ISLAMABAD: On August 31, 2012, Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS-P/A) hosted a consultative meeting with Marian Casey Maslen, Executive Director of HAP, and members of Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP). Nearing its 10th anniversary, HAP and its principles find a stronghold and relevance among the humanitarian community in Pakistan. Out of 87 HAP members, 14 organizations in Pakistan are members or associate members making it the country with the highest number of national NGO HAP members.
The meeting provided a rare opportunity for members to meet face to face with a representative from the HAP Secretariat based out of Geneva. Twenty-two participants from 11 organizations attended the meeting, where candid discussion and information sharing proved beneficial for all. A presentation on HAP, its priorities for the coming year, and the initial efforts of the Joint Standards Initiative gave participants an opportunity to keep HAP in perspective and provide feedback and input. In discussion on the local context of conflict and disasters, the participants were able to share firsthand experiences and opinions on the role, challenges, and gaps in accountability in Pakistan. The role of negative media, corruption, and geo-political issues and the effects on humanitarian aid were some of the issues shared by participants.
In Pakistan, the frequency and extent of the effects of conflict and natural disasters on the population pose challenges to the government and non-governmental organizations in achieving a level of response that meets the needs of the people, fairly and without discrimination, and that maintains respect and dignity of all people of all backgrounds. Although the HAP members expressed appreciation for the leading role that CWS-P/A has taken, the commitment and follow through of all member organizations and collaborative efforts such as the Accountability Learning and Working Group establish a foundation for positive change in humanitarian accountability in Pakistan. Efforts to lead by example and to empower communities with knowledge of their rights to life with dignity complement efforts to bring attention to the need to mainstream accountability at the policy level.
The event supported collaborative efforts between the HAP Secretariat and HAP members including the need to raise the importance of accountability among the government, donor community, and humanitarian agencies. The HAP Principles of Accountability and the HAP standard requirements as outlined in The 2010 HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management define the basis of a tangible and measurable commitment toward accountability. Organizations that express commitment and complete a specific process have the potential to earn HAP certification. Marian Casey Maslen emphasized, however, that it is not only about achieving certification but also about the commitment and change in mindset. The HAP Secretariat and the HAP members in Pakistan also expressed commitment to the aforementioned Joint Standards Initiative which aims to bring two other standards, The Sphere Project and People in Aid, together on one platform to discuss commonalities and address gaps in quality and accountability of humanitarian response at the global level.
CWS-P/A will continue to work with the HAP Secretariat to bring cost-effective services to smaller organizations including the HAP certification process. It will also continue to raise awareness on the three key international standards and the commitment toward quality and accountability that they reflect. As of earlier this year, CWS-P/A’s Deputy Director, Zainab Raza, was elected as Vice Chair of the HAP Board. In her role, she will have the opportunity to voice the experiences, challenges, and needs from Pakistan while she works with the other Board members to bring about commitment and efficient change in accountability on the global platform.
Despite the many challenges and need for greater accountability in Pakistan, the turnout and active engagement of the HAP members during the consultative meeting indicate that progress is being made. The growing influence of HAP on humanitarian agencies in Pakistan and the positive impact that implementation of the standard has on disaster-affected communities signify a much needed and welcomed change in humanitarian response.