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


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.

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When: October 15, 2020
What time: 11AM (Geneva, Switzerland time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working with NGOs, INGOs, UN agencies and academic institutes
Format: Presentation & Discussion
Panelists will make a five-minute presentation that will be followed by questions and answers, providing a space for participants to ask questions.

Background and Purpose

Accountability to affected populations has been a long-standing discussion in the aid sector. During the World Humanitarian summit in 2016 there was a renewed call to accelerate progress. Commitment 6 of the Grand Bargain urges humanitarian actors to enable a ‘participation revolution’ i.e. “include people receiving aid in decisions which affect their lives”. The Core Humanitarian Standard encourages humanitarian actors to create situations where “communities and people affected by crisis know their rights and entitlements, have access to information and participate in decisions that affect them.”

What is becoming more evident for local actors is that Accountability to Affected Populations can only become possible when there is Principled Partnership which creates mutually trustful environment and where accountability is not one-way, but two-ways – not only upward but downward as well. And it requires behavioural change from both partners. Principled Partnership means co-designing; co-creating processes with partners and the community.

Localisation is not only about the transfer of more resources to local actors but requires revolutionary change in the systems and processes to enable real participation of the major stakeholders in decision-making of aid. It is about power and it is about challenging the barriers that perpetuates power imbalance brought about by centuries of unequal relationships in the power structures. The formalistic complaints and response mechanisms and other accountability mechanisms are not adequate enough to address the more deep-seated problems, attitudes, behaviour and mind-sets. We need to establish a more conscious culture of accountability.

The webinar will help to explore:

  • Who is accountable to whom?
  • What needs to shift to improve partnership to deliver accountability to affected populations?
  • How do we deal with the deeper-rooted issues of PSEA?
  • How can we create a more conscious culture of accountability?
Webinar Speakers

Regina “Nanette” Salvador-Antequisa – Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. – Executive Director

Regina “Nanette” Salvador-Antequisa is the founding Executive Director of Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (ECOWEB) and convenor of the Community Led Emergency Action Response Network (CLEARNet) in the Philippines that actively promotes survivor and community-led response (SCLR) to crisis approach – a humanitarian-development-peace nexus advocacy in action. She has been in peace and development work for over 25 years and engaged in local and national policy advocacy on the issues of disaster, poverty, conflict, environment and governance. She is actively involved in international advocacy on localisation of humanitarian aid through her engagement with Charter4Change, Local to Global Protection and participation in the World Humanitarian Action Forum. She is the chair of global Alliance for Empowering Partnership (A4EP).

Bernadette Castel-Hollingsworth – Deputy Director of the Division of International Protection (Field Protection Service), UNHCR – Co-Chair IASC Results Group 2 Accountability and Inclusion

Ms. Castel-Hollingsworth joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2000 and has held numerous positions in Protection and Management in Pakistan, Liberia, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Jordan, Myanmar, and Egypt. From November 2017-December 2018, Ms. Castel-Hollingsworth was Senior Protection Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after which she was deployed on emergency support missions to Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Since May 2019, she has joined UNHCR’s headquarters in Geneva where she is the Deputy Director of the Division of International Protection (Field Protection Service).

Angelina Nyajima Simon Jial – Hope Restoration – Executive Director

Angelina Nyajima Simon Jial is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope Restoration South Sudan, formed on 23 March 2010 in Unity State, South Sudan. The organization’s major area of focus is ending gender-based violence and force and early child marriage; keeping girls in schools; improving women’s standard of living; investing in food security and livelihoods; empowering women to be peacebuilders.

Angelina has chaired the National NGO Forum for two terms and represents national NGOs on the UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and other country coordination mechanisms. Angelina is a Member of A4EP, Grand Bargain Localization Work stream 2 and, also a member of Call to Action. In March 2019, she addressed the Security Council on the issues of SGBV in South Sudan and lack of accountability particularly the Bentiu incident where over 150 women and Girls were raped during food distribution and most especially when going to collect firewood.

Tanya Wood – Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance – Executive Director

Ms. Wood is the Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, a network of more than 150 organization making aid work better for people, through application of the Core Humanitarian Standard. She brings more than 20 years management and leadership experience in the international humanitarian sector, predominantly in international membership organizations.

Marvin Parvez – Community World Service Asia – Regional Director

Marvin Parvez has twenty-eight years of experience in humanitarian relief, development, and advocacy in Asia, Europe and the Pacific. Marvin is also highly experienced in lobbying, advocacy, and resource mobilization. He has long-standing interests in setting quality and accountability standards, visibility and image building, as well as donor relations and networking. Marvin has been a strong & committed voice for just, dignified and equal partnerships between northern and southern NGOs.  Marvin believes that if partnership paradigm is not changed & worshiping of brands & bottom-lines replaced by dignified & empowering partnerships, the whole sector and specially, large northern NGOs will experience decline and lose credibility.

To register for the webinar, please click on this link: Who is Accountable to Whom?

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When: September 29, 2020
What time: 11 AM (Geneva, Switzerland time)
Where: ZOOM – Link will be shared with registered participants
Language: English
How long: 90 minutes
Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners committed to the dream of Localisation all over the world, academics and donors
Format: Presentation & Discussion


Background: International Humanitarian response is a show of solidarity towards the populations affected by crisis. The International humanitarian aid is made available out of a fundamental recognition of shared humanity and solidarity.

There are small and large humanitarian disasters all around the world. Normally, it is the local authorities working together with Civil Society actors and the citizens who show solidarity and are the first and longer-term responders to those disasters. Local solidarity continues to be expressed in times of crisis as a seemingly innate response to human suffering. This was true in the Nepal Earthquake, in response to the influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, the grassroots organisations to response to refugee crisis in Greece, France, Italy and Germany, The White Helmets in Syria, Proactiva Open Arms in the Mediterranean, the Women of Las Patronas in Mexico, those who are running food banks in the UK, US and other parts of the world during Covid 19 response. All these are true embodiments of the ‘essence of humanitarianism’ in everyday acts. However, what is particularly problematic is “the way in which grassroots expressions of solidarity are pressed to better align with the ‘Professional’ humanitarian’s unique interpretation of humanity and solidarity.”

The Anti-racism protests across the globe, led by the Black Lives Matter movement and others, has put a spotlight on deeply ingrained historic and systemic racist attitudes and racial discrimination that deny people their fundamental human rights. It has –finally created the opening to speak about racism and attitudes of colonialist superiority also in the ‘humanitarian’ sector. We need to work in solidarity to tackle inequality and injustice, not only in the society around us, but also in our own ‘aid sector’.

The webinar will help to explore:

  • How is humanitarian solidarity expressed?
  • What attitudes and behaviours show solidarity?
  • What lessons have we learned about solidarity during Covid-19 crisis?
  • What impact does the recent discourse on racism and de-colonisation of aid have on solidarity?

What is the way forward?


Mrs. Ritah Nansereko

Ritah Nansereko, Is a teacher by profession but also studied Human Rights at Masters, plus postgraduate studies in leadership. She is a Human Rights Advocate, and currently serves as the Executive Director of a local humanitarian organization- African Women and Youth Action for Development- AWYADbased in Uganda. She is the Chairperson for Charter4Change Working Group in Uganda and a member for the African NGO Council which is hosted in Sierra Leone, and a member of the steering committee of the National Humanitarian Platform.

Ritah has over 8 years of experience in responding to humanitarian crises, particularly the safety and protection needs of refugee women and Children, as well as victims of massive land evictions. During her career, she has worked on a number of successful campaigns at both national and regional level. For example the campaign against land grabbing and massive land evictions in Uganda, the campaign on the regulation of GMOs in Uganda, the campaign to include Local Governments in refugee planning and response, to mention a few. She will be leading the discussions.

M Rezaul Karim Chowdhury

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury is leading “COAST “(, a CSO working for coastal poor in Bangladesh. COAST is the first Asian organization to receive HQAI ( certificate on quality management and accountability. He was also on the board of different international bodies; at present he represents humanitarian organization from southern countries on IASC – OPAG (Inter Agency Standing Committee- Operational Policy and Advocacy Group). He participated in the Principles of Partnership (PoP), Grand Bargain (GB) and Charter 4 Change (C4C) discourse. He leads along with others the localization mobilization in Bangladesh through Bd cso process ( and in Rohingya Response through CCNF ( He is also part of international conveners’ committee of A4EP (Alliance for Empowering Partnership, He believes in complementarity and inclusiveness in the CSO sector. He also believes that UN agencies should provide more robust technical assistance, support and promote of local CSO development.

Regina “Nanette” Salvador-Antequisa

Regina “Nanette” Salvador-Antequisa is the founding Executive Director of Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (ECOWEB) and convenor of the Community Led Emergency Action Response Network (CLEARNet) in the Philippines that actively promotes survivor and community-led response (SCLR) to crisis approach – a humanitarian-development-peace nexus advocacy in action. She has been in peace and development work for over 25 years and engaged in local and national policy advocacy on the issues of disaster, poverty, conflict, environment and governance.

She is actively involved in international advocacy on localisation of humanitarian aid through her engagement with Charter4Change, Local to Global Protection and participation in the World Humanitarian Action Forum. She is the chair of global Alliance for Empowering Partnership (A4EP).

Dorothea Hilhorst

Dorothea Hilhorst is a professor of humanitarian studies at the International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University in The Hague. Her focus is on aid-society relations: studying how aid is embedded in the context. She has a special interest in the intersections of humanitarianism with development, peacebuilding and gender-relations. Her latest research programme aims to understand changes in humanitarian governance in relation to localisation and resilience, and to reform humanitarian studies towards equal partnerships and participatory methodologies. Email:  Twitter: @hilhorst_thea

To register for the webinar, please click on this link: Solidarity and Diversity 

2020Wed16Sep2:00 PM4:00 PMFeaturedWebinar: Experience sharing - Lessons and challenges of field staff during the Corona crisis2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Theme:Quality and Accountability,COVID-19Type:Training,WebinarRegister here

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.

2020Wed19Aug11:00 AM1:00 PMFeaturedE-Training: Performance Management and Staff Well-Being in a Remote Management Context11:00 AM - 1:00 PM Theme:Quality and Accountability,COVID-19Type:TrainingRegister here


Photo credit: Suwaree Tangbovornpichet/Getty Images

Prepared by CWSA, BBC MA and First Draft

In the COVID-19 pandemic, each one of us is responsible for slowing the spread of the virus. Every action counts. Similarly, one must be accountable in the fight against propaganda, and the spread of misinformation, rumours and hear-say. The rise of digital and social media has enabled the spread of misinformation at a speed and scale not seen before. The World Health Organization (WHO) has described this phenomenon as an infodemic. We, the civil society and responsible media, acknowledge that the infodemic has spread faster than the pandemic itself and action must be taken at a personal level to mitigate this.

Community World Service Asia, BBC Media Action and First Draft jointly hosted a webinar on Understanding and Handling Misinformation in the COVID-19 context. Genevieve Hutchinson, Senior Health Advisor, BBC Media Action moderated the session and was joined by speakers Victoria Kwan, Ethics and Standards Editor, First Draft and Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor, BBC Media Action.

The 90-minute webinar discussed an overview of the current infodemic, the reasons behind and challenges faced because of the spread of mis and dis- information during the COVID-19 pandemic and best practices and strategies for best addressing and handling this sort of a communication crisis.

“The infodemic related to COVID-19 started incredibly quickly. By the end of January, there were already WhatsApp messages, claiming to be from a Ministry of Health or from different governmental offices going around multiple countries. These messages claimed to share preventive measures of coronavirus, except all the information in them was false,” said Genevieve. “There was a challenge to handle a mass of information which was both false and fact based.”

Research on social media propaganda shows that bystander inaction can encourage the proliferation of fake news. Anyone with access to the internet can contribute to the war on misinformation.

It is essential to work on this together as misinformation affects everyone.

“It is not just a communication issue, it is not just a media issue and it affects us personally and professionally,” Genevieve said.

What do we mean by misinformation?

Misinformation can refer to a range of false information, including:

  1. Rumours: Unverified information that is transmitted between people.
  2. Misinformation: Incorrect information that people share without realising that it is false or misleading
  3. Disinformation: When people intentionally create false or misleading information, for example to make money, have political influence or maliciously cause harm or trouble.

Misinformation about health or any other issue is not new. Long before the internet era, people have faced the challenge of misinformation. The issue now is the speed in which it travels; the nature of social media and the internet means that there is a lot of misinformation that can be created and shared within a matter of minutes to millions of people. This can be done without verification. The more the information is shared, the more credibility it gains.

“The challenge is that misinformation can have negative impacts. It can harm human reputation, it can cause widespread uncertainty, panic and fear and it can make people take decisions that are harmful to themselves or others. And we have witness this in the case of the current pandemic – COVID-19,” emphasized Genevieve.

When the pandemic started, First Draft staffers around the globe began tracking the kinds of coronavirus content that was available online to identify patterns and trends that they could then share with newsrooms and other communications professionals. Some of the challenges identified in this process included:

  • Overabundance of information
  • Well-intentioned sharing
  • Closed online spaces
  • Visual, memetic and video content

“One thing that makes the current infodemic different is the sheer quantity of information that is flooding the online ecosystem. It is coming at a time when people are feeling particularly scared and vulnerable and when there are so many unknowns about the virus’ origins and treatments. Low-quality information can add to the noise and drown out high-quality information,” shared Victoria.  

Humans do not have a rational relationship with information but an emotional connection felt with the information that is received and shared.

“This is the part that makes the infodemic very challenging. We need to understand why people are sharing misinformation and create content and strategies to address that. We need to further think on how we can help people change attitudes around sharing. Media literacy efforts to teach people how to stop and think before sharing are incredibly important,” added Victoria.

The human brain is able to process and recall visuals much faster than a text, which makes the memes and pictures very effective. Placing emphasis on the impact of visual misinformation, Victoria said,

“The visual content is tempting to share sometimes as people think it is funny or it’s amusing. It can feel harmless to share it. But when it is forwarded a number of times to the wider audience, it can become a problem. It is also more difficult to track and monitor visual misinformation compared to textual misinformation. To meet these challenges, we need to develop better ways of tracking visual misinformation. We need to learn how to counteract misinformation with visual content of our own and understand the attitude of people sharing these visual contents.”

Journalists play a crucial role in getting accurate information out to the public, but face the challenge of cutting through the noise. To help meet these challenges, First Draft has created a free Coronavirus Course, which may also be of use to NGOs and other community groups. Provided in six different languages, the course will walk you through how and why false information spreads, provides techniques for monitoring and verifying information online and shares best practices on slowing down the spread of misinformation.

Additionally, First Draft believes that collaborations between newsrooms is crucial. Collaborations can help newsrooms avoid duplication of efforts such as in the case of verification of specific information. In addition, it also allows newsrooms to examine the kinds of misinformation and rumors that have spread in other regions, and anticipate what their own communities might be seeing next.

The media can help curb widespread misinformation. BBC Media Action has been providing people with accurate and relevant information including fact checking. They have created a space for discussion, dialogue and reflection on issues that can drive the spread of misinformation. They aim at influencing attitudes and norms behind sharing mis- and disinformation online and improving critical digital and media literacy skills among audiences.

BBC Media Action has adopted social and behavior change communications (SBCC) approaches to influence audiences’ behavior in relation to issue that can be subject to misinformation.

“We take a more holistic approach to combat misinformation which includes capacity strengthening of media practitioners and organizations and to broaden the agenda around media development to support and strengthen the quality and independence of media,” explained Radharani.

There has been a range of COVID-19 related content created by BBC Media Action.

“In all of the countries where we work, we have established audiences from existing programs across a range of media platforms from TV to radio and to various social media channels. Consequently, we were able to revert the audiences in a fast pace who required information on COVID-19 and we capitalized on the existing relationship engagement and trust we had with these audiences. Much of this has been done online as it’s the fastest way to get content out and reach mass audiences.”

Radharani highlighted that it is not merely enough for health information to be credible, it also needs to be grounded in the realities of the target audience and it must be contextualised to be accurate and effective. Messages on COVID-19 awareness need to be localised using local talent and local languages to make an impact that is required for a pandemic of this nature and magnitude.

“We initially aimed at providing factual and accurate information, to build understanding about prevention and what to do in the case of suspected symptoms of coronavirus with the focus on quality information rather than quantity. It has been a two-fold strategy, to work as quickly as possible and creating content that is generic enough so that it can be shared across countries and can be easily adapted for any country or any language. We have also worked on developing country specific content suited to a particular context,” Radharani said.

In addition, BBC Media Action has rolled out online and remote training and mentoring for local media on how to respond to the pandemic, available in multiple languages.

Mitigating Misinformation in the COVID-19 Context

Participants asked how they could fact check and verify information.

“There are different tactics that can be used. We encourage the audience to do lateral reading, which means looking at other trusted sites and resources and examining what they say about the claim you are seeking to verify. In the case of an image, conduct a reverse image search on Google or Yandex and verify whether it actually depicts what it claims to depict,” advised Victoria.

Radharani added that one has to be extra vigilant in groups where mass information sharing takes place.

“If one feels any doubt about a piece of information, it is important to call it out immediately. We have to be cautious and encourage skeptical behavior to combat misinformation.”

Her top tips are:

  • Understand (and listen to) your audience(s) and keep an eye on rumours and misinformation that are circulating
  • Tailor content to context where possible
  • Provide clear, simple, precise and actionable information
  • Be credible – use trusted voices or communication platforms
  • Remember the battle for engagement – and so the need for engaging and shareable formats/ approaches
  • Quality, not necessarily quantity
  • Follow the 10 seconds rule: Stop and think. If you have doubts, do a quick research before sharing ahead
  • Influence attitudes and norms around sharing information – it’s not all about fact-checking

There were questions raised on how to address misinformation with organizations who have limited access to media in the context of the current pandemic. Radharani addressed the question saying,

“We have developed a series of audio messages on hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing and symptoms and treatments. This has been specifically developed for rural audiences. For this reason, we have tied up with the aggregator of community radio stations. Our audio spots will be heard across community radio stations that are reaching people residing in remote areas with limited access to smartphones. We have to tailor dissemination and broadcast strategies and they have to be bespoke to the situations we have on hand.”

Participants also asked about how people could strike a balance between sharing healthy awareness-raising information and that which would cause anxiety. The content we see every day can be distressing and tiring, and it can feel like we do not get a break from it even outside of work. To address this, its best balance to out the negative content with some positive content, like number of people who have recovered and how families are spending more time with each other and news that exhibits “good vibes”. It is also recommended to rephrase the language so that it’s not panic-inducing or too alarming.

Questions were asked on how to manage and counter misinformation through social media.

“We need to keep trying to change the culture around sharing misinformation. In addition, we need to encourage people to practice emotional skepticism and thinking before passing on information to others. We also need to do a better job of explaining the tactics and techniques behind misinformation. Audiences should be made aware of the different types of misinformation and why is it so easy to believe them,” suggested Victoria.  

Participants inquired around methods to track rumors and if they were available online, in order to combat that spread of misinformation. Radharani addressed the question saying,

“The responsibility to track how misinformation is spreading is not up to an individual. This is where media development comes into focus. It is to build the capacity of journalists and media professionals so that they can fact-check. As far as individual behavior is concerned, we’ve tried to build their confidence and competence in feeling more responsible while sharing, making people more conscious of sharing, and work on their media literacy.”

Useful Resources

  1. How to protect yourself in the infodemic? By WHO
  2. Covering coronavirus: an online course for journalists
  3. 1st WHO Infodemiology Conference
  4. Don’t get duped. Just learn to verify – Training course
  5. First Draft’s Guide to Verifying online information

  • 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.


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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Cash-based aid is known to be one of the most successful strategies that support vulnerable individuals and populations stand on their feet and move on their path towards rehabilitation. Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is therefore largely being applied as a popular modality of responding to different forms of emergencies and is capable of addressing a wide range of needs of affected populations to help them cope with the crises while upholding their dignity.

Community World Service Asia and the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) jointly hosted a webinar on Cash and Voucher Assistance in response to COVID-19 on June 17. The webinar aimed to facilitate the wider aid community to enhance their understanding of Cash and Voucher Assistance as a modality response to different types of crises and emergencies, especially focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jose Jodar, Senior Technical Officer at CaLP, Spain, led the session and was joined by speakers Regina “Nanette” Salvador-Antequisa, Founding Executive Director, Ecosystem Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (ECOWEB), Chair of A4EP, Philippines and Sudhanshu S. Singh, Founder and CEO Humanitarian Aid Internation (HAI), International Coordinator A4EP, India.

CaLP was introduced as a network launched in 2015, with only five founding members.  Today CALP has over 90 members with a presence in various regions such as Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean and the Middle East. It is a global partnership of humanitarian actors engaged in policy, practice and research on CVA.

Cash is an excellent tool to respond to multiple sectors’ needs, insists Jose.

“There are sectoral approaches represented mainly by voucher assistance for specific goods or services. CVA further includes monitoring the outcomes and impact of direct cash among the recipients in various sectors including health, WASH, education, livelihoods and others.”

Cash and Voucher Assistance is pivotal to many humanitarian responses. It does not necessarily need to be used for emergencies alone, but can also be used for preparedness, early recovery and building resilience initiatives.

“More and more cash is being considered between humanitarian assistance and development now,” says Jose.

In a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, aid workers (58% participants) find identifying vulnerable populations as the biggest challenge to plan and implement CVA.


How can CVA be used as a modality response to COVID-19 crisis? And why Cash? [1]

The delivery of cash can effectively meet the needs of the affected populations for better recovery at scale. CVA has been seen as a safer option to provide rapid relief, where conditions allow. COVID-19 has opened doors for coordination at the front lines with various organisations and sectors to execute new delivery mechanisms.

The COVID-19 response, with all the various actors involved and on-going programs in place, paves a pathway towards better coordination in terms of aligning assistance to protection programs with humanitarian CVA. The use of social protection systems to support vulnerable people is becoming increasingly common in developing countries and can provide a channel through which CVA can be delivered in the current pandemic. But increased coordination between humanitarian and development actors in the long term is a prerequisite to ensure its effectiveness.

Jose shared useful resources during the webinar to support organisations with better understanding and preparing for likely impacts of COVID-19 on their work and if CVA could be applied in the contexts that they work. The resources also included detailed guidelines on safely and effectively running CVA projects at each stage of the programme cycle.

Experience Sharing from the ground:

“In ECOWEB, we are promoting survivor and a community-led response (SCLR) to crisis approach that considers cash programming as an empowering tool in crisis response,”

says Nanette while sharing best practices during the webinar. She emphasized on how cash enables flexibility and allows aid recipients, as individuals and as collective groups, to address their real time needs with dignity and respect.

Diverse leanings have been observed through ECOWEB’s experience of applying the SCLR approach, using the cash modality in various crisis settings, involving people of different ethnicities, culture and faith. Trust has been identified as an essential element for making cash response a norm in crises response. There is a need for trust in the people’s desire to help themselves, in their capacity to plan, prioritize, design, manage and implement their own response action. Trust is a critical factor in effective localization as well while ensuring transparency and accountability. Instituting multidirectional accountability mechanism is also vital. ECOWEB’s work promotes downward accountability, of aid providers to the aid recipients, and sideward accountability, within the organization management system as local facilitators of aid.

Nanette highlighted the need of flexibility and timeliness in cash aid.

“We need to be quick in response during crisis. In our experience of responding to COVID-19, having our own flexible and limited funding readily available to us, we were able to respond immediately to the most vulnerable groups of people affected by the virus. The limited funds, however, addressed the priority needs of the affected people and it enabled community-based groups to prioritize the real time needs of their members.”

For cash programming to become a real empowering tool through SCLR approach, ECOWEB recognises the need for changing institutional roles, relationships, systems and humanitarian framework to make aid recipients the center of humanitarian response and not the aid itself.

When HAI started Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) this year, they were one of the early responders to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a unique kind of a challenge for them as they were faced with a lockdown situation which restricted their mobility. Sudhanshu expressed,

“This was the first disaster of its kind in which we were unaware of the number of people affected. We were dealing here with the secondary affected population facing the economic disaster due to the closure of all activities and not the individuals physically afflicted with the virus itself.”

With a strong social media presence, HAI publicized its early response and caught the attention of millions of affected people in-country and received support that exceeded their expectations.

“Coming up with an innovative approach, HAI addressed the needs of community members without making a physical presence. When HAI receives a distress call, a team member calls the recipient in response to verify the need. It is difficult to verify the needs. However, incorporating the element of trust, the team would do a quick assessment over phone to identify the person’s eligibility to get food support from the government. We would develop a list of essential food items required by the affected individual and get it approved. Through online payment to the nearest grocery shop located to the recipient’s house, the recipient would then be directed to visit the grocery shop and collect its essential items. We were able to help thousands of affected families in this way.”

This pandemic has not only affected the people who live below poverty but has also affected a large population of middle-class families.

“To ensure providing aid with dignity, our helpline assisted many families who did not have to face us physically. Rather we provided aid through online mechanisms. In some instances, HAI offered cash support to cover house rentals and buy vital food products as family members were laid off and consequently had little means of income to pay household expenditures,” shared Sudhanshu.

Participants’ Reflections:

Sixty-two percent of the webinar participants were already engaged in some kind of cash and voucher assistance to COVID-19 affected communities and shared their experiences and learnings so far.

  • In the beginning of the pandemic, wider communities were severely affected economically due by the global lockdowns, however, with the gradual lifting of lockdowns, the humanitarian community may find it challenging to convince donors on adopting CVA. To convince the wider funding community on CVA, more emphasis should be laid on designing attractive CVA packages
  • Conducting a need assessment for CVA programs at a mass level in this pandemic will be challenging in terms of access to remote regions and time constraints
  • Many people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 which has led to an increased request for CVA. In the case of this pandemic, it is difficult to identify who is most in need and who is not.
  • While CVA projects are being proposed, will donors be willing to cover health facility for the staff that are front line workers, as transmission of Covid has no boundaries?
Useful CVA Learning Resources:

[1] Participants at the webinar raised these questions.