Accountability and standards

In 1995 an influential review of the response to the crisis of Rwandan refugees in then-Zaire criticized the lack of accountability and standards in the sector. Since that call, the sector has responded with a great number of initiatives, has developed numerous mechanisms to improve external accountability and has agreed to standards of best practice. Yet the sector remains avowedly challenged in this regard, in particular for accountability to the people and communities it serves. Currently, the Core Humanitarian Standard sets out the most widely accepted accountability framework, and the Sphere Handbook defines standards across an important range of aid activities. In addition, the IASC has promoted organizational accountability to affected populations (AAP) and to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse by aid workers (PSEA). Beyond aid agencies themselves, the Good Humanitarian Donorship Agreement sets standards that apply to major institutional donors.

Community appeal committee in a camp

Photo: US Embassy Addis Ababa

Key actors

Network of 150 members committed to improving humanitarian and development work through quality and accountability initiatives and standards, such as the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability

Provides independent third-party quality assurance services in order to improve the quality and accountability of organizations

Develops tools to systematically listen, learn, and act on the views of affected people in order to help organizations improve their performance and accountability

Works to improve quality and accountability in humanitarian response by developing a set of minimum standards in core areas of humanitarian assistance

PHAP certifications

Certification badge for Understanding the Humanitarian Ecosystem (UHE)

Knowledge about accountability, putting affected people at the center, and standards and codes is covered by the Understanding the Humanitarian Ecosystem (UHE) certification (competency statements 1.7, 2.1, and 3.4).

Key references

Nine Commitments that organizations and individuals involved in humanitarian response can use to improve the quality and effectiveness of the assistance they provide

Guidance for people designing or implementing feedback mechanisms in a humanitarian program

Upcoming courses: 

25-29 November:
Geneva

9-11 December:
Mexico City 

20-24 January:
Bangkok