Yearly Archives: 2022

Local and national non-profit organisations and Disaster Management Authorities (DMAs) are most often the first responders to a disaster, besides communities themselves. While being at the forefront and equipped with rich indigenous knowledge and experience, they face a multitude of challenges while responding to multiple crises due to institutional and staff capacity constraints. “Local organisations are often focused on their project work and have limited resources. The knowledge and opportunities to mainstream accountability in their working mechanisms is limited and complying with all international standards becomes difficult. Therefore, there was a need for formal capacity building of local organisations and disaster management authorities, on quality response and accountability to affected people” says Aamir Malik, Director RAPID Fund, Concern Worldwide.

As a Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance member and Sphere regional partner and focal point, Community World Service Asia partnered with Concern Worldwide (CWW) to augment the skills and competencies of Concern’s staff, their partner organisations and DMAs, on Quality and Accountability to Affected Populations (Q&AAP) through a series of workshops. “Concern assessed institutional needs for training and identified gaps between project interventions and the application of Quality & Accountability standards. Concern collaborated with Community World Service Asia, who already have substantial expertise in the field of mainstreaming Q&A, Sphere, and Core Humanitarian Standard in humanitarian action,” shared Ishtiaq Sadiq from Concern Worldwide.

After an MoU was signed between the two organisations in 2019, a thorough consultative process between the two parties took place. Multiple meetings were arranged to discuss and finalise course outlines of Q&AAP trainings; complete workshop materials were developed and finalised as per CWW feedback. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the trainings transitioned into a virtual model. Since the start of the collaboration, eight workshops have been conducted for 187 participants representing 87 different partner organisations from Sindh and Balochistan as well as PDMA Sindh. These workshops aimed to raise awareness on key standards such as Sphere and the CHS that support organisations with effectively mainstreaming and implementing quality and accountability through a people-centred approach. Through the learning series, participants were enabled to outline opportunities and challenges in implementing Q&AAP, and were provided a platform for experience sharing and peer learning on its practical implementation

Participants strengthened their skills on Q&A standards and commitments and learned to apply them according to their contexts. They also designed a Q&AAP learning action plan tailored to their specific needs and identified ways of collaborating and coordinating with other partners to improve Q&AAP in a response. “We not only designed a training workshop for the participating organisations, but we provided technical support in mainstreaming the standards in the organisation systems and policies,” shared Aamir.

Concern’s Rapid Fund collaborated with CWSA on its Q&A interventions and jointly developed a plan for its implementation. CWSA conducted the Q&A focused trainings for them with the facilitation of the Rapid Fund team.

Lessons Learned; Improving Accountability Together

A virtual meeting was held in June 2022 to draw conclusions on the workshops’ successes and failures to improve content and resources for future workshops. During the meeting, the objectives and methodology of the workshop were shared, the draft content was presented and analysed and results and challenges thoroughly discussed. By the end of the meeting, recommendations for future learning events were brainstormed and shared.

Participants’ Selection, Self-Assessment and Pre-Training Coordination

Gender balance was ensured during participants’ selection which was done based on relevance and experience of the training topic allowing richer, more contextualised discussions and peer learnings.
Self-assessment done by each participating organisation to evaluate its structure, policies and procedures was an effective tool to gauge organisational standing on Q&AAP and identify improvement areas. This led to effective development of training plans and agenda based on participants’ needs and expectations.

Resources such as Sphere handbooks shared prior to the training were useful, allowing participants to review them and come prepared with some knowledge of the topics to be discussed. WhatsApp groups were created for participants, which allowed peer learning and continuous coordination.

Workshop Assessment

Appropriate time allocation and pace, and recap of learnings from the previous day played a key role in keeping participants engaged throughout the workshop and ensured consistent productivity during the sessions. The workshops were conducted online for which orientation on Zoom was given to participants in addition to provision of internet devices to prevent technical glitches. The training was made interactive and engaging through open discussions, breakout rooms and utilization of Google Jamboard. Comprehensive sessions on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) increased awareness of most organisations. Case studies for Q&AAP guidelines were shared from the Asia Pacific region such as a CRM developed by World Vision in Sri Lanka, giving participants contextualised and local examples from the region.

Pre- training resource sharing proved to be effective and were used post-training by participants to refer to guidelines, standards and other tool kits. The pre and post tests were easy to take/complete.

Institutional Capacity Strengthening

Upon training completion of each module, a technical assistance phase was launched within a couple of months that offered coaching and mentoring support to organisations in developing and updating Q&AAP related guidelines, namely a Code of Conduct (COC) and Complaint Response Mechanism (CRM). CWSA provided inputs and guidance through sharing of templates, sample documents and key notes to participating organisations throughout the process; their progress was regularly monitored until final submissions were made by each of them.

Updated policies of organisations were appreciated by networks and funding partners. It also paved way for more effective implementation of Q&A tools and techniques in organisational processes and policies.
The ARTS Foundation did not have a CRM prior to the workshop; they utilised the draft shared with participants during the technical assistance phase to develop one from scratch. SHIFA developed specialised policies on each topic as the organisation had a joint policy before the workshop. Community Development Foundation (CDF) developed its COC and CRM policies which provided them a pathway to apply for CHS Alliance membership.

Key Learnings & Takeaways:

“The participating organisations are now more familiar with globally recognised Quality & Accountability initiatives including Sphere, Humanitarian Standard Partnership (HSP) and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS). Organisations have also mainstreamed CHS and the Sphere handbook in their newly developed or revised policies and guidelines on CoC and CRMs for improved accountability towards the communities they are serving.” Speaker/Technical Expert on Q&A

“Nari Development Organisation (NDO) has established a CRM and placed complaint boxes within the office and the communities we are working in. We are also conducting orientation sessions with the NDO staff and communities regarding the new CRM policy and its processes. This initiative has mainstreamed accountability towards the communities and staff we work with and ensures a people-centred approach.” Zahid Hussain, Nari Development Organisation (NDO)

“Every action has to be guided by the common belief in the equality of all people, the inviolability of their rights and the right of each individual to self-determination. In the spirit of solidarity and humanity, the goal of every organisation is to improve the lives of people in the places where they can work. This workshop provided guiding tools, such as CoC and CRM, which allowed us to mainstream accountability in all the work we do. We updated our existing policies and adhered to the CHS and Sphere standards to better respond and allow community voices to be heard.” Liza Khan, Community Development Foundation (CDF)

“The extensive feedback we received on our existing CoC and CRM allowed us to mainstream CHS and Sphere Standards in our revised policies. Moreover, we receive all kinds of complaints. Some are relevant to our work and some do not relate to our work. There have been instances when we have received fake complaints as well. Organisations should be able to differentiate between these complaints and address them equally and in a transparent manner.” Gulab Rai, Sukaar Foundation

Twenty-two year old Aman works as an IT and HR officer at Riverside Development Organisation (RDO), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation based in Sukkur, Sindh. “RDO is working in the field of education, capacity building and empowerment of women, children, and youth, and health. I joined the development sector for its dynamic work environment, the opportunities to make decisions in uncertain situations, being able to work with diverse teams, taking on different roles according to situational needs and being able to serve people,” shared Aman while introducing himself at a training organised by Community World Service Asia under its Capacity Enhancement Program.

The training titled ‘Leading in Complexity and Ambiguity’, was held in March (2022), providing a learning space for humanitarian practitioners to reflect on their leadership style and its relevance and effectiveness in the Covid-19 context and other crises. “We received resource material before the training which was concise and easy to understand. This allowed us to get familiar with the content of the training and come prepared to the workshop.”

Aman found the session on feedback management and coaching as a leadership most interesting. Learning how to take critical and positive feedback as practised in one of the training exercises has really helped Aman strengthen relevant systems in his organisation and in his professional dealings. “The feedback mechanism incorporated in the training and the session on it encouraged me to implement the same in my organisation. Upon my return, I developed an anonymous feedback form and encouraged staff to share their feedback regarding management, co-workers and office facilities. The staff was sceptical and cautious due to the possibility of punitive action being taken against them. I held a session with all employees to explain the value and anonymity of the feedback system and to urge them to freely submit their opinions. This increased staff confidence, and they were more willing to provide comments as a result.”

While frequency of feedback received increased, Aman observed that the feedback they were receiving was mostly centred on the negative aspects of the organisation. In light of this, he introduced a ‘compliment slip’ allowing employees to anonymously submit good thoughts about the organisation and colleagues as well. “We distributed both forms among staff on a weekly basis. This really boosted the morale and motivation of our team members because they know that they will get appreciated through compliment slips. This initiative has established a culture where transparency and confidentiality can both exist, encouraging employees to offer their comments honestly and confidently. Before staff awareness on this was increased only 2-3 feedback slips were received weekly, while the number has now increased to almost 20.”

Another key learning of Aman was coaching as a leader. He learned through the session that coaching employees/staff members on organisational values and objectives was an effective way to build teams, individual staff capacity and increase confidence and productivity. “Coaching is more performance driven, designed to improve the professional’s on-the-job performance. I improvised my coaching methods. As staff would sometimes discuss problems they faced within the organisation, I would usually hear them out and work on the solution myself. However, I now ask them for solutions and I ask them related questions to create a comfortable environment during our discussions. I now urge them to draw the solution while responding. I am amazed to see how the discussions eventually lead to a solution.”

“The workshop helped me enhance my expertise and bring about a positive change at RDO. The staff is more expressive and comfortable talking to me about any matter that arise in the organisation,” stated Aman optimistically.

When: 5th October, 2022/Wednesday
Time: 2.00 PM-3:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: Zoom (Register here)
Language: English

Background:

The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan’s southern and northern regions has paved way for a socioeconomic crisis for which long-term assistance is anticipated by the humanitarian sector. Community World Service Asia, high committed towards Accountability to Affected People, is launching a safeguarding coaching and mentoring series for local NGOs currently engaged in flood response in the country to ensure that quality and accountability aspect is covered in humanitarian relief.

When people we work with or for feel unsafe within their workspace or global environment, this has important negative impacts on the quality of our work and the objectives we intend to reach. Safeguarding is therefore a key pillar to any accountability measure that organizations integrate into their programmes and working cycle. To continue supporting its implementing partners, CWSA plans to organize a series of 6 one-hour remote events on the topic.

Objectives:

As the first in a series of six, this session would focus on gaining input from participants as to what would be the most useful themes within safeguarding for you, to be discussed more in-depth and get practical support in subsequent coaching and mentoring sessions. This first session should also contribute to identify potential speakers who would be ready to share their experience and support others on specific themes within safeguarding. This will overall support participants in implementing safeguarding guidelines and practices in their organizations.

Note:

Registered participants are expected to have prior experience in safeguarding work
The first session is open-call and all participants are welcome to attend. For subsequent sessions, a selected cohort will be chosen based on their experience and the relevance of their work to safeguarding. This cohort is expected to attend all the planned sessions.

Presenter:

Ester Dross is an independent consultant with over 25 years of experience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection. Ms. Dross has had an extensive exposure to humanitarian certification systems and accountability to affected populations while working with HAP International as their Complaints Handling and Investigation Advisor, later as their Certification Manager. She has been closely involved in the Building Safer Organisations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of project participants, particularly focusing on gender and child protection. Over the last 6 years and since working as an independent consultant, Ester has been leading a pilot project for FAO on accountability and gender mainstreaming in emergencies and working with numerous NGOs including ACT Alliance members, supporting and training their staff on gender issues and child protection.

Some six hours from Karachi, we set foot on a wooden boat to sail through a village that was drowning in water. A village that could never have been imagined to be sailed through instead of being walked through. A village that once was home to over 2700 people and more than five hundred families. A village with green, fertile lands for pasture and two neatly built public schools for the children who called this village their home. A home that was no more for many.

After sailing for more than two kilometers through what seemed like a deserted ghost town, with houses half submerged in water, tree tops peeking out from under, an eerie sound of insects and nothing but mucky brown water under us, we reached a house which showed some sign of life and sound. The only inhabited house in the entire village. As we carefully stepped out of the boat, directly into a portion of the house, we were warmly greeted with a smile and a hug by an aging woman. She was Tejan, the proud owner of this fairly large house with five to six rooms surrounding an open patio in the middle.

The floors were muddy, with standing water in most parts of the house and in the patio laid some charpayis1 which had silver utensils lined up, like they were just washed. Tejan quickly commented, “We just got done washing all the utensils”. To which our natural question was how and with what they were washing their utensils and clothes (as those were also hanging freshly washed on the ropes in the courtyard). “We use this water (pointing at the flood water settled around their house). This is the only water we have access to. We use it to wash clothes and to bathe. We try to keep it in the sun so that the dirt settles down first. We used to have a water reserve (pointing at a water tank) but with the rains, it leaked and all the dirty water got mixed into it. So we have no option but to use this. We use it for cooking too.”

We were soon joined by a group of more women – young and old, living in the same house. Some six to seven families, all related presumably, lived in this once lively house. All the women were cheerful despite the experiences they had recently lived through and the conditions they were currently living in. These women, along with a few small children (a baby, one slightly older and a 13-year-old), were the only ones who had ‘willingly’ stayed back when the entire village was evacuated by army helicopters some three weeks ago. When asked why they had stayed back, they said they had to protect their home and their belongings and could not leave it to the water to take away.

After more casual conversation, it was revealed that this household belonged to a Baloch tribe, who are traditionally considered more conservative in this area, and Baloch women ‘never mingle with men from outside their community’. It was due to this very reason that these women, along with most of their children and babies, were ‘asked’ to stay behind and protect their assets so that they are not exposed to other men and other communities living in emergency camps or outside on the roadside (where many families of this village had temporarily settled).

Tejan is a widow and mother of eleven children, most of them married. Two of her sons live in this house with them. One of them, who works at a government office, returned to his job after the rains to ensure some livelihood remains. The other son, who relied mostly on their livestock and small agrarian garden, has temporarily settled on the roadside in a self-made tent with his children to get whatever in-kind support he can from government agencies, good samaritans or charity organisations passing by.

Since the monsoon rains hit their village two months ago, Tejan’s brother has been occasionally supporting their household – he sends in some dry food (like flour, lentils, sometimes milk) and water. The water he sends is treated like “holy water”, Tejan laughed. “We use it very sparingly as we know it cannot last all of us (women living here and children) very long. I do not think my brother can also keep supporting us more. His own house and lands have also been affected.”

With increasing food insecurity by the day, the iron ladies of this house must ensure that the food they get in charity must last them long enough to sustain as they have no idea when the water around their house and in their village will recede, or when they will receive proper help and aid. They are living in constant uncertainty. The only hope they have is their prayer and the belief that help will come. “We mostly eat one meal a day. That meal consists of some flour we cook together with chopped onions, chillies and rarely tomatoes (chutney). We cook all of it together because we do not have enough fire-wood or fuel so we cannot waste it on cooking roti and curry separately. The chai we make is not what we used to have before. Our chai was very good, now it’s just like warm water.”

“Many of us have not stepped out of this house since the floods. We stay here and look after the house and the little children. We do not let them go out much and have to guard them well as there are many snakes in the water that come to our house too. We have heard that a lot of the children in our village have also gotten sick. Moreover, just one trip, one side of the way, costs 50 rupees (US $0.21) per person. We cannot afford this ride up to the road so we let our sons and men bring to us what we need and what they can bring,” shared Tejan.

Skin and eye infections have become increasingly common among displaced residents of this village. Even the families living on the road cross through the water now and then and are exposed to all sorts of water borne infections. Tejan confirmed that the younger mothers in her house needed health and medical support, especially the ones with small babies. They could not afford going to the roadside in a boat, let alone traveling some far distance to a hospital.

While proudly walking us through her house, Tejan stopped at a door. A door that once led to her backyard blooming with fresh vegetables. With tears in her eyes, she showed us how it was all under 8 to 10 feet of water. This house was once her sanctuary, a place she was proud of and where all her happy memories were lived. If given a choice, she would never leave this house but living in the current conditions was challenging. They were without clean water, food, clean clothes, a secure house and a livelihood. The walls of their house were leaking and most of their outer walls were totally damaged. The only thing still intact was their dignity and that they will not let go off.


[1] A traditional woven bed used across South Asia

Where: Zoom (register here)
Date: 29th September 2022
Time: 12.00 pm to 01.00 pm (Pakistan Standard Time)
Language: English

Objectives

By the end of the session participants will be able to:

  • Describe how humanitarian principles, commitments and standards can be applied at all phases of the project life in the current context
  • Recognise how the emergency response can be transformed into an opportunity to build back better for the future
  • Learn how to place people and communities at the centre of their work from the onset of the program

Background

The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan’s southern and northern regions has paved way for a socioeconomic crisis for which long-term assistance is anticipated by the humanitarian sector. Community World Service Asia is launching a Q&A learning series for local NGOs currently engaged in flood response in the country to ensure that quality and accountability aspect is covered in humanitarian relief.

Participating organizations and their staff will be able to learn from each other and improve humanitarian coordination to effectively respond to the people affected by the crisis and align the support to their needs.

It is essential that humanitarian organizations adapt key Q&A initiatives and their tools to support project cycle management. To overcome the challenges that humanitarian workers face in implementing Q&A approaches, they can also collaborate and coordinate with other organizations to improve the quality and accountability of a humanitarian response. Additionally, while responding to an emergency is a challenge, it also paves way for building a better future and giving disaster mitigation a strong priority.

Speaker

Sylvie Robert is an adult learning expert with over 25 years’ experience in the humanitarian sector, passionate about and dedicated to Quality, Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) and Prevention of/ Protection from and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). She works primarily with field practitioners to identify lessons from the implementation, learn from those and stimulate change, specifically in complex environments.

Community World Service Asia is the regional partner and country focal point of Sphere and member of CHS Alliance for promoting quality and accountability (Q&A) standards, tool and principles.

1021

Pakistan has endured intense rainfall and severe monsoon weather since June 2022, causing catastrophic flooding and landslides across the country. As of 13 September 2022, an estimated 33 million people have been affected, with 6.4 million now requiring humanitarian assistance. Sindh has been hardest hit by the floods, with the southern province accounting for 88% of damaged or destroyed houses and the highest number of casualties.

While the severity and magnitude of the current crisis is extraordinary, the disaster-prone country
frequently experiences floods triggered by seasonal monsoon rains, with some of these events causing
major humanitarian crises. In 2010, floods submerged one-fifth of Pakistan’s land mass, directly affecting
20 million people.

The situation for people and families often worsens after a flood as survival forces unthinkable decisions
such as selling remaining possessions, relocating and withdrawing children from education. Early
information means people are able to make informed decisions about survival without compromising their recovery. Here are key lessons on communication, community engagement and accountability (CCEA) from past flood emergencies in Pakistan, along with recommendations for the current response. Please note that all recommendations must be adapted to the local context.

This discussion paper has been developed to assist in exploring different options and contribute to making the humanitarian certification process fit for the future. It sets out some of the challenges from the lessons learned from the existing standard and certification process and suggests options for alternative processes for consideration for the future. It is hoped that the paper will be used to explore some more realistic options that will ensure wider reach and more inclusion of local and national actors in the Global South.

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) emerged in 2014 from an extensive consultation process. It contains excellent guidance, further detailed in its 2015 Guidance Notes and Indicators. The Standard is currently under revision. This note seeks to contribute to that revision. The first section recommends greater nuance in some of Standard’s guidance. The second section requests that the CHS, in its application and verification, is squarely put within the political economy of aid, notably of the relief sector. The third section requests that the CHS Alliance ensures that its Standard is not misused to reinforce the structural inequalities in the sector.

Where: Zoom (register here)
Date: 19th September 2022
Time: 12.00 pm to 01.00 pm (Pakistan Standard Time)
Language: English

Objectives

By the end of the session participants will be able to:

  • Understand the Do No Harm and People-Centred Approaches in the current context
  • Discern how the Humanitarian Charter, Code of Conduct and an effective Complaint Response Mechanism can play a role in ensuring accountability of aid
  • Learn how to place people and communities at the centre of their work throughout the program duration

Background

The catastrophic flooding in Pakistan’s southern and northern regions has killed thousands of people and carried away cattle, houses, and treasures worth billions of rupees, for which long-term assistance is anticipated by the humanitarian sector. Several local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are engaged in emergency flood relief.

Delivering aid through the current emergency reflects our humanitarian values and principles. However, in some cases there may be unintended negative consequences. These have to be considered from upfront and minimized in case they would harm the people we intend to serve.

Community World Service Asia is launching a Q&A learning series for NGOs currently engaged in flood response in the country to ensure that quality and accountability aspect is covered through humanitarian relief activities. Participating organizations and their staff will be able to learn from each other and improve humanitarian coordination to effectively respond to the people affected by the crisis and align the support to their needs.

Sylvie Robert Speaker

Sylvie Robert is an adult learning expert with over 25 years’ experience in the humanitarian sector, passionate about and dedicated to Quality, Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) and Prevention of/ Protection from and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA). She works primarily with field practitioners to identify lessons from the implementation, learn from those and stimulate change, specifically in complex environments.

Community World Service Asia is the regional partner and country focal point of Sphere and member of CHS Alliance for promoting quality and accountability (Q&A) standards, tool and principles.