New quality standard highlights the people at both ends of humanitarian work

Is the money going down the drain or are people actually getting the assistance they need? The sharp cuts in development cooperation in Finland brought discussion on the quality and effectiveness of aid into the spotlight last year.

Within the aid sector, several quality standards have been developed since 1990’s to enhance the quality and accountability of work. The Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), launched last year, builds on and replaces the HAP Standard, the People in Aid Code of Good Practice, and the Core Standards section of the Sphere Handbook.

The CHS Alliance, launched in June last year, is developing the CHS together with its members and promoting it as a common reference framework for the sector. For the time being, Finn Church Aid is the sole Finnish member.

“The standard puts the people affected by disaster, conflict or poverty at the centre of any response”, said Judith Greenwood, Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, during her visit to Finland.

The nine Commitments of the CHS come back to verifying with the community whether the assistance has been relevant. “It helps the people to have their voices heard and holds the organisations to account”, Greenwood said.

The CHS emphasises that an appropriate humanitarian response is based on communication, participation and feedback. Communities and people affected by crisis know their rights, participate in decisions that affect their lives and have access to timely and clear information. During the response, they are by no means passive recipients of aid, but have an active role in achieving the desired results.

An organisation applying the Core Humanitarian Standard also welcomes complaints, takes them seriously and acts upon them.

According to Greenwood, there has been a good interest and uptake from both large and small organizations, and the UN. The Standard serves both organizations and donors by establishing a common basis for developing and verifying performance. Thus an independent verification against the CHS can act as a statement of the quality and reliability of the organisation.

In addition to quality and accountability, people management is the third dimension of the CHS.

“Policies need to be in place for the skills, security and wellbeing of staff. Quality and accountability does not exist on its own. We need to live it”, Judith Greenwood said.

Text: Ulla Kärki, FCA