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Since the spread of COVID-19, as many individuals and organizations around the world are operating remotely the risk of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (GBV) Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) cases, as well as fraud and corruption is more likely to increase than to decrease. In a time when such threats are on a rise, the humanitarian and development community must be vigilant and prepared to ensure that affected people are protected and that they remain at the centre of our work.

To remind humanitarian practitioners on how to effectively practice and ensure community protection against sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden jointly hosted a webinar on ‘Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse during COVID-19 Response.’

Speaking about PSEA[1], Ester Dross, lead facilitator and moderator of the webinar, shared a brief history of SEA and what we need to change, to implement effective PSEA policies and processes,

In 2001, a study commissioned by Save the Children highlighted high levels of sexual exploitation and abuse happening in refugee camps in West Africa. Exchange for sex against food or other vital services did not only happen amongst refugees themselves, but also from humanitarian workers to refugees. Since, many other studies had similar findings. As a result, most of organizations today have Code of Conducts or separate policies including protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. Policy violations unfortunately continue to come to light, underlining the need of continuing focusing on PSEA and work on improved implementation of these policies.

Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. Sexual misconduct can be committed by a person of any gender, and it can occur between people of the same or different gender. The webinar highlighted the three types of misconducts; Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Gender Based Violence.

Power imbalance always lies at the root of the various forms of sexual misconduct. This disparity is heightened while employed and residing in tough situations, where conflict, catastrophe, hardship or even a pandemic has forced the most disadvantaged people towards much greater inequities, with higher threats and lesser control.

More than 250 humanitarian and development practitioners took part in this 90-minute discussion-based webinar that shared a wide array of diverse expertise and knowledge from all over the world. Panelists, Sylvie Robert, PSEA Coordinator, Ethiopia, Maria Kjersem, PSEA Network Co-Chair, UN Women, Ethiopia, Seng Aung Sein Myint, National PSEA Coordinator for the PSEA Network, Myanmar, Jules L. Frost, Head of Programmes & Partnerships, CHS Alliance, Geneva and Elisa Cappelletti, PSEA Network Coordinator, Bangladesh joined the session to share best practices on the topic under discussion. Considering the current COVID-19 crisis, the panelists shared best practices on effective inclusion, information sharing, recruitments and trainings on prevention and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Identifying Gaps to improve Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

In terms of improvement, the two major area where progress is most required are identified as awareness on policies and rights and the need for efficient and robust complaints systems. Both are linked not only to meaningful participation and effective information sharing, but also to senior management commitment to implement policies and take disciplinary measures if needed.

To resolve gaps in these areas, organizations need to ensure that they remind populations of their rights, their entitlements, what to anticipate from organizations operating in the neighborhood, what laws are relevant and what actions to anticipate from workers while employed remotely and know what constraints are in effect,

said Ester,

We need to continue to promote involvement by the communities to ensure that behavioral rules in our policies are well understood and that our CRM[2] is still relevant, or to consider alternative ways to address feedback, contribute to community understanding of anticipated activities and what to do if there are severe concerns.

What is different today? What key issues and challenges can we identify during the current crisis?

Participants in the webinar discussed the main obstacles they face in relation to implementation of PSEA in the continuing pandemic.

  • Existing taboos prevent communities from disclosing sexual exploitation to others, which becomes a major challenge in identifying actual cases
  • Inadequate budgets to include capacity development around PSEA and strengthening complaints mechanisms and procedures with implementing partners
  • Lack of awareness and accessibility, as well as deep rooted cultural practices hinder prevention of SEA
  • Failure to apply current PSEA policies on the ground. Many policies and procedures are in effect but field workers are not yet aware of them
  • Maintaining confidentiality when working and investigating remotely
  • Increased risk of violation of data protection as more information is communicated through unprotected channels
  • Increased use of technology also for receiving sensitive complaints – exclusion of people with no access to technology or low technological knowledge

Ensuring adequate information sharing and participation from communities, and receiving and investigating complaints has currently become a global challenge.

We need to be vigilant and prepared!

Think creatively! We will not be able to address all our problems, but we can curtail the present scenario by resolving some of the issues. Ester highlighted some key practices that global humanitarian community can strongly work together on to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse, violence and harassment.

  1. Policies: Most of us have made strong public commitments to policies on PSEA. It is important to reiterate those public commitments, remind staff and communities what we want to implement and how.
  2. Inclusion: Inequalities and vulnerabilities have become even more exacerbated. A commitment to inclusion of a wide set of different voices will significantly and positively influence long-term objectives and changes for the communities we work with.
  3. Participation and Information: As already underlined before, communication and participation have always been key. Communities must continue to have a voice for them to make choices through meaningful participation, even in times of rapid responsiveness and restricted access.
  4. Awareness Raising and Training: To be successful in raising awareness and improving participation, communication and inclusion, a specific focal point for prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA focal point) working with staff and communities and identifying specific risks related to sexual exploitation and abuse in regards to the COVID-19 response should be designated for each program, country and region. These can be first line responders, medical staff, protection officers and others.

Key Takeaways:

  • I found the webinar to be very informative with practical examples of ensuring that PSEA is not forgotten about in times of restricted access but instead rethink alternative ways to inform beneficiaries and receive complaints.” Tracy Robinson
  • “The current crisis motivates us to link up and openly share experiences and challenges on PSEA. This is an opportunity!” Sylvie Roberts
  • “Assessment is a vital practice through which we can ask what you need as a community to address your complaints on PSEAH – The concept of ‘nothing about us without us’ applied.” Axel Schmidt
  • “GBV inside the communities is extremely important but needs to be tackled differently from SEA as we do not have a direct influence on the community members. So, this is more about advocacy but obviously needs to come into account in terms of our programming.” Ester Dross
  • “The different modalities shared in the session will be helpful to identify contextual initiatives on PSEA.” Mausumi Sharmin

[1]Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse
[2]Complaints Response Mechanism

Following the first webinar on remote management practices and the role of Human Resources, this second webinar was targeted for managers on their role in effective remote management.

The webinar on Remote Management and the Role of Managers in the context of COVID-19, was organized by Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden on May 14th and delivered by Uma Narayanan, an independent HR and OD Consultant.

Remote Management: a set of adapted procedures in COVID-19

The webinar discussed Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standards on Staff Competency where staff are supported to do their job effectively and are treated fairly and equitably. As increasing numbers of people are required to work at home, organizations must adjust and perform all functions and manage staff remotely. In this case, it is critical to maintain staff morale, ensure work-life balance is maintained, a positive attitude toward all staff is adopted and they are trusted to manage their workloads. Managers have a crucial leadership role to play here.

The webinar also presented some of the work force trends seen globally. According to International Labor Organization (ILO), 2.7 billion workers are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is also anticipated that the working hours will reduce in the second quarter of 2020. Some sectors see a catastrophic loss and there is increasing job insecurity amongst workers in various sectors. Mental health of staff is a big concern globally. This is reaffirmed by some of the webinar participants who stated that staff are highly concerned about their jobs. Disruption to on-going programmes are causing a lot of pressure to the managers, who are answerable to donors.

Participants further cited the following challenges managers face while remotely managing diverse staff spread over various locations:

  • It is difficult to evaluate employee working hours and generate workload analysis for HR teams
  • Transparency and accountability to communities has become largely dependent on Internet connectivity which is not always consistent
  • Ensuring the safety of staff from violence and abuse is a challenge for managers
  • Remote management requires increased guidance and clearer communication on concepts and procedures to staff which increases the time managers spend on coordination
  • SMEs[1] and indigenous organizations need to invest more in technology and skilled HR but do not have the funds to make such investments
  • The same work from home policies cannot be applied to staff working in different contexts and in different situations
  • Remote management for support functions such as Administration and Finance teams is quite difficult. Programme staff is easier to manage and can occupy themselves with many tasks such as reporting and monitoring.

Steps to increase effectiveness of Remote Management

Primarily, the managers need to set clear goals and ensure there is a direction for their team.  Managers should practice being a VUCA leader.

As a leader, the VUCA Model approach is effective in improving and enhancing managers’ abilities to cope with the current pandemic. The VUCA environment is composed of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, all of which we are facing in the COVID-19 pandemic. An effective leader will counter volatility with a vision, uncertainty with understanding, address complexity with clarity and manage ambiguity with agility.

A few participants while acknowledging the VUCA model highlighted the lack of vision in their organization and lack of leadership support in technology.

Reflections:

Participants were encouraged to share some of the best practices they have adopted to improve staff management and organizational productivity during the crisis.

  • Managers can distribute workloads efficiently, providing equal growth opportunities to staff and ensure all staff have the same amount of work and no staff feels under worked or redundant in this situation
  • There should be SOPs and channels in place for preventive measures and prompt responses from managers whose teams are working in high-risk zones
  • Developing situation and crisis specific policies for effective staff management has become a priority
  • Remote delegation requires a lot of remote support and capacity building for staff
  • Media personnel are among the high-risk group of people as reporters have to travel continuously to gather news and capture moments in public places, hospitals, isolation wards or hold press briefings in small crowds

[1]Small and Medium Enterprises

Facilitated by Smruti Patel, Naomi Tulay-Solanke & Dr. Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi

When: June 2, 2020
What time: 2:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID19 response all over the world
Format: Presentation & Discussion
Speakers: Smruti Patel, Global Mentoring Initiatives & Alliance for Empowering Partnership Naomi Tulay-Solanke, Community Health Initiative (CHI) & Liberian Women Humanitarian Network Dr. Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi, Lebanon Support

Purpose 

The webinar will help explore:

  • The support that local and national actors are receiving from the international community as per Grand Bargain (GB)commitments during the Covid-19 response
  • The importance of tracking progress against the GB commitments using the 7 dimensions framework
  • Increased challenges faced during the Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions
  • Experience Sharing of local and national organisations from different regions

Background

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time. In addition to the loss of lives and the disruption to millions of lives, the economic damage is already significant and far-reaching.

However, the COVID-19 crisis response and the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) presents opportunities to accelerate progress on the Grand Bargain commitments and reverse the existing inequities. Local and national civil society organisations have a critical role to play and have been at the forefront of the response to COVID-19. They have been supporting efforts of their governments and providing information, providing food and physio social assistance and more. Their support has been critical also because drastically reduced international travel and supply lines had made large scale international mobilization impossible. Many international actors are also dealing with their own operational disruptions and domestic COVID-19 crisis.

The webinar will provide a framework for localisation and exchange experiences from different regions and discuss how localisation is progressing, the challenges it encountered and the way forward. These discussions will help to capture the views of local and national NGOs and the recommendations from the discussions will contribute to the GHRP revision progress which is taking place after every 6 weeks.

Community World Service Asia is hosting a series of learning and experience sharing events in Asia, particularly focusing on the steps taken by organisations to blunt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This webinar is a part of this learning program and jointly hosted by CWSA and the Alliance for Empowering Partnerships (A4EP).

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is a member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance and a Sphere regional partner.

The Alliance for Empowering Partnerships (A4EP) is a network of organisations committed to rebalancing the humanitarian architecture and practices to enable locally-led responses. Their vision is a world where sustainable, independent and accountable local organisations promote a society based on democratic principles, equality and social justice, and particularly in aid-recipient countries, are leading voices and play a leading role in relief and humanitarian assistance.

This 90-minute webinar will also be an opportunity for sharing best practices from participants and how they have taken into account the current crisis, including best practices in partnering and advocating for localisation in country, regionally and internationally.

Register here: Localisation during COVID-19

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    Smruti Patel

    Smruti is the founder and Co-Director of the Global Mentoring Initiatives based in Switzerland. She has been working in the humanitarian sector since 1995. Smurti Patel was a member of the Tsunami Evaluation team for Multi-Agency Thematic Evaluation: Impact of the tsunami response on local and national capacities, and since then has been an active advocate for locally led responses. She lead the development of Network of Empowered Aid Response (NEAR) from idea on paper to the launch of the network at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 and has been involved in the research to develop localisation framework for the Start Network, to assess and measure their progress towards localisation. The “Seven Dimensions Localisation Framework” has been used and adapted by many organisations and regions. Smruti is now actively involved in advocating for the change in the humanitarian system to more locally led responses. She is a member of the Charter4Change coordination group and a member of the International Convening Committee of Alliance for Empowering Partnership.

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    Naomi Tulay-Solanke

    Naomi Tulay-Solanke is a Liberian Feminist, a human rights activist, a humanitarian and the Founder Executive Director of Community Health Initiative (CHI), a national non-governmental organization that is providing healthcare and social services to women and children in underserved and hard to reach communities in Liberia since 2014. Naomi is a founding member of the Liberian Women Humanitarian Network also a founding member of NEAR and the Feminist Humanitarian Network. She is passionate about the role and recognition of local actors in humanitarian work.

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    Dr. Marie-Noëlle AbiYaghi

    Dr. AbiYaghi is a political scientist. She is a founding member and the current director of Lebanon Support, an interdisciplinary action-oriented research center. She specializes in contentious politics, the sociology of public action, and the political economy of knowledge production in the MENA. AbiYaghi has held positions in academia as well as international organisations. She strives to create spaces for synergy between the scientific community and the practitioner field.

Photo credit: ACT Government-Australia

Key principles of safe and efficient complaints handling Ways to develop key messages on raising awareness on the need for complaints systems Increased challenges during Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions

These were the discussion points of the webinar on Remote Complaints Response Mechanism (CRM) and the Collective Feedback Mechanism the context of COVID-19 hosted by Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden on May 13th.

More than 200 humanitarian and development practitioners took part in this two-hour webinar that offered a wide range of expertise and knowledge-sharing from across the word.

Ester Dross, expert in humanitarian accountability, facilitated the session and was joined by panelists Madiha Shafi from the Danish Refugee Council, Turkey, Syed Rashid Bin Jamal, PSEA Officer of Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), Bangladesh, Sameera Noori, Managing Director at Asia Leaders Organization for Humanitarian Aid), Afghanistan, Khadar Abdulahi Nur, CRM Officer for Danish Refugee Council, Somalia and Iqbal Shahid, Program Specialist for Concern Worldwide in Pakistan.

Upholding Quality and Accountability and Maintaining Performance during COVID-19

When operating in a humanitarian environment, we are all mindful of the power imbalance. The most vulnerable have the least power. That leads to a gap between what we want to accomplish and what communities want to receive or how they want to be treated. It has led many organizations to agree on principles that will strengthen their responsibility to right holders and members of the society.

During the COVID-19 crises, accountability is even more important. Given the need for many of our staff to work remotely and the challenges with participation an information sharing, there can often be an increase rather than a decrease in inappropriate behavior or gaps in programming and implementation, leading to complaints

. shared Ester.

Going a bit back in time, discussions on accountability have finally led to the Core Humanitarian Standard in 2015. The overall aim of the standard is to put communities and people affected by the crisis at the center, based on the Humanitarian principles of Humanity, Impartiality, Independence, and Neutrality. The commitments focus on the quality of the response, the structure of the projects, and the response and the organization itself and its resources. Ester added,

If our organizations and staff do not live up to our commitments or cause negative impacts, it is crucial for people to be able to raise concerns.

Ester discussed the key pillars to ensure that organizations have a robust system of Complaints and Responses.

Our system needs to be accessible! This not only includes access in the sense of locations but also access considering various capabilities (children, disabled, elderly, minorities, women etc.). It must be entirely inclusive, taking into account the circumstances of possible complainants.

How safe is our system? Can people access it without taking risks? Security for everyone includes physical and psychosocial safety and health problems. Community must be able to access communications modes with ease.

Confidentiality is key so that community members feel that they are secure and can entrust us with sensitive information. Information and details on complaints need to be safeguarded from any intentional or unintentional disclosure.

The system needs to be transparent. Potential users need to be provided transparent mechanism information.

The COVID-19 virus has presented a stress test for organizations worldwide, with the internet playing a crucial role in keeping critical infrastructure and resources connected and available. The panelists shared best practices and asked participants to further share how their organizations are managing programs in the current crisis, while maintaining high levels of quality and accountability and adhering to relevant standards, specifically the Core Humanitarian Standard, which is key for successful complaints handling.

Recommendations Highlighted:

  • Effective social media management is key for information sharing in this crisis
  • Staff training on misconduct and Protection against sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) to highlight expected behavior when responding to COVID-19 especially in remote areas
  • Development of pamphlets to share free helpline numbers for counseling and feedback
  • Organizations urged to review Complaints Response Mechanisms to ensure once complains are received, they can be channeled to appropriate staff as quickly as possible
  • Review IT structure, data management, official communicating software and digital media interaction to ensure that confidentiality of reports is not breached
  • Develop a channel through which complaints at community-level reach programmatic teams at offices efficiently through effective use of mobile phones
  • Seek alternative remote communication channels that will best suit discussing issues of sensitive nature and communicate clearly to the communities on the channels available. In this case branding of your CRM channel is essential to distinguish between reliable channels and fake ones
  • Trust is very important, if affected people feel they can trust us then they will gain confidence to share complaints
  • Good mapping of existing information pathways that continue to operate during the crisis is needed. This can be leveraged for complaint feedback and response mechanisms
  • Involve differently abled persons (who are 15% of the population) in the CRM process and ask them what the best accessibility is for them. How can we as humanitarian workers best cater to their needs to improve accessibility? How can we adapt the messages? How can they be involved efficiently?
  • Gender implications must be considered in CRM channels as well. A gender balance in committees and recruitment of more women call operators is encouraged

When: May 27, 2020
What time: 2:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID19 response all over the world
Format: Presentation and sharing of Best Practices
Moderator & Facilitator: Ester Dross

Purpose
A key aspect of our shared commitment towards Accountability to Affected People is an organisation’s ability to develop or review organisational policy relating to sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and managing internal investigations.

The webinar will help explore;

  • Key principles of protection from sexual exploitation and abuse
  • The importance of information and participation from communities and innovative ways to develop key messages on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse-related risks
  • Increased challenges during Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions

Background
Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden are jointly conducting a webinar on good practice for the protection from sexual exploitation and abuse and potential misconduct committed by humanitarian workers. Since in many places we have to operate remotely, the threats of Sexual and Gender Based Violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as fraud and corruption are more likely to rise than decrease. We need to be vigilant and be prepared.

The webinar will help in managing staff misconduct, with a particular focus on sexual exploitation and abuse of project participants by staff. Additionally, it explores safeguarding strategies that managers can implement in their organisations to reduce the risk of exploitation and abuse and improve their organisation’s capacity to receive and respond to allegations of staff misconduct.

This 90-minute webinar will also be an opportunity for sharing best practices from participants and how they have taken into account the current crisis, including best practices for inclusion, information sharing, recruitments and trainings on prevention and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is a member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Act Church of Sweden is a faith-based organisation that works for positive, long-term and sustainable change. Collaborating and cooperating with other organisations is at the core of Church of Sweden’s international mission. By working with local organisations, Act Church of Sweden contributes to long-term sustainable development in the contexts in which their partner organisations operate.

If you wish to participate, kindly register here: Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

Applicants will be informed latest by the 22nd of May about their confirmation status. Up to 200 participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis. In addition, we would appreciate anyone willing to share some best practices on the webinar topic and we will select 5 – 7 participants to share them during the webinar. Additional best practices will be compiled into guidance for wider circulation.

Presenter:

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.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How do we see the future of the aid sector in uncertain times? In a crisis like this, what sort of leadership shall we apply? Even when lockdowns are eased out or ended, how can humanitarian leaders be prepared and what challenges should they be expecting?

These questions were posed to an expert panel at the Community World Service Asia and ACT Church of Sweden’s webinar held on May 7th highlighting the crucial role of and best practices adapted by humanitarian leaders at an organizational and community level to manage the impact of a crisis such as the COVID-19. Tanya Wood, Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, was joined by panelists Deepmala Mahla, Regional Director for Asia of CARE, and Ayesha Salma, Group Head of Quality Assurance, Research and Design for Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF). The webinar was moderated by Uma Narayanan  Independent Consultant and specialist on human resources and organizational development.

Leaders face a new kind of challenge

Crisis has a way to show, change direction and recalibrate what leadership is actually about. With the COVID-19 pandemic being the biggest public health issue of our day, having a far-reaching impact on economies and human lives, leaders are faced with a new kind of challenge.

While there are significant efforts to respond to COVID-19 pandemic through various needs, humanitarian and development organizations continue to explore their own ability to survive, to sustain, to bounce back and move forward. Most of you can relate to this. The role of leadership is crucial in current settings

said Uma Narayanan, while moderating and outlining the agenda of the webinar.

Ayesha Salma highlighted that leadership emerges in adversity and professionals must take this crisis as a real opportunity to exhibit that. She touched upon three main points that leadership in PPAF is focusing on, namely, business continuity, economic revival and innovative measures.

Citing Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund’s example, Ayesha shared that the leadership’s first initiative was to ensure their staff were equipped with the right information to protect themselves.

We have adopted a daily mechanism to convey updated, positive messages to staff and encourage them to take this as an opportunity to exercise their leadership skills. Moreover, the agility and adaptability to switch systems was important which was built on the basis of our IT platforms and our regular HR disciplines that helped our organization survive this crisis. The staff is responsible for sharing weekly work updates to supervisors, which are then shared with HR. We have seen a critical strategic gain from doing so because it has allowed employees in this lockout to refocus their resources on more high value research. So many positive things have come out of this new way of working for us.

Deepmala pointed out the need for the humanitarian sector to look at its essence of work.

We’re used to working in groups; interacting with people, traveling to the neighborhoods, visiting households. We can’t work physically within the existing environment. For that cause we have to change our way of functioning radically. That needs new ideas, a new way of providing leadership at the organizational level.

Participants raised concerns about the ability to lead organizations in countries where the majority live below the poverty line and there is little support for aid organizations to respond.  Deepmala responded to that saying,

That is a real challenge and communities need actual support. In this critical moment, leaders have to work at three levels – community, system and policy. Another key part of our roles working as humanitarian workers is to advocate and influence governments to act, donors to fund.

Continue to ‘Put People at the Centre’

One of the primary problems encountered in leadership positions is to achieve a balance between the humanitarian imperative and the caring obligation.

As a humanitarian organization, the first priority needs to be the protection of the people in any decision and action, living up to our humanitarian mandate. Your greatest responsibility, at the same time, is to take care of your staff, to support and protect them and to ensure their well-being. Consequently, leadership should be flexible and capable of putting in innovative approaches to promote and bringing out the positivity from the new way of work,

highlights Deepmala.

Remembering the core humanitarian mandate was identified as an important part of leadership in this situation. Panelists agreed that there must be commitment towards achieving long-term economic recovery and protection of communities.

Deepmala discussed the importance of focusing on the impact of the crisis at the community level as well. Though everyone is trying to help communities, there still might be ignorance at community-level about COVID-19 and its preventive measures. The impracticality of the global health advice is physical distancing and staying at home. When advising to stay at home, one is assuming that the individuals have a home with livable conditions and food to last a few days. One must remember that this is an assumption and not the reality in many cases around the world.

In addition, many communities have self-isolated themselves, not allowing any outsider to join which has made it impossible for humanitarian workers to access those groups.

We are also aware of the major livelihoods crisis communities are facing at this point; millions are made practically homeless, without having the necessary food and meals. This is the community we are accountable to serve. For this reason, we have to firstly identify leadership at community level. Any intervention can succeed if only the community is involved and with the community itself leading.

With a number of CHS members participating in the webinar, the light was shed on the basic foundation of CHS being accountable to whom we serve, and to keep that as a basis for organizational operations and response in this pandemic. CHS aims to create and improve the transparency of organizations and to ensure its rooted in the organizational community, strategies, procedures, and activities. Tanya shared that the CHS has been made available in the plainest language to make it understandable as possible. There is a need for organizations to promote the CHS in and with communities as it tells communities on what to expect and on what they can hold the aid community accountable for. Maintaining an open and accessible forum for workers to express their thoughts, feedback and ideas, such as providing a virtual suggestion box online was highly recommended.

Communication and Compassion

Another key aspect that emerged from the discussion from speakers and participants alike was communications. Lack of and improper communications is one of the biggest challenge in the current crisis.

Communications is at the heart of CHS. CHS is working on a report which shows how as a sector we are meeting our commitments to the CHS and unfortunately it shows that the one thing we as humanitarians are challenged with is communications. This relates to communicating with the people and with each other. We have planned to launch a research piece on how organizations are adapting on Complaint and Feedback Mechanism. We have to make sure that we are adapting and that this mechanism is visible, well-staffed, well-managed and well-referred as they can possibly be, 

highlighted Tanya.

For many years the humanitarian sector has all been about being fast, life-saving and reaching more and more people. This means we have invested heavily in efficiency-centered programs and processes. The question is, have we neglected some of the fundamental principles of humanity, how we work and not to lose compassion?

Talking about CHS’s initiatives on staff care and compassion, Tanya shared,

At CHS, we’ve been working on an effort that we need to push three areas of change; we need to be more compassionate internally, we need to be more compassionate with our staff, and we need to create environments that reflect how we care towards our staff and their mental health and well-being. The moto we are using is ‘You have to be well to serve others well’. Part of that is a launch of a series of conversions to see what it looks like in different parts of the globe, to see how we promote and be compassionate in our organizations.

Tanya Woods shared the CHS Commitment and COVID-19 with participants who were seeking recommendations on new trends on funding, inclusion, and engaging with communities.

More than 178 humanitarian and development practitioners from 29 countries representing the continents of Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe took part in this ninety-minute webinar.

When highlighting the future of the aid sector post the pandemic, Tanya Woods said,

One of the opportunities that is forced amongst us from this crisis is to fill the hole in role of national and local NGOs and where INGOs have to play a more supportive role rather than a directive one. It will be interesting to see how this plays out within the sector.

Ayesha added,

Because of the lack of capital at a global level, creating your own revenue streams would be the most important in the immediate future. Now is the moment to innovate!

Reflections:

Sharing the opinions and suggestions with people around us will encourage them to follow you and innovate. Never underestimate the importance of reflecting your sincerity. This is the best opportunity to develop solutions in respect to structures that are revolutionary and successful in solving the current situation. As per our needs, we can still build what’s fit for purpose.

Ayesha Salma

This is an important time for organizations to outline a “duty of care” framework for staff and communities, and find how duty of care covers different groups in different circumstances. It will not be the same in all circumstances. In normal situations, duty of care is fulfilled by many arrangements in the org, but there is greater responsibility in these situations. So we identify gaps in policies, process, systems and interventions.

Aliya H.

Organizations who want to continue implementing their activities on grounds must consider and keep in loop the grass roots organization who are really at front lines.

Fayyaz Noor

Two years ago we saw a different type of phenomena that impacted our sector that was the #MeToo movement. We have seen the trend, particularly through INGOs, a public rebuttal where there is a disparity in how organizations act and how they do not comply with the principles they teach. It is a reminder to us that as humanitarians we are always judged and rightfully so on how we respond to that crisis and COVID is going to do that again. I would like to applaud Community World Service Asia for supporting such outstanding webinars, uniting people, thinking about what is relevant, talking about topics such as leadership, caring and kindness, which are really necessary.

Tanya Wood

Facilitated by: James Thomson, Act for Peace

When: May 20, 2020
What time: 2:00 PM Pakistan Standard Time
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared
Language: English
How long: 75 minutes

Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners requiring a better understanding of protection programming tools, methods and types of protective programming

Purpose: To ensure participants have a sound understanding of effective, results-based protection work, and a more advanced understanding of core protection programming methods, and types of protective programming, including:

  1. Mainstreaming protection in assistance programs
  2. Integrated protection programs, and;
  3. Stand-alone protection programs

Background

Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace are jointly hosting this webinar on Foundations of Effective Protection Programming.

Given the rapid escalation of serious protection risks in virtually every humanitarian context as a result of the COVID crisis, it is now more important than ever for agencies to understand what protection responsibilities they have, and how they can pro-actively prevent, mitigate and respond to abuses. This webinar focuses on the core methods and foundations for protection programs aimed at reducing the risk of serious harm to vulnerable groups as a result of violence, coercion and the deliberate deprivation of rights and access to information, services and resources. This includes a focus on:

  • Protection risk analysis and methods for reducing risks
  • The logic of protective programming and core methods and approaches
  • The relevance of rights, responsibilities and accountabilities in protection
  • The main types of protection activities and programs

This 75-minute webinar will also give participants an opportunity to share existing best practices and ask practical questions about protection policy, practice, standards and other issues.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is a member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Act for Peace is the aid and development agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia and a member of the global ACT Alliance. Act for Peace’s approach to protection starts with the recognition that affected communities not only have the right, the capacity and the desire to engage in protective action but are often the main actors in their own protection in crisis contexts. Having localised its approach to humanitarian and development practice many decades ago – and being focused on strengthening the effectiveness of locally-led protection efforts – Act for Peace works with a wide range of local partners to strengthen community-based protection in disasters, conflicts and displacement situations across the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

If you wish to participate, kindly register here: Register here

Applicants will be informed by May 16th about their confirmation status. Up to 200 participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis. All participants will be requested to share best practices on the topic under discussion in the webinar. Out of all the contributions, up to 4 participants will be selected to share their experiences.

Webinar Moderator & Facilitator:

James Thomson is the Senior Protection and Policy Advisor at Act for Peace. For the past two decades has specialised protection advocacy, standard-setting, programming and capacity development. He has extensive experience as a protection trainer, has delivered over 30 protection trainings for local organisations and communities, and worked closely with local partners in a wide variety of contexts to support capacity development, program design, policy development and advocacy. Over the past 20 years, he has also engaged extensively in a wide range of protection policy, standard-setting and practice initaitves at the regional and global level.

When: May 14, 2020

What time: 11:00 AM (PST)

Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared

Language: English

How long: 75 minutes

Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID19 response

Purpose 

Following the first webinar that focused on the role of Human Resources in remote management of staff, this webinar will focus on the role of Managers in remote management of staff.

The webinar will explore:

  • Challenges faced by organisations in remote management of staff
  • Best practices, Mechanisms and Principles adopted by organisations for effective staff management

Background

Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden are jointly organising this webinar on Remote Management and the Role of Managers in the context of COVID-19.

Organisations have a responsibility to ensure their staff are well supported to do their job effectively and treated equitably, including during the lock-down imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This webinar will explore some of the challenges in remote management and the role of managers in facilitating an effective remote management process. In so doing, the webinar will offer some of the mechanisms, principles and practices adopted by organizations to assure an effective approach to remote management of staff.

This 75-minute webinar will also be an opportunity for participants to share best practices and how staff and organisations have taken into account the current crisis, including application of relevant quality and accountability standards, specifically the Core Humanitarian Standard.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Act Church of Sweden is a faith-based organization that works for positive, long-term and sustainable change. Collaborating and cooperating with other organisations is at the core of Church of Sweden’s international mission. By working with local organisations, Act Church of Sweden contributes to long-term sustainable development in the contexts in which their partner organisations operate.

If you wish to participate, kindly register here: Registration – Role of Managers In Remote Management

Up to 200 participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis. In addition, we would appreciate anyone willing to share some best practices on the webinar topic and we will select 2 – 3 participants.

Presenter:

Ms. Uma Narayanan, specializes in human resources, organizational development and accountability for medium to large-scale organizations in the humanitarian sector. Ms. Narayanan has a background in International Organizational and Systems Development and worked as an Organization Development and Human Resources practitioner mostly in Southeast Asia and South Asia, for more than a decade. In her OD capacity, she has carried out numerous assignments on program reviews, evaluations and organizational assessments.

Ms. Narayanan is committed to quality and accountability and is a Sphere and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) trainer and advisor. She also assists organizations in conducting HR related and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) related investigations. As an accredited associate executive coach, she has added coaching of middle and senior management as part of her portfolio.

When: May 13, 2020

What time: 2:00 PM (PST)

Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared

Language: English

How long: 120 minutes

Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID-19 response all over the world

Format: Presentation – Experience sharing on Best Practices & Discussion

Moderator & Facilitator: Ms. Ester Dross

Purpose 

The webinar will help explore;

  • Key principles of safe and efficient complaints handling
  • Ways to develop key messages on raising awareness on the need for complaints systems among the most vulnerable populations as well as our own staff
  • Increased challenges during Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions

Background

A key aspect of our shared commitment towards Accountability to Affected People is an organization’s ability to receive and handle complaints efficiently, safely and transparently. Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden have collaborated on hosting a webinar on Remote Complaints Response Mechanism (CRM) and Community Feedback Mechanism in context of COVID-19 facilitated by Ms. Ester Dross, who is a specialist in the field of humanitarian accountability,  complaints handling, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

The webinar will help in reinforcing participants’ awareness on the importance of setting up and maintaining an accessible, safe, and confidential complaints system, taking into account additional difficulties in reaching out to communities for awareness raising, but also for communities to reach out and report potential concerns or misconduct.

This two-hour webinar will also be an opportunity for sharing best practices among participants and on how organizations are managing programs in the current crisis, while maintaining high levels of quality and accountability and adhering to relevant standards, specifically the Core Humanitarian Standard, which is key for successful complaints handling.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Act Church of Sweden is a faith-based organization that works for positive, long-term and sustainable change. Collaborating and cooperating with other organisations is at the core of Church of Sweden’s international mission. By working with local organisations, Act Church of Sweden contributes to long-term sustainable development in the contexts in which their partner organisations operate.

If you wish to participate, kindly register here: Registration – Remote CRM and Community Feedback Mechanism.

Applicants will be informed by May 7th about their confirmation status. Up to 200 participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis. All participants will be requested to share best practices on the topic under discussion in the webinar. Out of all the contributions, up to 7 participants will be selected to share their experiences.

Moderator & Facilitator

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.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 is having an impact on organizations and businesses around the world and, notably, on your relationship with your staff. The impetus is now on organizations and their leaders to begin to both anticipate and mitigate the effects of this crisis. The role of the Human Resource (HR) department is crucial here. The decisions taken by HR will impact the livelihood of the employees, and the entire workforce in a nutshell.

 Shifting to a work-from-home culture, especially during a time of crisis or uncertainty, brings its own unique challenges. Managers and leaders overseeing teams working remotely for the first time need to put in place common-sense measures to maximize the effectiveness of their teams.

Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) on staff competency states that communities and people affected by crisis must receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers. How is this possible when most organizations have adopted remote working and management of their staff?

Webinar on The Role of Human Resources (HR) in Remote Management during Covid-19 Response

This interactive webinar organized by Community World Service Asia and its Q&A partners, on April 28th, discussed the challenges encountered in remote management and promoted the role of HR in facilitating an effective remote management process among the regional humanitarian and development community in Asia.

Human Resource professionals and senior management members of organizations representing twelve countries from around the world participated and contributed to the discussions in this two-hour webinar.

Access was highlighted as key to remote management during the session.

Remote management has a lot to do with access. Advanced technology has made it possible to stay connected at times like these when we are facing non-reachable access. But we have to also consider those countries and areas where there is limited or no technology to maintain connectivity. This is where the different categories of remote management play a prominent role where management delegates, control and support remotely,

stated Uma Narayanan, webinar facilitator.

Putting in place clear guidelines on the various categories of remote management for staff and employees is critical.

Before COVID-19, we used remote management guidelines for certain restricted areas or locations which we could not access frequently. However, the importance of remote management has increased immensely in this crisis. As a Monitoring & Evaluation professional, we should aim at developing simple tools, having clear guidelines that cater to all parameters of the project. For remote management, we have to utilize the digital platform for increased access,

 shared Fayyaz Ahmed Fayyaz, from Agha Khan Development Network in Pakistan.

In a group exercise where participants were divided into virtual breakout rooms during the webinar, participants discussed and highlighted the key challenges of remote management. Participants raised that many organizations lack remote management policies or performance management systems that effectively evaluate remote working. The limited capacity of some staff on digital and advanced technology and software used during remote working for communication, coordination, planning and monitoring was also recognized as a challenge. Unstable internet connections at homes, lack of psychosocial support, ensuring staff commitment and motivation and implementing digital HR processes such as virtual recruitment were identified as common challenges. Most INGOs are typically well-resourced in terms of IT and digital systems, however this often is not the case with NGOs and CBOs.

Best Practices & Reflections

Participants shared various measures taken by their organizations to increase effectiveness of remote management. Organizations are ensuring staff awareness for response to COVID-19 and how to protect themselves and others. Clear guidelines and principles with regards to work from home have been defined in workplaces. Emphasis have been put on staff well-being and consequently, psychological first aid for staff and volunteers is made available when the need arises. Online mentoring for leadership level and dissemination of health and safety policies are also among the best practices.

We were well prepared as we are used to working remotely. We have different management teams and a contingency plan which mentions the guidelines for working at home. The plan identifies different scenarios and mentions the risks, according to which measures are taken to provide maximum support to staff for convenient work from home. In addition, our organization has developed policies regarding work from home to ensure staff’s knowledge on the terms and conditions of working from home. Likewise, we utilize social networks including WhatsApp to reach staff and community.

Yeni, Care International

We are all going through similar situations and circumstances. We have always had a work from home policy. But this time around, this is not our usual work from home kind. This situation has specifically influenced our deliverables of the project that need to be implemented and we are answerable to our donors. As an HR professional we are constantly keeping in touch with the staff who are scattered around Nepal and providing them the flexibility to work at their own space. We hold weekly meetings just to know how the staff is coping and offer counseling when needed.

Prajana, Nepal

My key takeaway from today’s session was the different techniques to adopt for remote management such as use of technology, and various modes of increased communication with staff and community via telephones, mobile phones and online groups. In addition, to conduct productive and interactive meetings, organizations should adopt various online tools including GoToMeeting, Zoom, Business Skype and many others easily accessible on the internet. We can observe the features of the software and see which best suits our nature of work. The group activity was interesting as each group was divided in separate virtual rooms to discuss the challenges of remote management. Learning different challenges provided a broader view of looking at how remote management can be well-managed to bring out positive outcomes.

Fayyaz Ahmed Fayyaz, AKND, Pakistan

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