Quality and Accountability
Quality and Accountability Hub

When: 14th December, 2020
What time: 11:00AM to 12:30PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared with registered participants – Register Here

Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development professionals, academics and UN staff committed to Quality and Accountability standards and approaches for principled actions

Format: Presentations, Group Discussion, Experience Sharing
Moderator / Facilitator: Ms. Uma Narayanan
Speakers / Panelists:
Mayfourth D. Luneta–Deputy Executive Director, Centre for Disaster Preparedness Foundation Inc (CDP)
Mr. Hiroaki HIGUCHI– Manager of Program Development Division / M&E division, Japan Platform
Ms. Coleen Heemskerk—Director of Strategic Planning, Act Church of Sweden & Board Member CHS Alliance

Background

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events are scheduled as a series of consultations and webinars, that will bring key humanitarian actors — local and national NGOs, INGOs, NGO networks, Red Cross and Crescent Movement, UN agencies, academics and others for focused discussions and perspective sharing on how disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and humanitarian response should transform in this changing context. These events are organised collaboratively by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Community World Service Asia.

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events will be an online journey of three months, starting with a consultative meeting on ‘the future of humanitarian response in Asia and the Pacific’, followed by various consultations and webinars, and a research that will produce a policy paper on the sector’s future in the region.

ADRRN’s Quality and Accountability (Q&A) thematic hub is hosted by Community World Service Asia. The focus of the hub is to strengthen principled humanitarian action in the region through promoting Q&A standards, approaches and principles among ADRRN members. The Q&A hub is organising webinars and panel discussions around different themes on Q&A during the 2020 Regional Partnership Events which will result in a position paper that will advocate for continuous mainstreaming of Q&A.

About the Webinar:

Quality and Accountability mainstreaming is a strategy towards promoting and sustaining greater accountability to the affected population. For successful accountability mainstreaming to take place, changes are required at different levels in the organisation. It involves the integration of Q&A in both the programmatic and operational aspects in the organisation. Q&A mainstreaming within organisations is key to shifting attitudes and practices toward internal motivation to implement and self-monitor Q&A compliance. This organisation-wide process requires engagement across departments to assess existing practices, procedures, and policies, and then adopt changes through allocation of required resources.

Organisations tend to embark on the accountability mainstreaming process through various entry points and means. The panel discussion will explore the different levels and ways of mainstreaming accountability.

Register here: Is Accountability truly embedded in Organization’s core values and activities?

Moderator / Facilitator:

Ms. Uma Narayanan—Independent Consultant

Ms. Narayanan specialises in human resources, organisational development and accountability in the humanitarian sector. She has a background in International Organisational and Systems Development and worked as an Organisation Development and Human Resources practitioner in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is committed to quality and accountability and is a Sphere and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) trainer and advisor.

Photo Credit: www.unocha.org

As part of the 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events[1], a webinar titled ‘Safeguarding: Know – Act – Apply’, was hosted and organised by Asian Disaster Risk Reduction Network’s (ADRRN) Quality and Accountability (Q&A) Hub and Community World Service Asia (CWSA). The webinar discussed on-going initiatives on community safeguarding and explored how safeguarding can be adapted more widely and to traditional contexts. It also built upon approaches of familiarizing communities on safeguarding policies and the humanitarian community’s accountability to them on the issue.

More than 250 humanitarian and development practitioners participated in this 90-minute webinar that shared a wide array of diverse expertise and knowledge from all over the world. Panelists, Smruti Patel, Founder and Co-Director of The Global Mentoring Initiatives (GMI) and Member of International Convening Committee of A4EP based in Switzerland; and Kjell Magne Heide, Complaints and Accountability Advisor at Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) based in Norway joined the session to share best practices on safeguarding.

Speaking about Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA), Ester Dross, lead facilitator and moderator of the webinar, shared, “We would like to look at safeguarding from a different angle, to give more weight to the P of Prevention. Safeguarding is a common task; a common goal and we all have a role during the travel to reach the final destination.”

What do you understand by safeguarding? Is this a policy? Is this about protection? Participants shared their views on what safeguarding mean to them during the webinar.

Safeguarding is a framework including a range of different policies, procedures and practices to protect vulnerable populations from any harm which can be provoked by the very existence of our work, including code of conduct safeguarding policy, child safeguarding, guidelines, good practice, HR manuals, and also establishing efficient Complaint Response Mechanisms.

Ester shared, “When we talk about a safeguarding framework we speak about protecting people from any harm that we as an organization potentially bring to themharm as a result of power imbalance, linked to gender, to poverty, to any kind of different vulnerabilities, as much for children as for adults. Internally displaced, refugees and migrants are particularly exposed to safeguarding risks.

Power imbalances bring us to Accountability!

When talking about Safeguarding measures, it is essential to acknowledge that most sexual exploitation or abuse has as an underlying reason – the power differential between humanitarian workers and the people we work with or for. The shortest definition of accountability is the responsible use of power.

“Safeguarding and accountability is about how we change those power dynamics, how we change our organisational culture into a more open, more equilibrated, more inclusive and more diverse work space where different voices can not only be heard but lead to choices for the people who are in the center of humanitarian aid.  This also means that communities need to be better integrated and taken into account when we define our safeguarding strategies,” suggested Ester.

Power is about wealth, independence, ability to set standards, influence, independence, privilege, status and but also about knowledge. It is not easy to change quickly some of these factors; however, access to information and knowledge sharing contribute to have more power, therefore sharing information and knowledge are key, not so difficult to implement and the essential basis for equilibrating power imbalances and integrate communities fully into the accountability cycle, preventing exploitation and abuse.

While sharing some of her own experiences on witnessing issues of PSEA as an aid worker, Smruti shared,

“We need to work with partners to really think about safeguarding holistically. We have to learn how to create a culture inside and outside the organisation because unless we start inside with the staff you cannot permeate that culture outside of safeguarding.”

Identifying key steps and channels to discuss Safeguarding

Smruti highlighted steps that need to be taken to ensure a culture of safeguarding through key messages. According to her, it was vital to sit together with senior management teams and initiate a discussion on value.  Citing her own experience, she said,

“Through consistent and meaningful dialogue, we laid out the policies and procedures in place and staff’s knowledge on that. We mapped the communications channels in the organisation to communicate the policies and code of conduct. For instance, as part of their communication strategy, a partner organisation based in Myanmar shared how they discussed such issues during their regular staff meetings held at project level on a quarterly and monthly basis. These are opportunities to communicate the orgainsation’s code of conduct and remind people constantly on adhering to these policies at every level of the organisation.” 

Secondly, building the capacity of staff on effectively bringing PSEA to the communities is essential.  Since the issue is a sensitive one, it needs to be done in a strategic way for which relevant staff should be trained.

“I encouraged the staff to talk about the values as part of code of conduct in terms of transferring the code of conduct to the communities we work with. We mapped out the target communities and communication channels in place in terms of programming. We looked at those channels and what key messages can be provided through them.”

The third step is to move in the communities. This involves identifying key focal persons from among the communities to engage with on enlightening the people about safeguarding.

“In the communities we visited, there were child protection focal points, some were working on women issues as gender activists and other were working on GBV[2]. We saw these platforms as a way to communicate the key messages on safeguarding. Additionally, we aimed at setting up a mechanism through which the community can approach us with their concerns. This holistic approach ensured engagement of people on the ground, people who are dealing with safeguarding issues and get their collective wisdom, establishing the right kind of communication system in place. When the feedback came in the organisation, the key messages were drafted on basis of that. The key inspiration are those six core principles of SEA.” 

Smruti encouraged organisations to explore communication networks within the communities through which key messages can be communicated and clearly understood by the communities. The key messages have to be appropriate to men, women, girls and boys. Likewise, internal messaging is as important as external messaging. Working collaboratively with other organisations is vital in addition to understanding the internal culture of the organisation.

Meaningful dialogue with communities and stakeholders helps to build trust, which is another important pillar.

To take PSEA forward through collaborations, building trust with communities and staff through open discussions is vital. Then we ACT. By acting on the complaints and feedback, we can show the trust. To maintain trust, you need to act,” added Smruti.

Investigations as a Preventive Tool for SEA

What are the core principles of conducting PSEA investigations?

How do we encourage people for to report?

How can we overcome rumors, especially about SEA?

Participants raised these questions in the webinar. While addressing these questions, Kjell Magne Heide talked about investigations on SEA,

You need to know the expected behavior of people that work with you and you should know how you will be able to report it. Sadly, many people do not report it. And even if they do, they have expectations which sometimes might not be realistic. Like Smruti said, there has to be a culture, it should be built into you and not rely on documents always. However, in an investigation, one has to refer to documents and policies,” initiated Kjell in his discussion about investigations on SEA.


Trust has to be earned. “It takes years to build trust and it only takes a day to lose it. You have to be structured in order to build and maintain this trust. It is therefore essential to assign a system that fits in the context you are working in and it is crucial that you follow the procedures.”


“There are some limitations to investigations, especially now in the COVID-19 situation. Be honest about the limitations with the communities, so that the people you work with have the right expectations to maintain the trust. Be sure to treat with dignity and respect. It is easy for me an as investigator to judge complaints on basis of severity. For the person who registered the complaint, it is a serious concern and therefore, I have to treat all complaints with the same dignity and respect, independent of how I as an investigator judge the severity of the case.”

Kjell recalls a case in a country office, where one staff filed a complaint of SEA against another which was thoroughly investigated and the perpetrator was found guilty and was dismissed.

“There were more complaints filed in the same context from the same office. This shows that through vigilant and transparent investigations, we can demonstrate a reaction to the alleged perpetrator when we have enough evidence. This contributes building trust with others who then feel empowered to come forward with their own concerns.”

Kjell remarked however that it is difficult to conduct SEA investigations and while investigating one has to be true to themselves and the organisation.

Key Takeaways

  • The Code of Conduct ensures that an organisation’s employees understand and accept legal and professional responsibilities of working in the organisation and to promote good practice and appropriate behavior among employees and promote the highest levels of ethical behavior
  • Promotion of safeguarding within the organisation is key to cultural changes
  • Media is an effective channel to raise awareness on safeguarding and to highlight expected and prohibited behaviors around the issue
  • An allegation cannot be substantiated unless facts are substantiated with reasonable inference on the balance of probabilities through a transparent and active investigation process
  • Thorough contextual research and integration of community voices is key to implementing safeguarding principles effectively in emergencies.

[1] collaborative events hosted collaboratively by Community World Service Asia (CWSA), Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

[2] Gender-based Violence

When: 2nd December, 2020
What time: 1:00PM to 2:30PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared with registered participants – Register Here
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development professionals, academics and UN staff committed to Quality and Accountability standards and approaches for principled actions
Format: Presentations, Discussion, Experience Sharing
Moderator & Presenter: Ester Dross

Background  

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events are a series of consultations and webinars, that will bring key humanitarian actors — local and national NGOs, INGOs, NGO networks, Red Cross and Crescent Movement, UN agencies, academics and others together for focused discussions and perspective sharing on how disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and humanitarian response should transform in this changing context. These events are organised collaboratively by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Community World Service Asia.

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events will be an online learning and exchange journey of three months, starting with a consultative meeting on ‘the future of humanitarian response in Asia and the Pacific’, followed by various consultations and webinars, and a research that will produce a policy paper on the sector’s future in the region.

ADRRN’s Quality and Accountability (Q&A) thematic hub is hosted by Community World Service Asia. The focus of the hub is to strengthen principled humanitarian action in the region through promoting Q&A standards, approaches and principles among ADRRN members. The Q&A hub is organising webinars and panel discussions around different themes on Q&A during the 2020 Regional Partnership Events which will result in a position paper that will advocate for continuous mainstreaming of Q&A.

About the Event:

Complaints handling is a key component to any safeguarding framework and remains one of the great challenges in organisational efforts to improve accountability, close the gap and listen to people’s voices. To be compliant to this commitment, we need not only to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, but act upon received reports. For this to happen, we need to proactively facilitate reception of such complaints.

This webinar will build upon the webinar organised earlier in May this year where basic issues such as key components of establishing CRM, while taking into account increased challenges of the Covid-19 crisis were discussed. Recent public reports demonstrate once again that, even when such systems are established, reporting remains low. The How to Make Complaint Response Mechanism Participatory & Responsive webinar in December therefore seeks to explore the reasons for the lack of reports, how to establish trust within communities through improved communication and identifying ways of ensuring better dialogue.

Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

Ms. 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 Organizations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries, 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, child protection, accountability, complaints handling and investigations. She is an experienced investigator herself and has conducted investigations in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.

Register here for the Webinar on Participatory and Responsive CRM


“Quality & Accountability Mainstreaming is a process, a journey of bringing specialized areas into the main flow of our humanitarian work. In this case, it is Accountability. The question is how is it done? What are the steps taken? What are the processes that are put in place?”

Uma Narayanan, HR and OD Consultant, raised these questions while moderating the webinar on ‘Mainstreaming Quality & Accountability’ on November 20th. As a kick-start to the 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events, the webinar was hosted and organised collaboratively by Community World Service Asia (CWSA), Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events are an online journey of three months, starting with a consultative meeting on ‘the future of humanitarian response in Asia and the Pacific’, followed by various consultations and webinars, and a research that will produce a policy paper on the sector’s future in the region.

The participants were asked about their familiarity and experience working on Q&A standards. 65% of the participants were familiar with both, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and Sphere Standards, while 6% were not yet familiar with Q&A standards.

What is Q&A Mainstreaming?

“It is a process to integrate Q&A into existing frameworks and practice and make institutional changes. This is done by linking the organisation’s mandate and thematic areas and aligning organisation’s vision and commitment with Q&A,” said Uma during the session. “It is about ensuring accountability is part of your organisation’s DNA,” said Uma.

The webinar explored different entry points of Q&A mainstreaming. Some organisations do it through CHS certification process; some others start, at project level, such as setting up Complaint Response Mechanism (CRM). Numerous organisations implement accountability mechanisms as part of the donor’s requirements in terms of ensuring certain policies, processes and mainstreaming accountability in M&E[1]. 

What are the barriers to Q&A mainstreaming?

Participants discussed the various obstacles that many organisations face while mainstreaming Q&A in their framework and practices. Some challenges included diverse culture of communities and organisations, lack of technical expertise, lack of management ‘buy-in’, various mismatched expectations, accountability is linked to project durations and limited resources and time, lengthy certification process.

Bonaventure Sokpoh, from CHS Alliance, added here, “We have updated the CHS self-assessment manual in a way that is survey-based and much easier for organisations to take and use. Every individual, i.e. your key stakeholders, can take some time out to answer key questions. The result of the survey will help to learn meaningful reflections of the organisation in terms of Q&A, making it less time-consuming for all functions.”

The Responsibility Matrix: Key Players in Mainstreaming Q&A 

Within the organisation, there are key players who have an essential role in mainstreaming Q&A in the organisational framework and thematic areas. Here is a quick introduction to these players:

  • Allocate Resources
  • Align Policies
  • Model Q&A Behavior
  • Create Q&A Culture
  • Implement Q&A in Programme
  • Makes changes to programme based on feedback
  • Share examples of best practice
  • Listens to stakeholder & purchase quality service & products
  • Makes changes based on feedback
  • Select staff that are Q&A compliant
  • Build staff capacity on Q&A
  • Revise HR policies, procedures that is competency based
  • Budget allocation for Q&A
  • Ensures financial donor commitments are met
  • Ensure Anti-fraud measures and auditing
  • M&E processes & tools integrates Q&A
  • Help set up Q&A mechanism
  • Analyze complains

Key Reflections

  • Q&A is a Shared Responsibility

Rizwan Iqbal, Quality and Accountability Coordinator, ACT Alliance, shared a key aspect of Q&A, that is shared responsibility.

“In my experience, I have witnessed that accountability is not one person’s responsibility. To achieve shared responsibility, while working in Community World Service Asia before joining ACT Alliance, we built capacities of internal and external stakeholders. The team members, who were directly involved and supporting the Q&A programme, were trained through in-house training programmes to enhance knowledge of Q&A and how to link Q&A to their role and job responsibilities.

Resource allocation for Q&A as a challenge in many organisation but there are some ways to overcome them. Organisations lacking in resources, are encouraged to show more commitment towards accountability by taking small steps. This will strengthen your standing in the development sector and more support can come your way.”


[1] Monitoring & Evaluation

When: 26th November, 2020
What time: 11:00AM to 12:30PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared with registered participants – Register Here
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development professionals, academics and UN staff committed to Quality and Accountability standards and approaches for principled actions
Format: Presentations, Discussion, Experience Sharing
Moderator & Presenter: Ms. Ester Dross

Background  

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events are a series of consultations and webinars, that will bring key humanitarian actors — local and national NGOs, INGOs, NGO networks, Red Cross and Crescent Movement, UN agencies, academics and others together for focused discussions and perspective sharing on how disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness and humanitarian response should transform in this changing context. These events are organised collaboratively by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Community World Service Asia.

The 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events will be an online learning and exchange journey of three months, starting with a consultative meeting on ‘the future of humanitarian response in Asia and the Pacific’, followed by various consultations and webinars, and a research that will produce a policy paper on the sector’s future in the region.

ADRRN’s Quality and Accountability (Q&A) thematic hub is hosted by Community World Service Asia. The focus of the hub is to strengthen principled humanitarian action in the region through promoting Q&A standards, approaches and principles among ADRRN members. The Q&A hub is organising webinars and panel discussions around different themes on Q&A during the 2020 Regional Partnership Events which will result in a position paper that will advocate for continuous mainstreaming of Q&A.

About the Event:

Safeguarding is a core component of our shared commitment to accountability towards affected populations. Keeping communities safe from additional harm, from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment committed by our own staff is essential.

The webinar will build upon the on-going initiatives for community safeguarding and will explore the basic issues such as key definitions of safeguarding and setting standards as well as discussing the increased challenges due to the Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions.

Objectives of the webinar:

Our aim is to look at safeguarding and prevention from a different perspective:

  • How can we communicate key messages around safeguarding more widely and adapted to traditional contexts?
  • How can communities relate to our policies and increase understanding around this topic?
  • How can efficient complaints handling and investigations contribute to prevention efforts and be a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour?
  • What minimum requirements do we need to put in place to decrease the risks of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment?

Moderator / Presenter:

Ms. Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

Ms. 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 had 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 Organizations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries, 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, child protection, accountability, complaints handling and investigations. She is an experienced investigator herself and has conducted investigations in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.

Register here for the Webinar on Safeguarding: Know – Act – Apply 


When: 29th October, 2020
What time: 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared with registered participants – Register Now
Language: Urdu
How long: 90 minutes
Who it is for: Pakistan-based NGOs interested in registration with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD)
Format: Presentations followed by Discussion

Background

All kinds of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) across the country have found an evolving regulatory environment which has been fairly challenging to navigate; particularly, around how to legally access foreign funding, through grants and contributions.  With the Foreign Contributions Act of 2013, any Non-Government Organisation(NGO) that accepts or wants to apply for foreign funding must apply to the Economic Affairs Division(EAD) and sign an MOU.   Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is, therefore, providing practical assistance to CSOs and NGOs who have questions and need guidance on the processes and procedural requirements for applying for registrations with the EAD.

CWSA has established an “NGO Help Facility” that provides technical discussions, coaching, on-line information resources and virtual clinics to support NGOs wanting to file their applications and sign their MOU with the EAD to be legally eligible to apply for foreign grants and contributions.

This service is facilitative and free of cost. CWSA will help organisations in clarifying application guidelines, and will support organisations with fulfilling all application documentation as per EAD requirements as well as providing any additional follow up support.    Activities offered by the NGO Help Facility will include the following:

  • Legal & administrative advisory sessions/ days for NGOs
  • Rotating legal advisory clinic days via webinars
  • Creation of a center within CWSA, available to any and all NGOs on demand.
  • Provision of training and coaching to NGO representatives to support development, revision and follow up of their application documentation

Disclaimer: Assistance provided through the NGO Help Facility is a pro bono service that offers technical support and brokers positive relationships.  Engagement, in itself does not guarantee that the client organization will be granted an MOU without having successfully completed all of EAD’s required due diligence processes.

The webinar scheduled for October 29th, 2020 will:

  • Introduce the NGO Help Facility and its services
  • Discuss some of the challenges in the application and signing processes and provide clarity on the process
  • Identify key issues that participants consider as key priorities for facilitative support. These issues will them be  addressed during more further discussions in November-December 2020

Interested in Participating?   Register here for the Webinar! 

Community World Service Asia is a Pakistan-based humanitarian and development organisation addressing factors that divide people by promoting inclusiveness, shared values, diversity, and interdependence.  It engages in the self-implementation of projects, cooperation through partners, and the provision of capacity building trainings and resources at the national, regional and global levels.

This short film marks the release of the CHS Alliance’s upcoming flagship report, the Humanitarian Accountability Report (HAR) 2020. Providing an evidence-based overview of accountability in the sector, the HAR 2020 will report on the current state of adherence to the CHS and what progress has been made meeting its Nine Commitments. Using information and data gathered from more than 90 aid organisations that have undertaken CHS verification, the report will uncover the Commitments which are being best met and where more efforts are most needed.

The HAR 2020 launches on 6 October 2020, 15:30 CEST, which is also the first day of the virtual Global CHS Exchange.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted global humanitarian and development programming. It has severely affected aid organisations’ capacity to execute field activities and track project implementation, challenges and progress.  Inaccessibility to project locations and restricted direct physical contact with communities represent significant challenges to conventional M&E operations.

Understanding community’s situation – their needs, values and problems – is essential for aid organisations to respond effectively. COVID-19 and the ‘lockdown’ restrictions imposed in response, have led to some program operations being suspended or discontinued and in this case it is critical to consider the impact of these closures on the communities. Other programs that have continued amid the pandemic, adopting new methods and modalities for implementation and it is important to understand how new way of programming are meeting communities’ needs.

The pandemic has pushed us all to reassess and prioritise the types of evidence and data we need to inform programmes and adapt Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) strategies to the new environment. To share experiences and best practices and facilitate a productive discussion on monitoring and evaluation during the pandemic, Community World Service Asia and INTRAC jointly hosted a webinar on remote monitoring in the context of COVID-19 on August 11.

Dan James, Principal Consultant and Thematic Lead at INTRAC moderated the session and was joined by speakers Dylan Diggs, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, The State Department’s Democracy (DRL), M. Said Alhudzari Bin Ibrahim, General Manager – Programme Operations, MERCY Malaysia, Jonah S. Nobleza, Program Manager, Market Development and Financial Innovations for Agriculture at ICCO Regional Office Southeast Asia & Pacific, Michael Kendagor, Coordinator Emergency Response and DRR at Church World Service and Aung Phyo Thant, MEAL Coordinator with FinChurch Aid.

For those of us working in the humanitarian and development sector, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the measures taken by our respective governments to combat the virus, have created unique challenges for programs and their functioning. The session focused particularly on how the pandemic has affected monitoring and how to effectively monitor program when access to communities and people who we are working with is restricted.

What has and has not changed with COVID-19?

There are three broad areas where challenges and changes can take place as a result of COVID-19. These include:

  1. Organisations’ ability to access communities restricted
  2. Organisations ability to carry out programmes in usual way
  3. Community needs and situation

“The lockdown measure, social distancing, the variety of interventions governments and local authorities have to make actually means that our access to communities for monitoring purposes can be limited or cut off completely in some cases, or curtailed in different ways. These restrictions, lead to changes in program delivery,” shared Dan, “The virus has also changed the needs and situations at community level. Thus, there is real need to have up-to-date information on how the situation is changing and how the communities’ needs are shifting.”

Have monitoring needs changed as a result of COVID-19?

We asked participants in a quick poll to share their top monitoring priority during the pandemic. While measuring predicted results is still a top priority (often for accountability purposes), understanding negative/unanticipated impacts on communities and questioning what else can be done to support communities are more important during the pandemic than during normal times.

There are however, some things that have not changed: the need for basic information about project and programme delivery, donor requirements for accountability data about programmes and organisational capacity for programming and M&E.

Dan reminded participants that we must “work with what we have” in terms of capacities, resources, relationships and structures as the pandemic has not given the global aid community the time to prepare and develop ideal strategies to combat the situation.

Best Practices of Remote Monitoring in the COVID-19 Context 

Working through volunteers using a HUB based approach – Mercy Malaysia

“The traditional approach where our M&E staff travelled to target areas to monitor was no longer an option due to the inter-state travelling ban. Mercy Malaysia established a complete separate COVID-19 Operations Hub whose functions included planning, verification, procurement, data consolidation and reporting,” shared M. Said.

The model Mercy Malaysia adopted for the Remote Monitoring of their project consist of the following steps.

Most of the operations of the Hub were based in Kuala Lumpur, but Mercy Malaysia handled the responses of all fourteen states of Malaysia.

Using Mobile-based Technology for Engaging Communities – ICCO

“As soon as COVID-19 induced restrictions were enforced, consortium members in Myanmar developed a business continuity plan to mitigate the risks of further delays in implementation.  We decided to customize a remote, mobile – based, methodology to conduct interviews and collect data from our target groups and beneficiaries, shared Jonah.

Digital Cash Transfer to Prevent the spread of COVID-19 – Church World Service (Africa)

As another example, Church World Service (Africa) shifted their approach to response and monitoring towards digital and virtual platforms when Kenya was affected by multiple natural disasters, conflict and eventually COVID-19. Digital cash transfer was utilized using the M-Pesa platform in partnership with the bank and mobile service provider (Safaricom).

Michael shared that CWS now has a database of program participants in the various locations which are acquired through identification and profiling. This is done through kobo tool kit that enables real time processing of data. Once cash transfer has been undertaken, the monitoring and evaluation team of the organisation conducts a post distribution assessment to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the response as well as its impact in the lives and livelihoods of the target beneficiaries.

Keeping the Hope Alive – Fin Church Aid

“As a result of COVID-19, children were forced to stay at home as schools were shut down amid coronavirus. In Fin Church Aid, we wanted to learn the psychological well-being of children, staying at home. To assess this situation, we conducted assessments using the online data tools, which allowed us to reach to respondents without in-person contact during this pandemic. We conducted assessments via Kobo Toolbox[1]  and mobile phones,” shared Aung.

US State Departments Democracy Rights and Labor Division

Dylan Diggs, from US State Departments Democracy Rights and Labor division shared thoughts about working with donors on adapting M&E. DRL provides M&E assistance to grantees throughout the life cycle of the program.

“Even before COVID-19, we have had a flexible approach to M&E. We believe that our implementers know best. This doesn’t mean that we expect everyone to be an M&E expert. But, we do believe that M&E can be done by qualified internal evaluators and program staff that are interested in using M&E principles for logical program design and evaluation,” said Dylan.

Dylan highlighted four important considerations to adapting M&E during the current pandemic.

Assess Plans & Approaches: Encourage organizations to rethink M&E plans and review anticipated results

Adjust your M&E approaches and methods: Update your M&E to the new environment while reviewing indicators and consulting beneficiaries on contingency plans

Adapt Your Operations: Communications Methods are changing by adopting digital methods, phone interviews and monitoring with photographic and video evidence

Do No Harm: This comes in play in digital protection and in-person approaches including use of Personal Protective Equipment and maintaining social distancing

Participants’ Thoughts

Towards the end of the webinar, participants raised questions regarding verification being applied by different entities. M. Said responded,

Yes we do. Besides verification through other than the requesting party, we do have a local government agency, in Malaysia’s case the Welfare Department, who has data on vulnerable communities as well. However, they are not the only source of information for us.”

Another participant queried on how to monitor the progress or activities in remote settings where there is no access to any kind of communication modes. M. Said answered,

“Simplify the process and empower the local community to participate in monitoring. It is essential to know that programmes are more effective with community involvement.”

Participants highlighted data as the most frequently term used during sessions. They questioned if there is a healthy tension between data and people, in terms of their current contextual realities. Dan answered by saying,

“Definitely – our view is that monitoring needs to prioritise people. There is a need to review – perhaps from scratch – the kinds of data we are looking for to ensure monitoring activities are both low risk and have benefits for people.”

A total of 73% of the webinar participants found learning practical methods for remote monitoring as the most interesting discussion point. However, they raised questions on How organisations can ensure fair and unbiased remote assessments with only identified community members interviewed rather than a random selection?  To this, the facilitators responded,

“We collaborated with communities and local organizations actively to ensure that assessment is not biased. In addition, we involved religious leaders who tend to be influential people within communities but that did not restrict us from communicating with the communities directly. It is essential to involve local NGOs as they have direct interaction with the communities and therefore they are able to assist effectively and identify affected populations who are in dire need of assistance.”


[1] KoBoToolbox is a free toolkit for collecting and managing data in challenging environments and is the most widely-used tool in humanitarian emergencies.

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  • Are NPOs in your country unable to register with ease?
  • Is your NPO perceived as being risky for terror financing?
  • Are your day-to-day operations hampered?
  • Are your bank transfers delayed or blocked?

These questions were raised to an expert panel at Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) and Human Security Collective’s (HSC) a webinar on June 25th that focused on highlighting the challenges, good practices and policy response to new money laundering and terrorist financing threats and vulnerabilities arising from the COVID-19 crisis.

Karen Janjua, Deputy Regional Director, CWSA & ACT Alliance Board member, and Lia van Broekhoven, Co-founder and Executive Director of Human Security Collective, The Hague, facilitated and presented at the 90 minutes webinar.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was originally setup to tackle financial crime, especially money laundering in the late 80s. However, after the tragic event of 9/11, it took on the anti-terror financing role and took it on in a big way. The connections between the criminality on a broader scale and terrorism came much more to the forefront and started being highlighted by both law enforcement and financial institutions.

FATF sets the international standards in preventing, eliminating and responding to money laundering and terror finance, both within countries and across borders. It has created 40 technical and 11 effectiveness standards that countries are expected to adhere to. While these global standards or recommendations are meant to both thwart and discourage criminals and terrorists, the intergovernmental FATF body also holds countries accountable for ensuring that they are implemented.

“When a country is assessed and it is not meeting all the standards, many consider the government as not a reliable member of the international community. Consequently, the FATF urges the country to work on improving itself and complying with the standards accordingly,” Karen informed participants.

FATF & NGOs – In what ways can NGOs be abused?

“A terrorist organisation can impersonate a good Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and act as legitimate entities. Moreover, they could also infiltrate a reputable NGO and exploit their financial systems. The funds can be hidden to utilize them later as parking lots,” expressed Karen,


“If you are adopting best practices in your accounting, finances and procurement tasks, you are less likely to face any criminal activity, whether it be embezzlement or terror finance.”

Outcome 10 of the FATF Standard is coupled with Recommendation 8 of the FATF’s 40 recommendations. Recommendation number 8 pertains specifically to nonprofit organisations (NPOs). The revised Recommendation now states that:

  • Countries should review the adequacy of laws and regulations that relate to non-profit organisations which the country has identified as being vulnerable to terrorist financing abuse. Countries should apply focused and proportionate measures, in line with the risk-based approach, to such non-profit organisations to protect them from terrorist financing abuse, including:
  1. by terrorist organisations posing as legitimate entities;
  2. by exploiting legitimate entities as conduits for terrorist financing, including for the purpose of escaping asset-freezing measures; and
  3. by concealing or obscuring the clandestine diversion of funds intended for legitimate purposes to terrorist organisations.

Although many countries have pursued initiatives to counter terrorism funding by multilateral legislative structures such as the FATF, steps such as the Recommendation 8 have had unexpected implications for non-profit organisations (NPOs). The strong requirement to control the sector as a whole for greater efficiency and accountability has contributed to the following:

  • increasing surveillance and state regulation
  • for obtaining and sharing financial services for growth and humanitarian relief, human rights and development work
  • the creation of onerous and restrictive laws, rules and regulations for the sector
  • the cutting-back, in general, of the field of civil society, with Recommendation 8 improving the instruments already in use by the government, such as counter-terrorism laws and regulations, to overregulate civil society

Pakistan Outreach by NPOs to government – the Role of CWSA

As a nationally registered NGO, with over 50 years of experience and presence in the region, CWSA felt the need to do something to respond to these issues. An approach that included adoption of various advocacy activities, conducting awareness and participatory training sessions was developed and implemented by CWSA. In addition, as an organisation they garnered support from international stakeholders and partners to learn from best experiences.

CWSA advocated with government officials, parliamentarians and the diplomatic community. Lobbying activities were organised with the European Union and detailed lobby meeting were held with British Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), to advocate for technical assistance for Pakistan to better deal with the issues of terror financing and money laundering.

The trainings have helped national bureaucrats, particularly from the provincial Social Welfare Department and Counter Terrorism Department, responsible for implementing new regulations in provinces, to better manage the NGOs for which they are responsible.

“We also participated in international events and subsequently got involved in collective action in conducting awareness sessions among NGOs throughout 2018 and 2019,” narrated Karen.

COVID-19 and FATF

The global pandemic, along with all its other adverse implications on human life,  has also led to an increase in crimes, including fraud, cybercrime, misdirection or exploitation of government funds or international financial assistance, which is creating new sources of proceeds for illicit actors.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on June 22nd outlined concerns and challenges linked to the pandemic’s effect on financial crime in a guidance paper summarising recommendations and other input from member-states and law enforcement agencies all over the world. COVID-19, they said, has created new sources of income for illicit actors, including the misappropriation of funds intended for pandemic-related financial assistance.

Lia van Broekhoven shared a statement released by the FATF at the start of the pandemic, which says: This global public health emergency has highlighted the vital work of charities and non-profit organizations (NPOs) to combat COVID-19 and its effects. The FATF has long recognized the vital importance of NPOs in providing crucial charitable services around the world, as well as the difficulties in providing that assistance to those in need. The FATF has worked closely with NPOs over the years to refine the FATF Standards to provide flexibility to ensure that charitable donations and activity can proceed expeditiously through legitimate and transparent channels and without disruption.

It is important to recognize that FATF Standards do not require that all NPOs be considered high-risk and that most NPOs carry little or no TF risk. The aim of the FATF Standards is not to prevent all financial transactions with jurisdictions where there may be high ML/TF risks, but rather to ensure these are done through legitimate and transparent channels and money reaches its legitimate intended recipient. National authorities and financial institutions should apply a risk-based approach to ensure that legitimate NPO activity is not unnecessarily delayed, disrupted or discouraged. FATF encourages countries to work with relevant NPOs to ensure that much needed aid is getting to its intended recipients in a transparent manner.

However, what do we see happening in reality?

COVID 19 exacerbates already existing challenges stemming from the interpretation by governments and banks of the FATF standards.

“We have been discussing various instances that have occurred since the offset of the COVID pandemic. In one case, 90% of the bank transfers especially to Syria of an international humanitarian organization were blocked by banks. The banks mentioned that the FATF standards and US and UN sanctions were the reason they were the victims of risk aversion to transferring money to countries like Syria and others that the bank considered to be high risk. We also see that donors want NPOs to vet against Counter terrorist lists and perform “Know Your Client” due diligence (KYC) on beneficiaries which would be in total contravention of humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality, partiality and humanity,” narrated Lia.

How can we as humanitarian practitioners, work together, to make good use of the FATF statement?

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    Engagement: Continuous engagement is key. This applies to both NPOs as well as to governments and FATF Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs). NPOs should engage with relevant government departments and the financial intelligence unit. It is useful for all if there is an NPO umbrella body or coalition working on the issue
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    Coalition & Dissemination: At the national level, coalitions should consider existing regulations and legislation relevant to FATF standards. It may further examine self-regulatory measures and the effectiveness of risk-setting and financing abuses for NGOs
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    Risk Assessment & Outreach: FATF puts a lot of emphasis on risk assessment conducted by relevant governments in collaboration with the sectors that fall under the standards of the FATF. The government needs to monitor how the evaluators come in and how they have done a risk assessment of the NGO sector. Ideally, the government needs to reach out to the NGO sector in order to conduct the risk assessment
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    Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue: NGOs can organise multi-stakeholder dialogue in the country in collaboration with Ministry of Finance, who is the regulator of the banking and financial institutions, Banking associations, Ministry of Justice and Financial Intelligence Units in the country
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    Multilateral Advocacy: Global NGO members are engaged and are very much present in multilateral advocacy. We have four seats for NGOs on the Private Sector Consultative Forum, a platform to discuss the issues we as NGOs are facing because of the FATF standards and how they are implemented across the world
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    Awareness Raising: It is essential to engage in raising awareness among NPOs on the drivers behind AML/CFT[1] regulations, on compliance requirements and on advocacy strategies. The Global NPO Coalition offers guidance, best practice examples, engagement strategies from its official webpage

Useful Resources:


[1] Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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