Accountability in Humanitarian Assistance
To be effective and equitable towards global populations, humanitarian organizations must adhere to the core standards and principles on quality humanitarian response. Since the inception of ideas on the centrality of local participation in aid in the early 2000s and the more recent evolution of that concept into accountability towards affected populations, the humanitarian community has sought to turn this doctrine into reality.
Accountability in humanitarian response requires that organizations carry out their efforts in an ethically and legally responsible manner that is inclusive of the communities they are seeking to serve. Of UNICEF’s nine Core Humanitarian Standards, three specifically refer to mechanisms of accountability towards affected peoples: response is based on communication, participation and feedback; complaints are welcome and addressed; actors continuously learn and improve. In practice this could include centralizing the voices of affected peoples by engaging communities in needs and performance assessments and decision-making. Achieving this is often hindered by the constraints inherent to conflict settings such as lack of localization of assistance, communication between actors, and exploration of needs.
CARE’s Community Score Card
Seeking to actualize these principles of community participation and accountability into our programming, CARE developed the Community Score Card as part of a project aimed at developing innovative and sustainable models to improve health services. Working in crisis settings requires an understanding of the lived experiences of people, the power dynamics, and micro-politics that inform humanitarian response approaches. It also requires bridging the gap between civil society organizations, local and national governments, international non-governmental organizations, and impacted communities. Social accountability approaches do this by connecting citizens with those responsible for providing services. The Community Score Card (CSC) is a participatory social accountability mechanism for assessment, planning, monitoring and evaluation of services. Designed for ease of use and adaptation into any sector with a service delivery scenario, the CSC brings together users and providers of a particular service or program to jointly identify service utilization and provision challenges, mutually generate solutions, and work in partnership to implement and track the effectiveness of those solutions in an ongoing process of quality improvement. The CSC has five phases: (I) planning and preparation; (II) conducting the scorecard with the community; (III) conducting the scorecard with service providers; (IV) interface meeting where the all parties present their findings in the presence of duty-bearers and then jointly develop action plans; and (V) monitoring of the action plans and evaluation of overall process.
This approach of establishing community needs, identifying innovative solutions, promoting local leadership, and shifting power dynamics can be used to facilitate good governance through participation, transparency, and accountability.