Islamic Relief Worldwide marks three years of CHS certification

29 October 2019

Islamic Relief received CHS certification in 2017 and we are delighted that they have maintained it for the third year! To celebrate this achievement, we find out what difference it has made to their important work from South Sudan to Indonesia.

CHS Alliance: Congratulations on maintaining CHS certification for a third year running. How did you find the CHS verification process? What were the most useful and challenging parts?

IRW: Islamic Relief was one of the first charities to receive CHS certification through HQAI and we are delighted that we have maintained it for the third year! Maintaining our certification came after a rigorous annual audit, which inevitably presented some great learning and some challenges, ultimately leading to improvements in the quality of our aid.

About CHS verification

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) was designed so that its application can be measured. Measuring performance through the CHS verification scheme helps organisations learn the extent to which accountability standards have been incorporated into their work, and highlights areas to consider improving.The CHS Alliance Verification Scheme offers different options for verification, because we recognise there are many types of organisations working in humanitarian and development aid.

Certification is one option in the CHS verification scheme. Certification offers organisations a rigorous diagnostic of the degree to which they have applied the CHS. It is undertaken by the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI). CHS certification is essentially a test, resulting in certification either being granted, or denied.

Find out more about CHS verification.


Collecting a wide range of documents and putting them into an ‘auditable framework’ is always a challenge as we had to create coherent links to evidence. While this is a thorough process, we are delighted to say that it has been a useful journey which taught us valuable lessons. By following a structured and time-bound approach, Islamic Relief and its Country offices have now improved their commitment to quality and accountability at many levels. For example, it helped us strengthen our needs assessment and beneficiary selection processes, which we have revised to ensure a higher degree of inclusivity.

Photo credit IRW.

We also now have an improved complaints and feedback mechanism – allowing those we assist to tell us how we did and how we can do it better. With a complaints mechanism that captures these voices, our responses are more effective and accountable. We indeed have improved the way we work, as we attained our CHS compliance and this translates to what matters to us most – improved aid delivery and a higher degree of accountability to the communities we serve.

Our CHS verification experience helped us to realise that we needed a “one-stop-centre” for revising and developing policies and monitoring their implementation across all of our many Country offices. Our very own in-house quality management system, IHSAN, was born as a result. IHSAN, means Excellence, which is also one of our five core organisational values. IHSAN integrates the various internal and external standards that guide our work, including the CHS.

CHSA: How is CHS verification improving aid delivery to the communities you serve?

IRW: Islamic Relief is committed to continually improve its work to ensure that the communities we work with are included and empowered in every aspect of our programming. In Sri Lanka as part of our quality drive in one of the phases of a WASH project, Islamic Relief Sri Lanka facilitated the formation of the empowered village WASH committees. These committees represented water users from the village and placed them at the heart of this programme, allowing their voices to be heard at all stages.

This was formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding, which enabled the committees to take on the lead role in not only the planning and monitoring aspects of the programme but also the operations and maintenance of the water systems and facilities. Furthermore, the committees’ participation has ensured that marginalised groups in the village are included in the project. With their lead role in the programme, we were able to mainstream a number of cross cutting issues on resilience and sustainability, which improved our aid delivery overall.

CHSA: That’s wonderful to hear shifting of power on the ground. Do you have an example of how your work on complaints mechanism is making your humanitarian response more effective and accountable?

IRW: In South Sudan the feedback we received showed that while those affected by the crisis were happy with the services provided, they were keen to get even more support in certain areas of the programme. For instance, feedback indicated that people wanted us to expand health services in hard-to-reach areas, especially ones that were isolated and ignored/neglected by other providers. We took this information on board, and it has helped us to adapt the follow-up phases of the programme.

Photo credit IRW.

Similarly, in Indonesia our distribution monitoring process identified challenges in the quality of some items that we distributed. Our distribution points not only had complaints boxes and a complaints email account, but we also provided verbal explanations of IRW complaints policy, with a focus on safeguarding and protection against sexual exploitation and abuse. This extensive complaints system helped to resolve the issues between communities and suppliers.

Changes like these ensure we are true to our mission, build the trust of the community with the sector as a whole, and ultimately ensure our programmes are appropriate and effective.

CHSA: Finally, how has membership of the CHS Alliance helped support IRW apply the CHS and go through the verification process?

IRW: Being a founder member of the CHS Alliance, IRW is committed to ensuring consistent compliance and advocacy at all levels. The Alliance provides valuable resources including trainings and verification tools, which IRW staff utilise. The CHS Alliance provides a platform for internal and external learning and reflection. This journey of continual learning and improvement is an aspect that we have actively invested our time and resource in.

Find out how to join the CHS Alliance.