Inter-agency initiatives within the humanitarian sector

News and Press Release
Originally published
The following inter-agency initiatives were launched to enhance the quality, active learning, and accountability of the humanitarian sector.
They are part of a wider international effort that seeks to support humanitarian agencies and governments in meeting their responsibilities to crisis-affected populations, relief staff and other stakeholders. In so doing, explicitly or implicitly, they emphasise the centrality of humanitarian principles and standards and the rights of the affected populations.

Collectively and individually, they provide the sector with tools to improve quality, accountability, performance, and active learning. The following overview and summaries is issued in response to questions about the commonalities and differences between them, and their respective contributions to humanitarian work. The information is based on public reports.

The initiatives presented in this document are by no means, the only ones, or the most important ones, within the humanitarian sector. This document is a first step. Over the next months, other summaries will be collated.

A HAP and People In Aid REPORT

12 October 2002

Humanitarian Accountability Project
27 chemin des Crets-de-Pregny, CH-1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva. Switzerland.
Tel: +41-22-747-0088. Fax: +41-22-747-0099. Email:

People In Aid
Regent's Wharf, 8 All Saints Street
London N1 9RL - UK
T/F 44 (0) 20 7520 2548

The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)

Mandate: ALNAP, as a unique sectorwide active-learning membership network, is dedicated to improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian action, by sharing lessons; identifying common problems; and building, where appropriate, consensus on approaches.

Governance: ALNAP is governed by a Steering Committee of 8 elected Full Member Representatives (2 donor, 2 UN, 2 NGO, 1 Red Cross and 1 Academic/Independent Consultant) with decisions reached through majority consensus. The ALNAP Secretariat is hosted by the Overseas Development Institute. Established in 1997, ALNAP has some 50 Full Member organisations and more than 250 Observer Members.

Approach: Active learning, debate, information sharing, joint initiatives and commissioned research.

Network Activities: Core activities that facilitate active learning and promote information exchange and dissemination of key messages across the humanitarian sector - e.g. Full Member Biannual Meetings; Evaluative Reports & Useful Resources databases; 'ALNAP Annual Review Series'; 'Key Messages' sheets; develop and pilot training modules.

Programme Activities: A phased piece of work focusing on a particular issue identified as of sectorwide concern by Full Members - eg, Improving Performance through Improved Learning; Programme and Evaluation Guidance Gap Filling; Strengthening Programme Monitoring Systems in the Humanitarian Sector; Strengthening Performance Frameworks for Protection for Mandated and Non-mandated Organisations.

Interest Group Activities: Projects developed within ALNAP and implemented by an interest group of self-selected Full Members, eg, Consultation and Participation of Beneficiaries and Affected Populations in Humanitarian Action; Testing the Learning Support Office Concept

Principal Outputs: ALNAP Annual Review Series, Guidance Gap-filling Series, online training modules, Biannual Meeting Records, Evaluative Reports Database (ERD), Useful resources database, background papers and synthesis reports.

Contact: Colin Hadkiss Admin Support Officer , or ALNAP at ODI, 111 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7JD, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 0300 Fax: +44 (0)20 7922 0399.

The Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP)

Mandate: Set up from February 2001 to march 2003 to strengthen accountability towards crisis-affected communities through the mobilization of accountability mechanisms at field, agency and inter-agency levels.

Governance: HAP Board and Advisory Committee members include: seven international humanitarian NGOs or IOs (British Red Cross, CARE International, CARITAS Internationalis, the Danish Refugee Council, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, OXFAM GB, and World Vision International); Four Southern NGOs (the Office Africain pour le Développement et la Coopération, Grupo FUNDEMOS, Presidential Task Force on Disaster Management in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone Assembly of NGOs); Two donors (Danida, and DFID); One United Nations Agency (UNHCR), as well as ALNAP and the Social Science Research Council.

Approach - Standards: international human rights and humanitarian standards and evolving interpretations and jurisprudence with regard to non-state actors. The HAP recognizes that states remain the primary duty-bearers as far as crisis-affected populations are concerned but insist that civilian humanitarian actors also carry responsibilities towards humanitarian claimants.

Approach - Operational: consultations with humanitarian agencies, e.g. through our field operations and seminars, as well as with disaster-affected communities in the field; rigorous field methodology; Monitoring of accountability issues in the field; Advocacy, Training.

Field Operations Activities: The HAP implements three field operations, in emergency situations, namely Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Cambodia. A team of around 15 international and national staff tests various approaches and mechanisms to strengthen accountability to humanitarian claimants,

Advocacy Activities: The HAP advocates for, and increases consensus on, the necessity of accountability, through the organisation of debates and meetings, dissemination of HAP documents and findings, participation to conferences, and training;

Research Activities: The HAP has commissioned specific research projects to increase understanding on accountability mechanisms. Research and ensuing discussion have focussed on the Accountable Organisation, Medical Ethics, Legal obligations of humanitarian actors, and accountability mechanisms within other professional sectors.

Principal Output: Our main objective is the setting up of an inter-agency permanent mechanism of accountability in 2003. Other outputs include: Short briefing documents on accountability; Reports on field, agency and inter-agency accountability mechanisms; Recommended actions for implementing accountability mechanisms; HAP field reports; Evaluations of HAP field trials; Reports on HAP seminars; News articles; and a website that contains the above items as well as accountability-related literature.

Contact: Agnès Callamard, Director,, Website:, Tel: 00-41-22-747-0088

People In Aid

Mandate: We promote best practice in human resources management in the sector.

Governance: Our Board consists of members' representatives (up to 10) and independents (5). Board Members include Concern, British Red Cross, Oxfam GB, Mission East and RedR. Our members are relief and development agencies from around the world. We are a UK-registered charity.

Activities: We provide support to agencies primarily through training, publications, network facilitation and a resource centre. We also give direct and targeted assistance to agencies implementing the 'People In Aid Code of Best Practice in the management and support of aid personnel'.

Approach: The Code emerged in 1997 in response to recognised need and after wide consultation. The Code provides a framework for agencies (of any size, structure or origin) to look at their existing human resource policies and procedures and improve them where they feel it necessary. The implementation process includes internal monitoring and external verification. The Code is being revised in 2002 to include, amongst other things, more case studies and template policies and guidelines.

Principal output: agencies with human resource policies and procedures which meet the aspirations of their staff, their donors and the agency itself, thereby ensuring a more effective response to the needs of those with whom they work overseas. We also support the sector by producing research (eg accident prevention, policies for national staff), undertaking benchmarking exercises (eg salaries, insurance) and offering training (eg debriefing, risk assessment).

Contact: Jonathan Potter, Executive Director -;

The Sphere Project

Mandate: To improve the quality and accountability of disaster response through the understanding and use of the Humanitarian Charter, Minimum Standards and Key Indicators.

Governance: Management Committee includes representatives from InterAction, VOICE, ICVA and members of the Steering Committee of Humanitarian Response (CARE International, Save the Children-UK, Oxfam-GB, WCC/ACT, LWF/ACT, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Caritas Internationalis).

Approach: The project emphasises broad consultation and engagement and recognises that learning is a key part of the process of improving quality. For humanitarian assistance, the rights-based approach is epitomised by the Sphere standards, which set minimum, universal standards that disaster-affected people are entitled to. The Sphere standards focus on five key areas of assistance (food aid, nutrition, health, water supply and sanitation, shelter and site planning). They cover both quantitative product indicators and qualitative process indicators. The Sphere handbook places a strong emphasis on 'downward' accountability to populations affected by disasters.

Activities: The Sphere office promotes and supports dissemination and implementation of the project by supporting institutionalisation by NGOs with emphasis on field-based practice; developing and promoting training materials; incorporating the handbook into academic and training institutions worldwide; encouraging awareness of the handbook with the UN; engaging in discussion and debate about the impact of standards on improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance; recording and sharing Lessons Learned and undertaking a review of the handbook leading to a revised edition in 2003.

Principal Outputs: A handbook, the Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (available in eight languages); training modules on how to apply the Sphere handbook in practice; and Lessons Learned document on how to institutionalize the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards and a website that contains all the above items in three languages. In 2002, a sixty-minute video will be available that will serve as a disaster response orientation film for humanitarian staff worldwide.

Contact: Nan Buzard, project manager ( or (t) + 41 22 730 4501