Humanitarian Initiatives

Initiatives to raise standards in the humanitarian sector

There are many initiatives relating to performance and accountability in the humanitarian sector, including:

  • The Red Cross Code of Conduct which sets out ten basic principles of humanitarian action. Over 250 humanitarian agencies have registered their support for the code and their commitment to “endeavour to incorporate” its principles into their work.
  • The Sphere Project has developed a Humanitarian Charter, defining humanitarian goals, and also minimum standards for disaster response, covering practical areas such as the provision of water and shelter. The first Sphere Standard is on participation by the disaster-affected population in any humanitarian response.
  • The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership – HAP International encourages humanitarian agencies to increase their accountability to their beneficiaries.
  • The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP) is a network of all the major humanitarian actors. One of its major activities is to publish an annual summary and review of evaluations of humanitarian work. These reviews are freely available from their website.
  • The People in Aid code is a code of practice which sets out to govern the Human Resources policies of NGOs. Many humanitarian agencies are members of People in Aid – but they may not all have implemented the entire code. People in Aid also provides training courses and other HR-related support to NGOs.
  • The Humanitarian Policy Group of the British Overseas Development Institute has taken a leading role in research and publishing on many areas of humanitarian policy and practice, including the debate on quality and accountability. There is a very large amount of research and information on their website.

The NGO sector has made significant progress in strengthening its performance and accountability over the last ten years. In particular, the Red Cross Code of Conduct and the Sphere standards could become the foundation stones of a system to enhance professional standards.

But, so far, these initiatives are all voluntary. As yet there is very limited regulation of NGO activity and no professional standards are enforced across the sector.
NGOs continue to operate with variable standards in the field. This means that NGOs provide appropriate assistance to fewer people than they could.


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