The 2022 Humanitarian Accountability Report (HAR) unpicks what it takes to make humanitarian organisations accountable to the people they serve. How this needs to happen, where and to whom. And this need is urgent.
Since the publication of the previous HAR in 2020, the number of people in need of assistance and protection across the world has again increased – dramatically so.
Many of those already facing the consequences of conflict, disaster or poverty found themselves in the maelstrom of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, 235 million people were in need of assistance. Today estimates put that figures closer to 274 million.
Accountability as a non-negotiable
There is widespread agreement that crises-affected people should be able to hold humanitarian organisations to account. Discord, where it exists, is not whether this should be the case, but how it can be facilitated and reinforced.
The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS), eight years old in December 2022, has provided the foundational framework that guides organisational capacity and decision-making, informing the sector what best practice looks like and then measuring its application. This dual function of the CHS, that it both sets the standard and also makes possible the verification of its application, is critical.
Not only has it established a global understanding of what accountability practically is, but has given us the means by which to measure how accountable we actually are.
When we look at the aggregated data collected by the CHS Alliance, the answer is: still not very. This despite a decade of global collective agreement that accountability is a priority. We talk a lot. We listen less.
The environment for providing humanitarian assistance is likely to get only more challenging: failing to instil a robust approach to accountability to crises-affected people now could risk failing forever. Failure is not an option. As the Inter Agency Standing Committee’s (IASC) Principals affirmed in their latest statement: “Accountability [...] is paramount and must be acted upon. It is non-negotiable, at all times.” In the past decade, there is no denying that aid organisations have made efforts to become more accountable. Much of this hard work has paid off – great strides have been made, and this has been well documented in the report. Such improvements in the accountability landscape are not abstract: people affected by crises are recording significant and tangible improvements in their lived experience as a result of being more involved in the decisions which affect their lives.