More and more disasters, crises and conflicts are affecting the communities ActionAid works with. These emergencies have a disproportionate effect on women. They increase the likelihood of human rights violations. Further they often exclude women from decision-making and deny them access to resources. And yet women, and women’s organisations, are underrepresented in emergency responses.
ActionAid responds differently to address these systemic challenges. We focus on cultivating women’s leadership in an emergency – a central pillar of our human rights-based approach. In our work we empower women. We help them to be at the forefront and play an active role in humanitarian responses. In addition, we actively work to shift power to local organisations and movements, especially those led by women.
At the end of August 2019, we were delighted to hear that ActionAid is the first global organisation to have our approach to emergencies independently verified.
Meeting the highest standards in an emergency
This means that our emergency response work is now accredited under the CHS Alliance’s Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI). The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) puts the active agency of people living in poverty and impacted by an emergency first. It promotes programming that leads to community empowerment.
By committing to meeting the nine core standards of the CHS, ActionAid is ensuring that affected communities are aware of their rights and are involved in all levels of the response. Critically, the commitments of the CHS have helped ActionAid improve the quality, efficiency and the effectiveness of our humanitarian response.
Opportunities to improve our emergency approach
As ActionAid Ireland we chose to go through CHS verification as part of a group of sixteen ActionAid members across the globe, known as the ActionAid Global Group. As part of the process, HQAI issued a report which highlighted areas where we’re performing strongly, as well as areas to improve.
For example, we performed strongly against the commitment that our emergency responses are based on effective communication, participation and feedback. However, we need to look at how we evidence this and bring lessons in to future programming.
As a result, we are making a concerted effort to respond to the report’s recommendations. For instance, ActionAid has run a series of internal webinars on the CHS and what verification means for us. In addition, there is a growing roster of people with accountability expertise. We are also rolling out an accountability training programme.
The standard in practice in an emergency
In Haiti for example, we are putting the CHS into practice through a cash distribution programme responding to food insecurity in the northeast of Haiti. Working with a local partner, ActionAid Haiti briefs partner teams and mediation committees on the CHS, on ActionAid’s humanitarian work and on gender-specific issues.
We choose sites according to a security criterion for rights holders and we apply the principles of protection and respect for the dignity of the participants. Further, accountability mechanisms are in place, such as complaints mechanisms. Additionally, we inform communities and participants of the criteria for receiving cash and the amount that they will receive. And we now see effective coordination and donors’ reports are produced on time.
Looking to the future
Although the CHS covers both humanitarian and development work, I think this needs to be understood and promoted more. The CHS is applicable to all programming. In addition, we must work with and influence the biggest players in the sector – such as governments – to adopt the CHS.
Photo caption for heading image: Women’s advocacy forum, 2017’s International Day of Rural Women. Credit: ActionAid Haiti.