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What Is Accountability to Affected Persons (AAP)?

“Accountability to affected people is a commitment by humanitarians to use power responsibly: to take account of, give account to, and be held to account by the people we seek to assist.  In humanitarian action, this includes enabling affected people to meet their different needs, address their vulnerabilities, build on pre-existing capacities and drive program adaptation through systematically sharing timely, relevant and actionable information with communities, and supporting the meaningful participation and leadership of affected people in decision-making, regardless of sex, age, disability status and other diversities.”  [Source: Inter-Agency Standing Committee ]

Why Is AAP Important?

Demonstrating accountability to affected persons in all programs is a high priority for PRM.  Giving communities influence over decision making in a way that accounts for their diversity and allows the views of the most at-risk to be equally considered results in programming that is more inclusive, responsive, and transparent.  Accountability mechanisms are critical to organizations’ efforts to monitor whether programming is doing what it is intended to do and/or whether it may be causing unintended harm to people.  Being accountable to affected persons is not just the right thing to do; there is growing evidence it leads to more effective and efficient responses1 When affected persons and communities are better informed and empowered, they become more active program participants, which yields better outcomes, including protection outcomes.

The U.S. Congress supports these efforts.  Over several years, Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations legislation has included language directing that appropriated assistance funds “be made available for the regular collection of feedback obtained directly from beneficiaries on the quality and relevance of such assistance”; that the Department of State shall post on its website procedures for implementing partners  to collect and respond to such feedback; and shall “regularly conduct oversight to ensure that such feedback is regularly collected and used by implementing partners to maximize the cost-effectiveness and utility of such assistance.”

How Does PRM Funding Support AAP?

PRM takes a number of measures to confirm that implementing partners know PRM’s expectations and requirements for regularly collecting and responding to beneficiaries’ feedback, as outlined below:

  • AAP Requirements for Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Proposals and Reports:  The Bureau lists requirements in its NGO guidelines for how NGO partners must include AAP policies and mechanisms in all funding proposal narratives, with progress outlined in quarterly and final reports.
    • Proposals: Proposals must describe the organization’s procedures for collecting and responding to beneficiary feedback throughout the life of the project.  Proposals must explain how the organization will draw upon beneficiary input for program design, implementation, monitoring the project’s progress, and designing course corrections as needed.  Proposals also must include certain AAP indicators.
    • Reports: Second and fourth quarter reporting must include explanations and examples of how beneficiary feedback has been used to continue or change programming decisions.

PRM funds activities to collect and incorporate beneficiary feedback as part of overall program budgets.

  • Organizational AAP Frameworks: PRM-funded NGOs and international organizations (IOs) must have an AAP Framework in place in order to receive PRM funding.  These frameworks outline the organization’s approach to the collection and use of beneficiary feedback during the program design and implementation phases.
    • Organizational AAP frameworks should include collection and analysis techniques and explain how beneficiary feedback will be used to change programming decisions where appropriate.
    • The AAP Frameworks should also demonstrate the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) commitments to AAP : leadership/governance; transparency; feedback and complaints; participation; and design, monitoring and evaluation.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): PRM consults regularly with UNHCR under the bilateral PRM-UNHCR Framework for Cooperation, which the bureau uses to track and monitor UNHCR Country Operations Plans.  The Framework contains an explicit provision for UNHCR to regularly collect, analyze, and use feedback obtained directly from  displaced and stateless people to improve the quality and relevance of UNHCR’s assistance.  Since 2022, UNHCR has incorporated AAP into its new results-based management reporting system that includes specific indicators to track AAP results.  UNHCR also launched a five-year plan to strengthen its AAP procedures in line with an explicit re-commitment to AAP in the High Commissioner’s Strategic Directions 2022-2026 .  This plan adopts a multi-pillar approach that focuses on operational support for UNHCR regional bureaus and country operations; capacity building and tools for front-line staff, including research to support a strong AAP evidence base; and strengthened global leadership in coordination with other first responders.
  • AAP by Other PRM International Organization Partners:  In addition to UNHCR, PRM’s other IO partners, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), each has its own robust institutional AAP framework.  ICRC published its updated Accountability to Affected People Institutional Framework in June 2020, which consolidates the organization’s approach to AAP in its humanitarian response to maximize impact.  IOM’s 2020 Accountability to Affected Populations Framework establishes IOM’s common approach for implementing and mainstreaming AAP throughout its crisis-related work and helps to ensure quality and responsive programming in line with the evolving needs of affected persons and communities.

How Else Is PRM Promoting AAP?

  • Co-Leading the Grand Bargain’s Participation Revolution Work Stream: The Grand Bargain is an outcome of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and refers to an agreement of over 3,700 commitments made by donors and aid providers for better provision of humanitarian assistance.  Along with the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, PRM co-leads the Grand Bargain “Participation Revolution” workstream that strives to improve engagement with and accountability to people and communities affected by crises.  The workstream serves as a platform to discuss existing and implement new AAP initiatives, events, and evidence-based practices, and has produced a set of documents to guide Grand Bargain signatories on implementation of AAP commitments , including a set of detailed recommendations  aimed at incentivizing good practice in this area.
  • Funding Research on Best Practices in AAP: PRM funded a research project conducted by the International Rescue Committee that identified strategies to improve the use of beneficiary feedback.  Completed in January 2018, the research highlighted Uganda as a case study and produced findings on common supports and obstacles related to beneficiary feedback collection and use.  The report is publicly available and has been presented at several AAP-focused fora.
  • Sphere Project: PRM is a funder of The Sphere Project , which produces and promotes the handbook  on Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability.   The handbook endorses nine commitments of which two specifically address access to information for beneficiaries, as well as their involvement in decisions that affect them and the ability to voice their complaints.  PRM encourages and monitors partners on the use of Sphere principles and standards.
  • External, independent evaluations:  PRM generally commissions two external evaluations per year.  During the course of these evaluations, evaluators are required to obtain and report on program feedback collected directly from beneficiaries.  In October 2022, PRM commissioned a specific evaluation to examine the implementation and impact of PRM’s policy and programming related to AAP and community participation from FY 2018 to the present.

How Does PRM Monitor Whether Partners Are Collecting and Responding to Beneficiary Feedback?

PRM takes a collaborative approach to gathering information and assessing adherence to AAP guidelines.  PRM staff conduct monitoring trips in the field (and virtually), where they engage directly with beneficiaries, implementing partners, and host country officials.  The Bureau employs tools and templates to facilitate comprehensive and multi-factor monitoring during field visits, including provision of AAP-specific monitoring questions:

Sample Questions for Beneficiaries

  • How did you hear about the program/event/service/assistance?
  • Were you satisfied with the program/event/service/assistance?
  • Is there anything you would like to change about the program/event/service/assistance?
  • Who would you tell if you had ideas about making changes to the program/event/service/assistance?
  • Has any organization asked for your feedback?  How did the organization respond to your feedback?
  • Do you think the organization is open to listening to and using your feedback?

Sample Questions for NGOs/IOs

  • How can beneficiaries communicate their feedback on a program?
  • How have beneficiaries been involved in program design?
  • Are beneficiaries actively involved in program implementation?  If so, how?
  • Do beneficiaries participate in program monitoring?  If so, how?
  • How has their feedback been collected and incorporated into performance monitoring?
  • Have you made any changes the project as a result of feedback?  If so, what type of changes?
  • How have you communicated back to the beneficiaries the impact of their feedback?
  • What challenges to do you have in collecting and using beneficiary feedback for program improvement?
  • Do all interest groups have access to feedback mechanisms, including women, children, older persons, LGBTQI+ individuals, minority cultural groups and people living with disabilities?

In addition to visits to the field, PRM tracks whether and how its partners are collecting and responding to feedback from beneficiaries by reviewing required program reports and organizations’ institutional documentation.

Beginning in FY 2023, PRM also introduced several new AAP-related indicators that will enable us to better collect robust data on how partners are implementing AAP.  PRM encourages NGOs receiving PRM funding to report on these in a standardized way.

  • Mandatory: Percentage of participants who report that humanitarian assistance is delivered in a safe, accessible, accountable, and participatory manner (Outcome)
  • Recommended: Number of pieces of feedback recorded during the reporting period (Output)
  • Recommended: Number of community meetings or formal consultations held which were focused on program design or adjustments (Output)

[1] For example, see: [back to 1]

U.S. Department of State

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