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Format: Webinar presentation, discussion
When:  2nd February 2022
Time:  2.00 PM-3:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: Zoom – Link to be shared with registered participants.
Register: here
Language:  English
How long:  60 minutes
For:  Safeguarding focal points, senior managers of national, international and regional NGOs and aid/development networks

Moderator and Trainer:  Ester Dross

Background:

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organisation registered in Pakistan, addressing factors that divide people by promoting inclusiveness, shared values, diversity, and interdépendance. CWSA is highly committed towards people centered aid and Accountability to Affected People. Over the last two years, we have offered different webinars, covering various aspects on safeguarding and aiming to raise more awareness on key aspects of accountability such as establishing efficient and transparent complaints systems and protection from and prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Safeguarding is a key pillar to any accountability measures that organisations must integrate into their programmes and working cycle.

When people we work with or for feel unsafe within their workspace or global environment, this has critical negative impacts on the quality of our work and the objectives we intend to reach. It is therefore important that we are more aware and increase our efforts for a better understanding of the issues at hand.

This webinar is part of a series of 6 one-hour webinars, covering safeguarding, key policies and minimum requirements, Complaints systems, Complaints handling and managing investigations and communication. The last webinar will be dedicated to experiences sharing and best practices.

We are now reaching the second part of our 6-session series. We spoke generally about safeguarding and how three organisations set up their safeguarding framework, followed by an interactive session where participants explored the key policies and guidelines they need to have in place in terms of safeguarding. The last time we met we spoke more in-depth about complaints systems, the necessary minimum requirements and how to ensure they are appropriate and user-friendly.

Objectives:

During our 4th webinar on the 2nd February 2022, we want to dedicate more time to explore how to manage investigations. If we were successful in setting up our safeguarding processes, if the complaints systems we set up are confidential, trustworthy, accessible and transparent, we should have an increase of complaints as a result. We therefore need excellent processes to handle these complaints and guarantee safe, independent and fair investigation processes.

The webinar today will explore the following topics:

  • The decision making process on external or internal investigation processes
  • How to plan an investigation and manage an investigation team
  • What to communicate around complaints and investigations
  • Taking into account Data safeguarding and protection

Moderator & Presenter:

Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

Ms Dross is an indépendant consultant with over 25 years of expérience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection. Ms Dross has 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 Organisations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of bénéficiaires, 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

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Webinar on: Complaints Mechanisms

Format: Webinar presentation, discussion
When:  20th January 2022
Time:  2.00 PM-3:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: Zoom – Link to be shared with registered participants.
Register: here
Language:  English
How long:  60 minutes
For:  Safeguarding focal points, senior managers of national, international and regional NGOs and aid/development networks
Moderator and Trainer:  Ester Dross

Background:

CWSA is a humanitarian and development organisation registered in Pakistan, addressing factors that divide people by promoting inclusiveness, shared values, diversity, and interdépendance. CWSA is highly committed towards Accountability to Affected People and people centered aid. Over the last two years, we have offered different webinars, covering various aspects on safeguarding and aiming to raise more awareness on key aspects of accountability such as establishing efficient and transparent complaints systems and protection from and prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. Safeguarding is a key pillar to any accountability measures that organizations must integrate into their Programmes and working cycle.

When people we work with or for feel unsafe within their workspace or global environment, this has critical negative impacts on the quality of our work and the objectives we intend to reach. It is therefore important that we are more aware and increase our efforts for a better understanding of the issues at hand.

This webinar is part of a series of 6 one-hour webinars, covering safeguarding, key policies and minimum requirements, Complaints systems, Complaints handling and managing investigations and communication. The last webinar will be dedicated to experience sharing and best practice

Objectives:

This third event follows an introductory session on safeguarding where three organizations shared their experience in setting up a safeguarding framework and an interactive session where participants explored the key policies and guidelines they need to have in place in terms of safeguarding. During this session, we would like to:

  • Explore more in-depth complaints systems and necessary minimum requirements to understand essential components
  • Ensure they are appropriate and user-friendly
  • Discuss and explore challenges and solutions

Moderator & Presenter:

Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

Ms. Dross is an indépendant consultant with over 25 years of expérience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

Ms. Dross has had an extensive exposure to humanitarian certification systems and accountability to affected populations while working with HAP International as their Complaints Handling and Investigation Advisor, later as their Certification Manager. She has been closely involved in the Building Safer Organisations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of bénéficiaires, 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 projet 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

A second virtual Sphere Asia Country Focal Points[1] meeting took place to encourage open dialogue and share new learnings around the application of Sphere and other related Quality & accountability standards among focal points in the region. Hosted in the last week of November by Community World Service Asia (CWSA), which is also Sphere’s regional partner in Asia, the meeting was attended by focal points from China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Wassila Mansouri, Sphere Network and Membership Coordinator, also participated in the meeting to share the new Sphere Strategy 2021-2025, offer advisory support and address any related queries by focal points.

Shama Mall, CWSA’s Deputy Regional Director, emphasised on the importance of these quarterly meetings to establish open communication, exchange best practices and discuss regional challenges. Participants were encouraged to explore creative ways of continuing to promote quality and accountability standards in their respective countries in the face of contextual challenges and changing dynamics. 

“Sphere Standards are being embraced by an increasing international community of trainers and practitioners. Furthermore, we at Sphere have a variety of thematic guides, training packages, learning tools, and online resources that are accessible to all partners and relevant stakeholders to use in their respective locations,” shared Wassila as she discussed Sphere’s key accomplishments over the years. She went on to define the key priorities of the new Sphere Strategy and shared the new governance arrangements.Wassila highlighted the particular attention that is given to increased awareness, uptake, accessibility and localisation in the new strategy through the use of engaging digital platforms, activities and the provision of handbook translations and physical and online trainings. 

Sphere’s fundraising initiative was also introduced to focal points in the meeting. This offers funding to focal points interested in working on initiatives that promote localisation and aims to help increase Sphere Standards ownership and application among members.

Participants recommended developing digital handbook platforms for increased interaction between Sphere, partner organisations, and community members to enhance collaborations and best practises across humanitarian standards. The strategic priorities including encouragement of accountability and learning through a better understanding and articulation of evidence of impact. The focal points were encouraged to share impact based visibility material, such as case studies and videos, map annual review against the strategic priorities and increase external engagement and advocacy with international partners and organisations.

Shama applauded Sphere’s initiative to focus more on supporting focal points, regardless of the fact that resource mobilisation has remained a challenge. She stressed on the need for focal points to identify creative ways of capturing and sharing lessons learned and best practises. It is important for Sphere to promote Sphere more and more with local organisations as well part of their localisation strategy. The focal points can play a vital role in supporting this since we have access to national organisations in our respective countries and regions. 

“Since the Sphere Handbook 2018 was translated into Nepali, the network has distributed over 1500 handbooks to 753 Local Levels in Nepal with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We have also scheduled trainings with local government officials on disaster risk reduction and management, which will include a focus on the Sphere Standards,” shared Raja Thapa of DPNet Nepal.

“Sphere Community Bangladesh (SCB) went through a rigorous assessment process of humanitarian projects. In the previous year, we reviewed a range of emergency response projects after the occurrence of cyclone Amphan, for different organisations. After this experience, we felt the need of developing a tool or a framework to assess quality and accountability standards during the evaluation of such projects. These virtual meetups will help in brainstorming ideas to develop these tools.”

In conclusion of the engaging session, CWSA shared some key discussion points for the next meeting, which included developing a paper of best practices, and discussing learnings around working with government counterparts.


[1] Sphere Country Focal Points are experienced humanitarian and development organisations, networks, working groups and even some committed individuals working together to promote the Sphere Standards at country-level.

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When: 16 December 2021
What time: 2.00 PM-3:00 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: Zoom – Link to be shared with registered participants.
For registration click here
Language: English
How long: 60 minutes
For: Safeguarding focal points, senior managers of national, international and regional NGOs and aid/development networks
Moderator and Trainer: Ester Dross

Background:

CWSA is a Pakistani humanitarian and development organisation addressing factor that divide people by promoting inclusiveness, shared values, diversity, and interdépendance.CWSA is highly committed towards Accountability to Affected People and people centered aid. Over the last 2 years, we have offered different webinars, covering various aspects on safeguarding and aiming to raise more awareness on key aspects of accountability such as establishing efficient and transparent complaints systems and protection from and prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment.

Objectives:

Safeguarding is a key pillar to any accountability measures that organisations must integrate into their programmes and working cycle.

When people we work with or for, feel unsafe within their workspace or global environment, this has important negative impacts on the quality of our work and the objectives we intend to reach. It is therefore important that we are more aware and increase our efforts for a better understanding of the issues at hand.

This webinar is part of a series of 6 one-hour remote events, covering Safeguarding, Key policies and minimum requirements, Complaints systems, Complaints handling and Managing Investigations and communication. The last webinar will be dedicated to experience sharing and best practice.

This second event follows an introductory session on Safeguarding where three organizations shared their experiences on setting up a safeguarding framework. In this session, we would like to ensure that the audience is aware of the minimum policies and procedures an organization needs to have in place to be compliant with their responsibility and commitment to accountability and safeguarding.

Moderator and Trainer:

Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

Ms. Dross is an indépendant consultant with over 25 years of expérience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

Ms. Dross has had an extensive exposure to humanitarian certification systems and accountability to affected populations while working with HAP International as their Complaints Handling and Investigation Advisor, later as their Certification Manager. She has been closely involved in the Building Safer Organizations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries, particularly focusing on gender and child protection. Over the last 6 years and since working as an independent consultant, Ester has been leading a pilot project for FAO on accountability and gender mainstreaming in emergencies and working with numerous NGOs including ACT Alliance members, supporting and training their staff on gender issues, child protection, accountability, complaints handling and investigations. She is an experienced investigator herself and has conducted investigations in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.

When: 17 November 2021
What time:2.00 pm (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: Zoom – link to be shared with registered Participants Register Here
Language: English
How long: 60 minutes
Who is it for: Safeguarding focal points, senior managers of national, international and regional NGO’s and networks
Format: Présentations, Discussion
Moderator & Présenter: Ester Dross

Background:

CWSA is a Pakistani humanitarian and development organisation addressing factor that divide people by promoting inclusiveness, shared values, diversity, and interdépendance.CWSA is highly committed towards Accountability to Affected People and people centered aid. Over the last 2 years, we have offered different webinars, covering various aspects on safeguarding and aiming to raise more awareness on key aspects of accountability such as establishing efficient and transparent complaints systems and protection from and prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment.

Objectives:

Safeguarding is a key pillar to any accountability measures organizations must integrate into their Programmes and working cycle.

When people we work with or for feel unsafe within their workspace or global environment, this has important negative impacts on the quality of our work and the objectives we intend to reach. It is therefore important that we are more aware and increase our efforts for a better understanding of the issues at hand.

This first webinar is part of a series of 6 one-hour remote events, covering safeguarding, key policies and minimum requirements, Complaints systems, Complaints handling and managing investigations and communication. The last webinar will be dedicated to experience sharing and best practice.

During our first event, we would like to ensure that participants know what we talk about when talking about safeguarding, feel they are able to identify and act upon gaps within safeguarding frameworks and learn from practical examples.

Moderator and Présenter:

Ester Dross—Independent Consultant

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

When: 11th June, 2021
What time: 2:30 TO 4:30 PM (Pakistan Standard Time)
Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared with registered participants – Register Now
Language: Urdu
How long: 2 hours
Who it is for: Pakistan-based NGOs interested in registration with the Economic Affairs Division (EAD)
Format: Presentations followed by discussion

Speakers:

Ms. Adeela Bukhari – Joint Secretary NGOS/INGOs — Ministry of Economic Affairs Division, Pakistan

Objectives of the webinar:

  • Navigate through the processes and procedures of signing an MOU with EAD in Pakistan
  • Explore the scope and nature of support available to NGOs under the CWSA NGO Help Facility

Background

Civil Society Organizations in Pakistan, especially working at the grass-root level, sometime finds it difficult to navigate through regulatory framework due to lack of understanding to the government procedures and requirements. The regulatory information is at times complex and technical in nature. The need is to simplify the information, develop guidance notes for the documentations and advice on how to do follow-up on their application.

It is critical for all NGOs, small or large, to sign an MOU with the Economic Affairs Division in Pakistan to receive funding and implement projects across Pakistan. The process for the registration with EAD and then the reporting procedures including the submission of Annual Plan of Actions, NOCs for projects and biannual reporting requirements are difficult to fully comprehend for NGOs of all type and scale.

To help overcome this, CWSA is providing practical assistance to local and national NGOs in Pakistan that require assistance with any of the processes and procedural requirements for application to EAD.

CWSA has established an “NGO Help Facility” for technical discussion, coaching, on-line information resources and virtual clinics to support NGOs intending to file their applications and sign MOUs with the EAD. The help facility will also support organization in understanding the reporting requirements at EAD.

This service is facilitative and free of cost. CWSA will help to clarify application guidelines, support organizations to develop complete application documentation as per EAD requirements, and, guide for any needed follow up. Activities offered by the NGO Help Facility will include the following:

  • Advisory sessions/ days for NGOs
  • Webinars on EAD Process and Procedures
  • 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, and revision 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. CWSA mandate is to support the local NGOs in understanding the process and procedures for the MOU with EAD and ensure complete documentation to avoid unnecessary delays due to incomplete documentations.

Interested in Participating? Register here for the Webinar! 

Community World Service Asia is a Pakistani humanitarian and development organization 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.

2022Tue01FebAll DayFeaturedQuality, Accountability, Safeguarding(All Day: Tuesday) Virtual WorkshopTheme:Quality and AccountabilityType:Event,Webinar

Quality and Accountability mainstreaming includes promoting and sustaining greater accountability to affected populations and to ensure its effectiveness, changes are required at different levels in the organisation. Hosted and organised by Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network’s (ADRRN) Quality and Accountability (Q&A) Hub as part of the 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events[1], a virtual panel discussion held on December 14th, explored the different levels and ways of mainstreaming accountability.

Opening Remark Shama Mall, Regional Director (Acting)
Moderator Uma Narayanan, Independent Consultant
Panelists Mayfourth D. Luneta, Deputy Executive Director, Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP)
Hiroaki Higuchi, Manager of Program Development Division/M&E division, Japan Platform
Coleen Heemskerk, International Director of Strategic Planning, Act church of Sweden.
Participation 92 humanitarian practitioners from around the world

 “Like for many of you, it’s very important for us that during any response or longer-term engagement, the affected communities are treated with dignity, and they fully participate in the process and hold us to account. Mainstreaming is not a onetime process; rather it is a continuous process. Commitment towards accountability and mainstreaming in our experience means leadership Buy-in, willingness to change behaviors and meaningful engagement and participation at community level,” said Shama Mall from Community World Service Asia, during the introduction of the virtual event.

Accountability: A Way of Life

  • How can we ensure Vertical and Horizontal accountability in an organisation?
  • How can we create a balance between learning and accountability within organisations?

Mayfourth D. Luneta emphasised on not just being accountable in policy but to walk the talk as a key indicator of having better services for communities. Center for Disaster Preparedness’s (CDP) vision is to establish safe, resilient and development communities and they work towards that by empowering and strengthening the people in the community for disaster risk reduction and management.

Organisations must engage in constant consultations and interactions with the communities to ensure to efficient programming and accountability processes. Mayfourth further shared,

“In communities we serve, we adopted different methods to keep a check on how CDP is working with the target affected populations. We mainstreamed these methodologies in our projects to monitor our workings whether or not the project required feedback or MEAL[1] planning. One of the tools known as The Evaluation Tree was carried out during the implementation of projects where community members provided continuous feedback on project activities, strategies, results at individual and community level, facilitating and hindering factors and recommendations. By doing this, we are being mindful of how we deal with our communities.”

How do we promote accountability with our partners and governments?

Organisations must continue to advocate and share lessons learnt with the government and relevant stakeholders for them to improve government programs by applying this data taken from the communities. CDC shared its example of The Inclusive Data Management System for Persons with Disabilities project that promotes the inclusion of persons with disabilities in planning, budgeting, and other development processes of local government and agencies, particularly in Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM). The intended outcome of the project is to increase the capacity of local governments to capture specific information on persons with disabilities in their localities.

“This project collects and records information on disability and DRRM through using the Kobo Collect, an open source Android application used in primary data collection for challenging environments. Ultimately, the intended output of the project is the establishment of a comprehensive data management system for persons with disabilities at the municipal or city level. This project is at its finalization stage and the report will be then shared in the near future,” shared Mayfourth.

Quality & Accountability: Donor Perception

Hiroaki Higuchi discussed the limitations of reporting around accountability to donors and project participants. Typically reporting systems provide donors with a written account comprising of information in a form that ensures that the funds donated are used for specifically intended and planned purposes. This is usually in the form of a one-way flow of information from the NGO to the donor, with the focus being on the efficiency with which the donors’ funds have been spent. In some cases, reporting formats often appear inflexible and rarely reflect the voice and experiences of field officers and communities in the field.

There is a predominant belief that many donors simply use quantified metrics and undermine other valuable qualifications and explanations of local conditions contained in the accompanying narrative.

“There must be somethings behind the quantitative performance indicators that can reflect the overall impact of an NGO’s work by the Qualitative performance indicators. To address this issue, I recommend that there be a mixture of quantitative and qualitative performance indicators. A further recommendation in this area is to allow debates and discussions with NGO workers in the field and communities to help and determine appropriate performance indicators for specific project,” said Hiroaki.

One of the drawbacks of accountability mechanisms is that donors are not informed about the unintended consequences and failures in aspects of project delivery. NGOs often find it challenging to report on such outputs as there is not much flexibility in terms of reporting formats and scope. Hiroaki added,

“There can be reluctance on the donors’ part or on the part of NGO to report unintended consequences or failures. In some cases, NGOs prefer to emphasise on the success rather than the failures in humanitarian projects. I believe in the longer term, these failures can help organisations learn and ensure more sustainable development by recognising and responding to the cause of a short-term failure. Furthermore, reporting of unintended consequences in aspects of project delivery is important as it provides an opportunity to inform donors about what kinds of difficulties the NGOs face on the ground in the field level.”

Ensuring Quality and Accountability at an Organisational Level

Following the example of ACT Church of Sweden (CoS), organisations can effectively mainstream quality and accountability through working towards commitments underlined by the Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS):

  • Commitment 1: Human Rights-Based Approach
  • Commitment 2: Gender Mainstreaming through all Programmes
  • Commitment 3: Environmental Sustainability
  • Commitment 4: Equal & Mutually Accountable Partnership

“We became CHS certified to ensure the affected-communities are at the center of our work. We want to ensure that we have to implement with the commitments we have made as an organisation. We, as an organisation, want to commit to continue learning,” remarked Coleen.

A poll was conducted asking the webinar participants to share CHS requirements that they considered most challenging to achieve.

Forty-three percent of the participants chose complain handling as the most challenging aspect to implement in an organisation. It is a common challenge to address how an organisation ensures that it has an open, accessible complaints mechanism?

Coleen shared, “At CoS, we are continuously working on making our complaint mechanism stronger. We also try to make our annual report transparent by reporting about the number of complaints we receive and types of complaints received.”

Reflections

Participants asked about ways to overcome challenges when donors are not open to receiving or reporting failures and the shift required to change this mindset.

 “It is about educating the donor and not think that donors always have that back information. Sometimes it works, but other times it doesn’t. But to be vocal and to push back is vital, by doing it diplomatically and politely to make sure it happens,” advised Coleen.

There were questions raised on trust and whether organisations are doing enough to garner and sustain that trust among communities. Mayfourth addressed the question by saying,

“When we say are we doing enough, I believe its means how we are doing it together with the community. The more we involve the affected-communities in the processes, as well as project interventions, the more we are contributing to the communities. This makes them feel that they are at center of planning, implementation and assessments processes. It is very important for organisations to know for whom they are working for as this will help the project teams to feel the gaps and needs of communities which have to be catered through the interventions.”

Many of the participants also asked about how to truly embed accountability in an organisation’s core values.

“Instead of saying we are implementing the CHS commitments, we have changed this and said that these are our commitments that Act CoS signs on to. We have built them in our policies and programmes.  It is also important that management be continuously questioned on whether or not the commitments are being met as an organisation. For us in Act CoS, we believe in localization and so we are working on how to make this possible in the coming five to ten years. It is about going back to the basics. When we talk about Codes of Conduct, it’s about being a decent person, when we talk about accountability, it’s about doing quality programming.”

“You journey towards accountability is not easy and time consuming, but when we see an increase in personal accountability and if there are questions raised within the organisation about these issues, then we are moving in the right direction,” concluded Uma.


[1] Hosted in collaboration by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Community World Service Asia.

[2] Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning.

Reasons for the lack of reports
Establishing trust within communities through improved communication
Identifying ways of ensuring better dialogue

These were the key discussion points at the webinar on How to Make Complaint Response Mechanism Participatory & Responsive organised and hosted by Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network’s (ADRRN) Quality and Accountability (Q&A) Hub as part of the 2020 Regional NGO Partnership Events[1].

Ester Dross, expert in humanitarian accountability, facilitated the session and was joined by Janet Omogi, PSEA Coordinator at the Afghanistan Inter-Agency ( IASC).

“We have all met in the past to discuss complaints handling, so this is not something new.” A  webinar on Complaints Handling was organised and hosted by Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and Act Church of Sweden in May 2020 and covered basic aspects related to complaints. However, the recent  Humanitarian Accountability Report 2020 published by the CHS Alliance has again highlighted efficient complaints handling as a major gap among humanitarian organisations, with commitment 5 of the Core Humanitarian Standard being marked with the lowest scoring.

“This is worrying considering that efficient complaints handling is the key to close the accountability circle,” said Ester, initiating the discussion at the virtual event.

What are the barriers to Complaint Response Mechanism (CRM)?

Participants at the webinar shared some of the barriers people face while registering a complaint or adopting complaint response mechanisms in their organisations.

In the opening poll of the webinar, 95% of the participants confirmed that they have a complaints response mechanism in place but they also commented that the limited number of channels to receive a complaint is missing in order to make CRM effective within their organisations.

Let us move back to accountability

Accountability is based upon a number of commonly agreed commitments, interlinked with each other, resulting in an accountability circle. The key commitment within this circle is the one on receiving complaints.

If our complaints system is not robust, how do we know if we fulfill the other CHS commitments well? Do we know if our information is appropriate, if participation is meaningful, if our staff is well-trained and well supported, if our program is efficient and timely?  Our gap is the lack of efficient complaints handling; without it, we cannot be sure that we are adhering well to all the other commitments,” remarked Ester.

Giving a Voice to Communities

The IARAN report from 2018, From Voices to Choices, underlines not only the importance of community participation in decision-making and shaping projects, programs, but also contributing to processes and procedures.

“This is only possible when participation really means giving a Voice to communities which results for them to have Choices; it is therefore important to speak up and popularise accountability and a change of organisational culture.”

A quick and efficient way of giving a voice and offering choices to communities is about knowledge sharing. We need to improve and contextualise knowledge and information we share with communities. This knowledge can involve information about our projects, selection criteria, duration of the activity, staff responsibilities, staff obligations, core commitments the organisation and its staff adhere to, behavioral rules applying to staff and volunteers as well as partners, inclusiveness and diversity. Most importantly, how we encourage, receive and handle complaints. Information sharing and improved communication including around sensitive issues contribute to more effective CRM.

A short video was shared on how information can be shared on expected and prohibited behaviour to staff and the communities when technological access allows this.

“The video clearly shows that if we communicate more extensively about duties and rights, the people we work with know what to expect from us. In relation with complaints handling, this means to have more clarity on rules, simplifying the core commitments through appropriate languages and formats. It also means to have a very clear communication within communities that raising a complaint is a right and that the organisation has a duty to respond.

Communicate Effectively and Build Trust

How can we communicate more efficiently on our complaints system?

Communicating clearly about your organisational values, missions, ethics, project activities and explaining obligations and prohibitions in a simple and culturally appropriate way in consultation with communities is key to efficiently communicating about complaints systems.  It is vital to have different channels of communication for communities and other stakeholders for raising complaints: this could be through a hotline, an email, a trusted community member, and/or an external service provider.

“Communicate and demonstrate clearly that sensitive complaints will be handled outside the project or community level, that they will be forwarded to the central safeguarding unit or management and dealt with independently and professionally. Take time and be inclusive, sit together with management and staff, but also with community leaders and members to find appropriate channels and solutions to improve communications with communities and including awareness on sensitive issues and how to complain about them,” shared Ester.

Complaints boxes can seem to be an easy solution; however, a number of questions need to be addressed if they should be contributing to receiving sensitive complaints.

  • What will happen once somebody drops a complaint inside the box?
  • How long will it take? Who will know about the complaint?
  • Who will open the box? How frequently?
  • Where does it go afterwards? Who will be involved?  What can one expect?

Building trust for all stakeholders to know that complaints are received and addressed securely and confidentially is essential. We must demonstrate that the system is accessible to all, fully inclusive and the process transparent. For building trust, it is equally important to deal with complaints in a timely manner. A robust investigation process should not last longer than thirty days. When an investigation process is over, it is important to communicate this to the complainant and survivor to inform them that the process is at its end and the findings of the investigation will soon be shared with them.

Best Practices: Addressing PSEA[1] complaints in Afghanistan

Questions were raised regarding what channels to use in remote and hard-to-reach areas and what resources to put in place to respond to complaints in conflict-affected areas?

Janet Omogi addressed the questions while talking on key strategic areas of concerns about cultural sensitivities while discussing PSEA and how they affect women in Afghanistan. She also discussed the two-way communication channels for making PSEA complaints and getting responses.

“The PSEA and CRM environment have significantly changed in Afghanistan. We see increased awareness as more agencies are involved in PSEA discussions. Most PSEA agencies have designated focal points to promote better handling of complaints. Capacity building work is improving awareness and understanding PSEA obligations. SOPs have been circulated to clusters, organisations and other response entities on how to handle PSEA allegations for better guidance. Moreover, collaborations between PSEA Task Force and Accountability to Affect Population Working Group ensures that people are better aware of their rights and of ways to report for more accountability.”

In many parts of Afghanistan, the victims of SEA are not able to speak out about abuses due to the existence of the culture of silence. The norms and attitudes about gender and hierarchy in Afghanistan does not allow the affected parties to speak openly. Additionally, the social structures in the country such as community leaders and decision makers are often men which also hinders the process to an extent. Another challenge commonly observed is underreporting. “Hiding the SEA issue under the carpet and assuming its existence, is a problem that needs to be addressed.”

Sharing some ways to address these issues, Janet said, “We continue to build relationship with all stakeholders in the country, including partner organisations, community and government officials. One of the key ways to address such issues is distribution of IEC material and building capacity. We are in the process of contextualizing and finalizing IEC material, for it to be widely used by different affect people. Moreover, we are also working on maintaining diplomatic engagement, building trust and respect, transparency and accountability with the stakeholders and communities we work with.”

What is needed for an effective complaint reporting?

To promote two-way communication channels for making complaints and getting responses that fit Afghanistan, it is important to provide a diverse range of medians for communication. This will allow the people to choose the desired channel, which makes them feel most comfortable and safe to use.

“Some community members say they are most comfortable talking to local NGOs and community leaders, whereas some prefer calling the Awaaz Afghanistan helpline[2] to make a complaint. Some organizations have internal CRMs, including phone lines and designated people, that the community can access – the more communication choices the better. We have Helpline guidelines and protocols for sharing information in the Complaint and Response Mechanism. This helps the staff on how to respond to complaints, what are the dos and don’ts and what the timeframe is to respond to a complaint.”

PSEA as a cross-cutting coordination issue

The PSEA task force cannot work alone to mitigate the issue. All agencies need to have designated PSEA focal points and alternates to enhance collective PSEA accountability. Coordination requires having the right people from different entities: the focal point list should be updated every six months. This is emphasized on because the right person is required to participate in discussions to come up with clear actions points and strategies on how best to engage further.

“In Afghanistan, PSEA is a topic of discussion in cluster, sector and other coordination body meetings, as the first agenda item, not the last. Again here, I will emphasize on the collaboration of PSEA Task Force with AAP Working Group as this helps to bring everyone on board,” said Janet.

Reflections

  • CRM has to be able to accommodate all kind of complaints; any form of exploitation is part of sensitive complaints even if not sexual exploitation.
  • Identifying and listing relevant national laws is important, as some issues should be reported to national authorities
  • To encourage project participants towards reporting complaints, organisations have to build strong trust with the communities they work with
  • It is essential to train staff on how to receive complaints from the field and communities directly while maintaining confidentiality and dignity of project participants

[1] Hosted in collaboration by the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Community World Service Asia.

[2] Protection against sexual exploitation and abuse

[3] Awaaz Afghanistan, the country’s first nationwide inter-agency humanitarian call centre, offers a single point of contact for all Afghans – including returnees and those affected by conflict and natural disasters – to receive critical information about available assistance and support, as well as to register feedback and complaints about the response.

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

About the Webinar:

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

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

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

Moderator / Facilitator:

Ms. Uma Narayanan—Independent Consultant

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

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