Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International

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Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International
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Motto "making humanitarian action accountable to beneficiaries"
Formation 2003
Legal status Non-profit organisation
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Website www.hapinternational.org

Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International (HAP International), established in 2003, is the humanitarian sector's first international self-regulatory body.[1] A multi-agency initiative working to improve the accountability of humanitarian action to people affected by disasters and other crises, HAP members range from organisations working in emergency relief, development activities, as well as other quality and accountability organisations and institutional donors. The organisation aims to strengthen accountability towards those affected by crisis situations and to facilitate improved performance within the humanitarian sector.[2] The ultimate goal of the organisation is to uphold the rights and the dignity of crisis-affected populations across the world.[3]

Humanitarian Accountability[edit]

HAP International, along with other quality and accountability initiatives,[4] has been pivotal in defining the concept of "humanitarian accountability", which has been much debated by the international humanitarian community.[5] The definition of "accountability" in a general sense is the responsible use of power, while "accountability in humanitarian situations" ensures that the power to help in situations of conflict and disaster is exercised responsibly.[6] When implemented, it means that survivors of war or disaster are able to influence decisions about the help they receive and can complain if they feel the 'helping power' was not exercised well."[7]

Commendation by the British Minister for International Development On the 7th of October 2008 during a UNHCR Executive Committee meeting, the British Minister for International Development, Gareth Thomas, highlighted the achievements being made across the sector and commended all humanitarian agencies for the vital role they play in saving lives and assisting the world’s most vulnerable. The minister added, however, "I also want to challenge anyone who thinks the task of reform is complete. It isn’t. Yes - we have come a long way. But we have much further to go." He went on to say that there were, in his view, five "key elements essential for improving the international humanitarian response", including greater accountability. He argued, "Agencies urgently need to put in place standardised monitoring arrangements. And where accountability mechanisms already exist – such as the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International – we must use them more systematically."[8]

Importance of Accountability[edit]

The unique nature of humanitarian work makes accountability particularly important for the following reasons:

Acute needs People who have survived conflict or a natural disaster often have acute needs. Frequently, they have been displaced from their homes and lack their usual economic, social or psychological support systems.

Lack of choice, lack of competition Normally, recipients of humanitarian aid cannot 'choose' between relief providers. So they cannot signal they are unhappy with a service by going to another provider, unlike consumers in competitive retail markets.

Lack of voice Disaster survivors usually lack access to formal procedures for participation in decisions about assistance. Traditional governance structures are likely to be extremely strained by the disaster or conflict, if they have survived at all, and (until recently) relief agencies did not include participation and complaints systems in their programmes.

Donor-survivor disconnect Moreover, the people whose choices do influence relief organisations – donor governments and their citizens – are not consumers of humanitarian aid. Therefore, they may not be in a good position to judge whether the aid was helpful or not.

Life and death decisions Finally, in humanitarian situations the consequences of decisions can be particularly severe. For example, a person’s decision to queue for food distribution (rather than forage or seek help through private networks) may be a gamble with life or death if the organisation has underestimated the amount of food needed to go around.[9]

Humanitarian Accountability Report[edit]

The Humanitarian Accountability Report,[10] an annual report published by HAP International, reviews the progress made towards strengthening accountability norms and practices in the humanitarian sector. The report also provides detailed findings of the annual “Perceptions of Accountability in Humanitarian Action” survey. The annual Secretariat Report, published by HAP International, is the organisation’s self-assessment of progress made against its annual work plan, and includes accountability reports by HAP members.

HAP International's aims and activities[edit]

HAP International developed the “HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management”, a tool to help organisations design, implement, assess, improve and recognise accountable programmes. Being accountable to crisis-affected communities helps organisations develop quality programmes that meet those people’s needs, and reduces the possibility of mistakes, abuse (including sexual exploitation and abuse) and corruption. The 2010 HAP Standard is the result of an extensive review process that involved wide consultation with different stakeholders, including crisis-affected communities, aid workers and donors.[11]

HAP’s strategic value proposition is that quality, accountability and programme results are inextricably linked. By improving agency accountability in a systematic way, programme quality, impact and outcomes will also be enhanced. The essential tools for driving this virtual circle are the application of a programme quality management system (designed in accordance with the HAP Standard), reinforced through shared learning and independent auditing. To these ends HAP International offers a range of training workshops and audit services (members can be officially certified by HAP). All stakeholders, including the people an organisation aims to assist, crisis-affected communities, donors and the humanitarian organisations themselves, make measurable gains as a consequence of the work undertaken by the Partnership.[12]

The objectives of HAP International are:

  • to develop and maintain the HAP Standard through research, consultation, and collaboration;
  • to support members and potential members of HAP International in applying the HAP Standard by providing training and advice;
  • to communicate, advocate, promote, and report on the HAP Standard;
  • to monitor and report on the implementation of the HAP Standard and to certify its members accordingly; and
  • to assist members in finding solutions where concerns or complaints are raised about them.

HAP International’s work is based on the findings of the Humanitarian Accountability Project, a 2001 inter-agency action research initiative, as well as the Joint Evaluation of the International Response to the Genocide in Rwanda.[13]

HAP Standard[edit]

The HAP Standard is a practical and measurable tool that represents a broad consensus of what matters most in humanitarian action. The Standard helps organisations design, implement, assess, improve and recognise accountable programmes. Being accountable to crisis-affected communities helps organisations to develop quality programmes that meet those people’s needs, and reduces the possibility of mistakes, abuse (including sexual exploitation and abuse) and corruption.

The 2010 edition of the HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management is the result of an extensive review process of the 2007 Standard that involved wide consultation with different stakeholders, including crisis-affected communities, aid workers and donors. Over 1,900 people in 56 countries contributed to the review process and the preparation of the 2010 edition, bringing to the process authentic experiences from different perspectives.[14]

The HAP Standard is a quality assurance tool for humanitarian organisations. By comparing an organisation's processes, policies and products to the Standard's six benchmarks, it is possible to measure how well the organisation assures accountability and quality in its humanitarian work. Organisations that comply with the Standard:

  • declare their commitment to HAP’s seven Principles of Accountability[15] and to their own Humanitarian Accountability Framework (a set of definitions, procedures and standards that specify how an agency will ensure accountability to its stakeholders);
  • develop and implement a Humanitarian Quality Management System;
  • provide key information about quality management to key stakeholders;
  • enable beneficiaries and their representatives to participate in programme decisions and give their informed consent;
  • determine the competencies and development needs of staff;
  • establish and implement a complaints-handling procedure;
  • establish a process of continual improvement.[16]

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse[edit]

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) by humanitarian staff is the most egregious result when organisations fail to be accountable to beneficiaries of humanitarian aid. In an emergency where victims have lost everything, women and girls are particularly vulnerable. The Building Safer Organisations project, which aims to develop the capacity of NGOs "to receive and investigate allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse brought by persons of concern—including refugees, displaced persons and local host populations"[17] relocated from ICVA[18] to HAP in 2007, and its lessons and materials were subsequently integrated into HAP’s "Building Safer Organisations – Investigation Learning Programme" training.

In June 2008 HAP published a report examining the issues related to lodging complaints by beneficiaries of humanitarian aid.[19]

Certification Process[edit]

This certification scheme aims to provide assurance that certified agencies are managing the quality of their humanitarian actions in accordance with the HAP Standard. In practical terms, a HAP certification means providing external auditors with access to the organisation’s mission statement, accounts and control systems, allowing greater transparency in operations and overall accountability.[20]

To achieve HAP Certification an organisation has to be examined and tested through a formal third party independent system against the benchmarks and requirements of the HAP Standard.[21]

The Certification audit process includes:

  1. Review of head office and field site documents.
  2. Interviewing of head office and field site staff, partners and disaster survivors.
  3. Direct observation of good practice as specified in the agency’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework.

HAP certification allows agencies to demonstrate their achievements in accountability and quality management in a process developed and recognised by humanitarian peers. It is a voluntary commitment of the centrality of beneficiaries to an organisation’s humanitarian work.[22]

Membership[edit]

HAP International has 86 member organisations. The membership includes 67 full members and 19 associate members ranging from organisations with a mandate for emergency relief and development activities to institutional donors.[23]

Donors[edit]

The work of HAP is currently supported by AusAID (Australia), Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (USA), DANIDA (Denmark), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oak Foundation (Switzerland), SIDA (Sweden) and SDC (Switzerland).

In the past, HAP has been supported by the following:

2003: AusAID (Australia), DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SIDA (Sweden)

2004: AusAID (Australia), DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SIDA (Sweden)

2005: AusAID (Australia), DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SIDA (Sweden)

2006: ACIFID (Australia), AusAID (Australia), CARE International, DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oxfam UK, SDC (Switzerland), SIDA (Sweden), World Vision

2007: AusAID (Australia), BPRM (USA), DFID (UK), DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oak Foundation (Switzerland), OFDA (USA), SIDA (Sweden)

2008: BPRM (USA), DFID (UK), DANIDA (Denmark), Ford Foundation (USA), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oak Foundation (Switzerland), SIDA (Sweden)

2009: BPRM (USA), DFID (UK), DANIDA (Denmark), ECHO (EU), Ford Foundation (USA), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SIDA (Sweden)

2010: BPRM (USA), DFID (UK), DANIDA (Denmark), ECHO (EU), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2011: BPRM (USA), DFID (UK), DANIDA (Denmark), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oak Foundation (Switzerland)

2012: AusAID (Australia), BPRM (USA), DANIDA (Denmark), Irish Aid, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oak Foundation (Switzerland), SDC (Switzerland), SIDA (Sweden)

Quality & Accountability Initiatives[edit]

The humanitarian community has initiated a number of inter-agency initiatives to improve accountability, quality and performance in humanitarian responses. The four most widely known initiatives are ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and performance in Humanitarian Action), People In Aid, Sphere Project and HAP International. A move towards greater coherence started in 2006 with the creation of the Quality and Accountability Initiatives Complementarities Group, which included HAP, People In Aid, Sphere, ALNAP, Groupe URD, Coordination Sud, Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) Project. Over the years, the group has grown with Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC), Listening Project, and Disasters Emergency Committee joining.

Further the three organisations HAP International, People In Aid and The Sphere Project have started the Joint Standards Initiative. The JSI is a collaboration building on the strengths of each initiative. In mid-2011, the three initiatives made a joint commitment to promote convergence of their respective standards. Greater coherence should strengthen aid workers’ ability to put these standards into practice around the world. The ultimate aim, of course, is to improve the quality of humanitarian action for affected communities.[24]

References[edit]

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