Follow-up responses: Operational camp management: An introduction to the Camp Management Standards

On 23 September, PHAP and the Global CCCM Cluster organized a webinar on the critical work of Camp Managers and the draft Camp Management Standards. This included experienced Camp Managers who have been involved in the standards development process and was an opportunity for practitioners worldwide to provide their input on the draft standards. 

While many of the questions from participants were answered during the event (listen to these in the event recording), there were more questions than there was time for, and the guest experts have answered follow-up questions in writing, which you can now read on this page.


Community engagement

What are the pros, as well as the cons of engaging refugee people in camp management?
 -  Mahtabul, Bangladesh

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

There are no cons in the engagement of the camp population in displacement settings. People who are affected by your work and actions should be engaged. There may be difficulties caused by the nature of the camp management activity and the way in which this engagement occurs. In Bangladesh, there have been many challenging issues. However, it is valid for an NGO or other camp-based staff to engage with the affected population, and solving those difficulties is just one aspect of the job.

In addition, the engagement of the camp population could be indirect through the participation of the communities in camp committees and responding to needs assessments conducted by camp managers. This helps to identify the needs and type of response of the camp management team and ensure the involvement of the camp community in decision making.


How do you deal with huge turnover as it prevents you from forming community council and having people around that know the rules and teach newcomers how to respect them?
 -  Amira, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

In those situations where there is a rapid turnover of those using the facility (for example, a transit center or a way station where it would require a substantial administrative and management duties), the population would likely also not be a unified population or have community structures intact. If the displaced population is from the same location and a part of the same operation, our strategy as the DRC would be to recruit people from the community to work as part of our staff to stay with us for the duration of the transit centre or way station activity and help us with both communication and daily management tasks. However, they would be our workers and not a community structure. Posting rules and providing an orientation to newcomers on how to respect them should be done by the staff in these circumstances.


Content of the Standards

What are best practices on shelter numbering/addressing systems across different contexts?
 -  Cyril, Nigeria

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Shelter numbers are a part of the addressing system but not the critical portion. Addressing systems in the heat of the emergency is critical for the sectors of nutrition, health, and food but are in the control of site planning, demarcation shelter, WASH, and CM. Usually what we try to do is at the planning stage; during site planning activities, we try to agree on what the addressing system shall be (taking into consideration what requirements health, food and nutrition partners need to have) and establish an addressing system that responds to these needs.

For example, in Nigeria, the larger problems identified were that site planning came after displacement and that many partners, including those working in food, were not successful in determining or organizing their plans for distribution. This resulted in frustration from the other sectors to harmonize the existing addressing system and no one being able to take the leadership in fixing it. The best experience I have had was where the camp management, site planning, and demarcation of the site was conducted by the same organization and where the sectors most affected by the addressing system (WASH, Food, Nutrition, and Health) already knew what their requirements would be, and we could anticipate challenges. Unfortunately, it is rare to be able to anticipate challenges. What Camp Management should aim for is to be responsive and flexible in ensuring there is a satisfactory addressing system for the duration of the emergency. After this time, the long-term needs are satisfied by addressing (planning, management, and safety/security) the challenges, even if it would entail changing to a new addressing system at additional cost at a later date.


How do the standards deal with ensuring the wellbeing of children and new-born, and access to play?
 -  Javier, Colombia

 Jennifer Kvernmo

It’s a good question, Javier. Commitment 4: of the CM Standards relates to the Site Environment, which should be safe as well as physically, socially, and culturally appropriate for inhabitants. This means that the physical space and layout need to be conducive to all inhabitants noting that children and babies have very different needs than adults. The key actions here are really to make sure that in the planning, layout, and maintenance of the facility, each of the particular needs of the population can make full use of the spatial spaces and that these are culturally appropriate. One excellent practice I have seen in the Philippines for new-born infants is the designated “nursing mothers’ rooms” at the request of the population, for example.


If the crisis occurred within a location where we have multiple displaced people from different tribes that have an ongoing conflict among them which would be the best approach? Given we have limited supplies, and assuming general spaces like bathrooms that might be shared, for example, how would we display the camp in order not only to avoid conflict but also to avoid that one group feels underprivileged in comparison with the other? Within the camp setting, how does one manage in terms of security? I've attended seminars before and have yet to learn of methods to be applied so that people feel safe. In addition, if a crime occurs, from whom should the people seek help? Are there professionals placed just to help victims or are they the same that provide the overall security for the camp?
 -  Patricia, Portugal

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

This question requires extensive discussion rather than one response. Providing for the wellbeing and the safety and security in an emergency to a displaced population is a function of community institutions, government/duty bearer efficiency, and policy. The good functioning of formal social institutions and the establishment of a multi-sectoral set of emergency response teams (from case managers to community outreach) is not something that could be solved with one standard or one set of standards. On managing inter-ethnic and nationalist or identity conflicts that lead to displacement and how we would manage them in practice is a vast topic, and the response will most likely not be possible to cover completely as different contexts have different responses to this form of conflict. The policies in an operation must be designed with the specific conflict in mind and with a full assessment of risk and threats to support policymaking. In some operations, there have been separate camps for separate groups of populations. At times policies were developed that help manage conflict and mitigate violence while keeping the populations in conflict in one camp, and at times, it was possible to have a stable and safe camp without any of these measures. Keeping in mind the humanitarian principles of adhering to neutrality and impartiality of a CCCM Response, I would be happy to discuss some of the policy decisions. I have experience of working with a government and also working with a protection-focused NGO separate to this answer.


What if food delivered to camps are being diverted to finance armed group activities? What would be the best solution to ensure camps continue to receive food supplies and at the same time ensure that food does not fall in the hands of the wrong people?
 -  Melvina, Mali

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

It really depends on who is diverting the food, when it is diverted and how (for example, the forces controlling the camp are diverting it from humanitarian storage or are they collecting shares of it from the population?) it is being diverted. Context matters, and as long as the response decisions are informed by a full and accurate understanding of the risks involved in the decisions made, that is all that can be expected. Decisions range from withdrawing from the operation, to repeatedly changing means of delivery and distribution of food. It is essential to remember to be context-specific in response to the challenges (no grand solutions that solve the challenges in every context), adhere to the humanitarian principles we uphold and work towards achieving the humanitarian imperative with the ultimate goal of protecting the sanctity of life and human dignity.


How do the standards address prepare long term strategy, including plans for camp closure, solutions, and exit/handover?
 -  Ali, Somalia

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Camps are an option of last resort. They do not provide a permanent sustainable solution but offer temporary provision of protection and assistance, in order to meet the basic human rights of displaced populations. This is taken into account in commitment 5 of the Standards, which is entitled Site closure, Planning, and exit from the location. The standard is focused on actions related to the site level strategy, including planning for exit and prioritizes the safety and dignity of the displaced population. For any location to close, it really needs to be done with the full informed, voluntary, and lasting solutions in place for the population. This means that each person is able to make an informed and voluntary choice on what the best solution is for them to pursue.


How are the standards relevant for those of us in Information Management? What is the role of information management in the standards?
 -  Mohammad, Bangladesh

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Due to the inter-sectorial nature of CCCM, Information Management (IM) is an important component for proper decision making. As IM encompasses data collection through assessments and analysis of the data captured, the standards will set up directions on how to measure how well the camp/site reaches the standards.


Do the standards cover how could we minimize Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in IDP or Refugee camps?
 -  Aschalew, Ethiopia

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Yes, protection against sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) is linked in each of the five Standards, but the key actions are different. For example, in the first standard Key Action 1.3 relates to staff capacity and training and states that each staff should have undergone training, understanding the significance of reporting, and has signed a code of conduct. While in the Second Standard related to representation, PSEA responsibilities are also passed to the camp representatives so that they can also be aware of how to report.

Are there standards on agreed floor spacing (capacity) for one person? Is there agreed spacing between tents or other shelter means?
 -  Sophia, Jamaica

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Of all the numeric indicators commonly used as guidelines in humanitarian shelter response, it is the indicator for covered shelter space that is perhaps the most often quoted – three and a half square meters per person. However, a lack of awareness of where this and other indicators came from has played a part in limiting the discussion on the appropriate use of this indicator across all forms of shelter and reconstruction response. Jim Kennedy and Charles Parrack have done excellent research on where this indicator came from and I would encourage you to read their article as the history about where this indicator came from illustrates how technical standards need to relate more to the context or culturally specific needs of the emergency response, than on a specific floor spacing for any settings. Also remember that all discussion of standards needs to relate first and foremost to the beliefs, principles, duties, and broader rights declared in the Humanitarian Charter. These include the right to live with dignity, the right to protection and security, and the right to receive humanitarian assistance on the basis of need.


Do the standards address how advances in digital technology and the spread of social media and internet can be used to effectively impact and ease Camp Management?
 -  Zelkifli, Switzerland

 Jennifer Kvernmo

The CM Standards do not really address this area, no. It is an interesting area that we could consider including in Commitment 2 related to key actions related to representation.


Have you conducted any assessment and consultations in different contexts while drafting this standard?
 -  Yusuf, Tanzania

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Yes, extensive in-person consultations have been done as part of the validation process. So far, they have taken place in South Sudan, Somalia, Bangladesh, and Iraq with over 200 people contributing through workshops, one on one interviews, and focus group discussions.


Have the standards been piloted, and if so, how was the pilot planned?
 -  Luisa, United States

 Jennifer Kvernmo

To some extent, the Standards have been piloted in Somalia where Kathryn is the Cluster Coordinator and was setting up a new Cluster operation. More extensive piloting is planned in phase 2 of our project; we are seeking funding for that now.


What is the difference between camp management and camp coordination?
 -  Fatima, Yemen

 Jennifer Kvernmo

The difference between management and coordination is confusing because its “business” language being applied to humanitarian settings. However, what it means functionally is what happens at which level. Management usually means what happens in ONE site, while coordination is what happens BETWEEN sites. You may want to read more about this in the CM Toolkit Chapter 1. See the section on stakeholders.


Implementation of the Standards

What is the best way that the standards can be enforced with limited resources?
 -  Gideo, Nigeria

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

The idea is that those who are involved in camp management and coordination agree to hold each other to account, and the standards would function as a tool to be used to ensure more principled and accountable humanitarian action. This would not require any additional resources once the standards are agreed upon and instituted, although the process of drafting and consultation has taken significant time and resources.


What are the main accountability mechanisms for camp management and how are they expected to relate to the Camp Management Standards?
 -  Shashanka, Bangladesh

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Currently, there is very little accountability for decisions made in camp management. For example, the decision in Bangladesh to delay establishing community structures and camp management structures was a decision that was controversial at the time it was made - regardless of what the conflicting opinions were – no one would be held accountable for the effect of that decision. Hopefully, in the future, there will be an additional tool for these standards themselves to support one position over the other and to hold people to account professionally if they fail to uphold the standards.


What can you do really, to ensure the respect of standards, when every day you receive new arrivals fleeing attacks, making camps congested?
 -  Lassana, Nigeria

 Jennifer Kvernmo

The reality is, Lassana, that decongesting a camp while making sure that people have a safe place to arrive will take time. I am aware that there have been very specific decongestion strategies developed in Nigeria (which I would be happy to share with you if you write to [email protected]). One of the strongest points for this strategy, is the way that it gives a clear framework for prioritization and triage for activities, and the way that it puts a clear emphasis upon doing what is _possible_, and supporting the coping mechanisms of all those involved, rather than being paralyzed in action when being faced with extremely challenging situations. What is clear that camp set-up has to take into consideration a wide range of stakeholders and the spatial and facilities needs of a number of key humanitarian sectors and gives a clear checklist and timeline for doing so.


Are the standards relevant for all contexts? How can the same standards be used for a long-term displacement camp and for managing a transit camp in Greek island where people typically stay for 1 or 2 nights?
 -  Aliya, Greece

 Jennifer Kvernmo

SPHERE standards are relevant for all contexts as they describe an ideal principle based on how the displaced people should have dignity while displaced. They are written in a general way and are qualitative in nature. They are equivalents to the commitments in the Core Humanitarian Standards. The key actions, however, outline practical steps to attain the Minimum Standards and are suggestions and may not be applicable in all contexts, or as you say durations of displacement – protracted vs. transit sites. In your setting, you will need to see how to select the most relevant for the situation. The indicators and guidance notes will be helpful to you in this way.


What are the strategies for ensuring that the standards can be implemented in different settings, especially in terms of being appropriate for the affected people we are serving?
 -  Arnold, Tanzania

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Implement and contextualize. Professionals like yourself are the ones to say if something was appropriate or was not. If it turns out that there are significant problems, these concerns should be flagged so that a resolution can be sought for with other professionals in the humanitarian community dealing with camp management.


How will you ensure that the Standard will be used? How will you transfer the content to the users? What kind of training are you using? How will you ensure that the Information/Standard is accessible for all?
 -  Axel, Germany

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Yes, we are planning on making the CM Standards part of both our face to face and online training programs. The vision is that the CM Standards will be digitally cross-referenced to other technical guidance, which is also related to our sector (Sphere technical standards, the UNHCR Handbook, etc.) as well as other CCCM reference materials like the Camp Management Toolkit.


Relationship to other standards

How are you harmonizing the upcoming Standard with the structure and logic of Sphere (Minimum Standard, Key Action, Key Action, Guidance Notes)? Will you be using also Sphere Focal Points (54 countries) to distribute the Information?
 -  Axel, Germany

 Jennifer Kvernmo

As part of the consultation we are currently undertaking, we are looking at precisely this question and what structure this will best facilitate a logic that is coherent to our sector as well as coordinates well with other Humanitarian Standards Partners. We would welcome collaboration, of course, with Sphere Focal Points to distribute our CM Standards.


Are there Sphere standards that help in CM? How do they relate to the CM Standards?
 -  Ali, Egypt

 Jennifer Kvernmo

The CM Standards, once finalized, has the ambition to cross-reference to the other Humanitarian Standards Partners like Sphere. The cross-referencing will help other practitioners know both what to expect from a Camp Management Agency as a service provider or how to plan and prioritize their work as one.


What is the role of Camp Managers to meet the Sphere standards in camp settings during emergencies?
 -  Ghulam, Pakistan

 Jennifer Kvernmo

Unless a Camp Management Agency is also providing services (Shelter, NFI, WASH, etc.) in emergency response, the specific role of Camp Managers would not be to implement the Sphere Standards but simply to know about them and how different gaps in services are impacting the population living in the site.


From an operational point of view, what is the role of Sphere Standards in your work?
 -  Leo, Germany

 Jennifer Kvernmo

A Camp Management Agency has a continuous responsibility to collect, analyze, and disseminate information both to the camp population and to the service providing partners. This information is the basis for effective coordination within the camp, and also externally as a part of inter-camp coordination and monitoring by the Cluster/Sector Lead Agency, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and national authorities. Knowledge of SPHERE Standards helps a camp manager to know what the other sectors are working towards in their service provision (work plans) but also analyses these standards together with cross-sectoral analysis. Operationally, the camp manager’s role is to systematize standards and facilitate their application to all people in the site.


What are the most common tools already used for CCCM that the standards are meant to complement?
 -  Augustin, Mauritania

 Jennifer Kvernmo

The most common reference guide for CCCM is the Camp Management Toolkit. Other global references include the CCCM Case Studies, Camp Closure Guidelines, MEND Guide. You can find them on the CCCM Cluster Website. National standards are also very relevant in our work.


CCCM's relationship to other actors/stakeholders

Based on my past experience, CCCM is considered to be one of the best sectors when it comes to response, but how do we apply CCCM and the CM Standards in emergency contexts where CCCM works alongside other clusters and actors that are operating in camps and want to have a say?
 -  Janet, Kenya

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

That would relate more to how the cluster system was established and the various inter-cluster or operational level decisions being made. The standards being presented here are specifically for camp management practitioners and should not bear any relation to the conflicts between various clusters and agencies over issues of mandate and authority within the cluster system. If they do, it would be the decision of each manager on how to ensure the maintenance of the agreed-upon standards.


Is there a strategical guideline on information flow from the partners to the Cluster and vice-versa?
 -  Farouk, Nigeria

 Alisa Ananbeh

According to IASC guidelines, humanitarian actors who participate in the Cluster/Sector are expected to be proactive partners in exchanging information relevant to situational understanding and the response. Cluster/Sector partners are to adhere to commonly agreed definitions and indicators for "sector” needs and activities, as well as the use of common baseline or reference data. Humanitarian actors should be encouraged to share information with the wider humanitarian community.


How do you work with peace operations with a PoC mandate?
 -  Ai, Japan

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

For myself - peacekeeping operations as government agents regardless of whether it is UN peacekeepers or non-UN peacekeepers usually pose the same difficulties for access and humanitarian principles as any government would. One should always remember that humanitarian actors and practitioners are brought together by a common set of objectives and principles - peacekeepers are formed from government institution and do not adhere in the same way we do to those common objectives and principles.


How do Camp Managers work with protection partners in camps, considering most data from protection partners, especially GBV partners, are undisclosed?
 -  Samson, Nigeria

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Both GBV and health partners should provide anonymized statistical data for the purposes of improving the safe management of the camp. Where emergency operations are working well and within the limits of professional accountability – they do so according to agreed Information Sharing protocols and procedures.

In some operations, it is camp management agencies that refuse to share some necessary data, also quite an unprofessional practice. In both cases, operational management has a responsibility to ensure that there is a resolution to these conflicts. If the operational management represented by the office of the humanitarian coordinator, the inter-cluster coordination group or other operational management structures does not resolve these problems - what we usually do is seek higher sources of authority or advocate with the donors to have the dysfunction remedied.


Prioritized actions

What are the first three public health prevention/protection strategies you employ in setting up a camp?
 -  Rhae, United States

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

It depends on what the top three threats to public health are, the likely morbidities in a population group, and so on.

Usually, it is the health sector that leads the process of identifying the major public health risks - even where camp management or other sectors have the responsibility to implement the response. And once they have identified them and we have agreed on the appropriate responses through the operational management or coordination structures - the responsibility to assess the impact and define changes to the responses still lies with the health sector professionals


What is important to first of all pay attention to when setting up a camp to ensure a properly managed camp?
 -  Jean, DRC

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Everything. There is no such thing as a perfect camp – and there are no easy solutions. By definition, emergencies do not allow us the luxury, the challenges we shall face, or the context that shall greet us – only of being as prepared as possible and where possible for us to anticipate challenges based on past experience. But I am afraid no checklist of things that would ensure properly managed camps.


In case of militia presence and control of a camp, what would be the minimum or main standards to prioritize?
 -  Maha, Yemen

 Gebrehiwot Ewnetu

Remember that all your policy or strategy decisions should reflect humanitarian principles and should be working towards achieving the humanitarian imperative of saving lives and contributing to the safety of the populations with which we work. Where that may be compromised – it is up to your agency to decide where they would draw the line.


You can access the rest of the Q&A as well as further resources on the event page