all helped the participants to practice inclusion and CHS tools on the ground. The experience was phenomenal. Partners demonstrated excellent capabilities in administering FGDs and KII questions and they were very much at home with the community. This was indeed their comfort zone. But what was more important was the outcome of the field visit. Flipcharts rolled one after the other with details of what participants saw, what they heard and how they felt. This helped to do a critical analysis of the Anglican Development Services-East (ADSE) PPA project, and recommended areas of adaptation and improvement moving forward.

Overall ADSE had done a great job to promote participatory livelihood processes that are based on the felt needs of the community. As the community spokesman put it “even the trees and the livestock can testify to their work” – referring to the transformed green environment and healthy animals. However some work still needs to be done to complete the cycle of inclusion: for example the need to bring young people on board, arranging for transportation of older people and people with disabilities to the meeting venue to address barriers to participation, the need to involve people living with HIV in the project and going out for them, the need for more collaboration between county government and community based organisations for technical support and resourcing etc.

Action plans

The six partners involved prioritised and developed plans of actions on the areas of inclusion and CHS they plan to focus on during the PPA extension. They have done extremely well in implementing the action plans, ranging from data disaggregation on the basis of sex, age, and disability (SAD), going back for those left behind, and revised participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments (PVCAs) to factor CHS commitments and inclusion. The full impact is being documented, in readiness for wider sharing and reporting to DFID in the coming months.

I urge all humanitarian and development actors to embrace the CHS commitments and inclusive programming pillars which are powerful and holistic guidelines of ensuring effective response to development and humanitarian crisis in an equitable, sustainable and transformative manner, leaving no one behind.