The CHS Alliance and the On the Road to Istanbul Report Launched in Geneva

The CHS Alliance as well as the On the road to Istanbul report – the Humanitarian Accountability report 2015 – were launched in Geneva last Friday, 9 October 2015, with over 60 participants from the humanitarian and development sector.

The CHS Alliance as well as the On the road to Istanbul report – the Humanitarian Accountability report 2015 – were launched in Geneva last Friday, 9 October 2015, with over 60 participants from the humanitarian and development sector.

After opening speeches by the CHS Alliance’s Executive Director Judith Greenwood and the Alliance’s Chair Robert Glasser, a panel discussion was led by David Loquercio, the Head of Policy, Advocacy and Learning at the Alliance, with a focus on the humanitarian principles and collective accountability – two themes of the On the road to Istanbul report.

The panelists were:

During the panel discussion, Angharad (PHAP) and Ingrid (NRC) both underlined that the humanitarian principles and humanitarian access were inextricably linked, with access being a precondition for high-quality and accountable assistance as well as essential for building trust and ensuring proximity to the affected population. Applying the principles therefore allowed to provide aid where it’s needed, rather than just where humanitarian organisations are based.

Moreover, Angharad explained that applying the principles today was more difficult than ever before because humanitarian responses were taking place in more and more complex contexts, with more actors on the ground and within difficult conflict environments. This increasingly complex context was making the humanitarian principles more – rather than less – relevant because we need a moral compass now more than ever.

Ingrid highlighted that the increasing focus on security measures, liability and risk management had a direct negative impact on humanitarian organisations’ ability to be present in the most challenging locations. She also questioned the benefits of the continued ‘professionalisation’ of humanitarian work, which had led to increased distance between field workers and affected people due to the heavy reporting load and a top-down approach to accountability.

Loretta from OCHA emphasised that accountability was at the core of how we do business – not an add-on – and that the humanitarian sector should therefore move forward with the Core Humanitarian Standard as its common reference framework. She also underlined that accountability needed to be placed on every Humanitarian Country Team agenda.

Alyoscia from IRC added that collective decision-making forums very much remained black boxes – and that even for an insider like himself it was often difficult to understand how decisions are taken. He also explained that if we used technological solutions to bring affected people’s voices into these decision-making forums, it wouldn’t make much of a difference unless these black boxes were opened up, and it was explained how decisions had been taken and based on what information. Finally, he was puzzled by the fact that humanitarian organisations continued to rely on self-reporting when assessing their own accountability to affected people.