Joint Standards Initiative - Joint Deployment to the Horn of Africa, October 2011 – January 2012 Final Report

Executive Summary

It is widely recognised that the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) International, People In Aid and The Sphere Project share commonalities. The 2011 Sphere Handbook and 2010 HAP Standard have intentionally built on and been structured to complement each other. This Joint Deployment, conducted under the banner of the Joint Standards Initiative (JSI), was an effort to synergise the services offered by the three initiatives and offer a common quality and accountability (Q&A) platform to the wider sector during the 2011 Horn of Africa drought response. This was not the first joint deployment (Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, Haiti earthquake) but it was the first deployment where a distinct team was formed which jointly represented the standards of the initiatives with the aim of bringing greater coherence to the range of services offered during a humanitarian response. Although each initiative has its own specific mandate and areas of specialisation and services, in view of the desire for greater coherence under the Joint Standards Initiative, the deployment to the Horn of Africa presented a timely opportunity for collaboration.

In July 2011, HAP International, the Sphere Project and People In Aid called for greater quality and accountability1 in the humanitarian response to the Horn of Africa. An agreement between the three initiatives was made to collaborate on a joint deployment to the Horn of Africa to assist agencies in responding to the crisis. The overarching aim of the deployment was „to support humanitarian agencies in providing accountable and appropriate programming that meets accepted standards of quality and accountability.

The objectives of the Joint Deployment were:

  • To identify and support the delivery of appropriate support and learning activities with humanitarian actors in order to strengthen their understanding of, and ability to apply, established quality and accountability mechanisms and approaches

  • To collaborate with relevant stakeholders and advocate for quality and accountability of the wider humanitarian response, including through raising awareness of existing approaches to Q&A and highlighting strengths and gaps observed to date

  • To document and share good practice and learning in order to build on the pool of resources available for senior managers and practitioners in the Horn of Africa and globally, and for use as part of wider discussions on the .state of. quality and accountability as part of current humanitarian response.

The Joint Deployment took place over a 9-week period between 27 October 2011 and 31 January 2012. The underpinning concept of the Joint Deployment was to build on a process of taking account of key stakeholders, most importantly affected communities.

Several themes and trends emerged, including the need for good people-management processes and practices and the need for increased peer learning, and the need for capacity building on the practical application of humanitarian standards. However, the most prominent trend which emerged was the lack of effective engagement with affected populations. This echoes the findings of previous evaluations of significant humanitarian responses. For example, the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda (1996) recommended that agencies strengthen their systems for improving accountability to recipients of assistance, by establishing mechanisms for consultation with people affected by humanitarian emergencies. Eighteen years after the Rwanda Genocide, which many regard was the catalyst for the establishment of HAP, People In Aid and The Sphere Project, the humanitarian sector continues to struggle with keeping affected populations at the centre of their responses.

The three initiatives recognise that the Joint Deployment in the Horn of Africa worked with a small sample but taken alongside other findings from Haiti and Pakistan deployments, we urge the humanitarian community to take into consideration the issues raised by this report. The three standards initiatives are ready to separately support agencies with their accountability to affected populations and to staff, while the on-going Joint Standards Initiative will support the sector more widely in raising awareness of the standards which the sector has developed and of which there appeared to be too little knowledge in the field.

The JSI is currently in the process of consolidating its own learning in relation to the implementation of the deployment. Future Joint Deployments will build upon the lessons learnt (from the Horn of Africa deployment and where relevant feedback into the overarching JSI process). In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback on this report, please do not hesitate to contact Gregory Gleed on ggleed@hapinternational.org.