Voices from Southern & Eastern Africa shape the future of CHS

25 September 2023

by Bonaventure Sokpoh

Senior Advisor on CHS and Outreach, CHS Alliance

As part of the CHS Revision Global Consultation, I recently embarked on a journey that confirmed the incredible work being done by CHS Alliance members to enhance the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and create a stronger system to put people affected by crisis in the driving seat of aid.

CHS Alliance, Sphere, and Groupe URD are the driving forces behind the global, consultative process aimed at bolstering the CHS. Yet it is our members and supporters who are putting in the effort to make the CHS more accessible, relevant and user-friendly.

Voices from Around the World

Over the past 18 months, we’ve embarked on a mission to listen and learn from the voices of more than 3,000 individuals and organisations from all corners of the world working to make lives better in the face of crises. Their insights, combined with eight years of invaluable verification data are the guiding light in strengthening the CHS.

My Journey: Kenya

I had the privilege of being at the helm of CHS Revision consultation exercises in several countries. In Kenya we had vibrant discussion with community representatives from Southern Kenya, followed by a regional workshop in Nairobi. These events would not have been possible without the incredible leadership shown by our member ActionAid International Kenya and their local partners Sauti Ya Wanawake Kishushe and Sauti Ya Wanawake Paranga for making these consultations.

A member of the DEC shares his views on the importance of the CHS Commitments during a community visit to Kishushe, Kenya in September. Credit: ActionAid International Kenya/Ezra Kiriago

Each meeting brought together crisis-affected individuals living in crisis-affected areas and organisations, giving them a platform to discuss proposed updates to the CHS.

The Power of Community: Southern Kenya

One unforgettable experience was spending an afternoon with community representatives from Kishushe in Taita Taveta County, Southern Kenya. People there are facing drought and hunger due to years of failed rains. The community Disaster Management Committee (DMC), mainly led by incredible women, takes action to address these challenges. What we heard loud and clear was their endorsement of the CHS Commitments. They want aid organisations to apply the Standard at all times.

The draft updated CHS Commitments being explained to community representatives in their local language during the visit to Kishushe. Credit: ActionAid International Kenya/Ezra Kiriago

These women especially voiced their support for timely and effective aid, the importance of knowing their rights, active participation in decision-making, and responsible resource management to prevent waste and corruption.

“It’s important to know your rights… take the example of a fire. Someone has lost her house. The most immediate need is clothing, but an organisation comes with something else. The organisation needs to ask that person what they need.” member of the DMC.

Workshop: Bridging Communities

National organisations are often the first responders and work directly within their communities. In a lively workshop in Nairobi, CHS Alliance and ActionAid International Kenya brought together more than 100 national actors from across the Southern and Eastern African region. Our goal? To discuss the proposed revised CHS draft and ensure it will work for every type of organisation supporting people through disasters.

Workshop opening panel: From left to right: Susan Otieno, Executive Director, ActionAid International Kenya. Angela Wambui, Humanitarian Affairs Officer & Community Engagement Officer, OCHA, Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa, Kenya. Charles Macharia, Programs Manager, Anglican Development Services – Kenya, ADS Kenya. Amelia Marzal, Regional Head of Corporate Services, IFRC. Monica Blagescu, independent, Panel moderator. Credit: ActionAid International Kenya/Ezra Kiriago

Panelists reiterated the importance of acting upon what people tell us and being accountable to them.

Amelia Marzal, Regional Head of Corporate Services, IFRC said “We don’t fear accountability, we embrace it.

Charles Macharia of Anglican​ Development Services, a national organisation and member of ACT Alliance, shared his perspective on the day. “I’d like to highlight the tremendous benefits we’ve reaped from the CHS. The CHS helps us entrench dignity to the communities we support! It enhances engagement with communities as well as increases acceptance and recognition by local authorities.”

Participants gather at the regional CHS Revision Workshop in Nairobi. Credit: ActionAid International Kenya/Ezra Kiriago

What’s Next?

Our journey doesn’t stop here. Our collective goal is a widely used, improved CHS that fosters effective and accountable relationships between vulnerable people, communities as well as local, national, and international actors.

Here’s what’s on the horizon:

  • Analysis of the thousands of pieces of global feedback to finalise the updated Standard.
  • The hybrid global launch of the updated CHS will take place on 21 March 2024 – mark your calendars now.

If you want to find out more about updating the CHS, keep a look out for future updates via our monthly newsletter. Together, we will make the voices of in people in situations of crisis and vulnerability the guiding light of humanitarian and development aid.