What Is Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP)?
“Accountability to affected persons means putting the priorities and needs of the persons we seek to help at the heart of the humanitarian services provided and resources used, and actively engaging them in the relevant decision-making processes . . . Beneficiary engagement should allow for a more relevant and appropriate response and is coherent with its mission which clearly places affected populations at the heart of its work.” – ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross)
“We believe effective participation of people affected by humanitarian crises puts the needs and interest of those people at the core of humanitarian decision making, by actively engaging them throughout the decision-making process” – Grand Bargain Participation Revolution Workstream
Why Is AAP Important?
Demonstrating accountability to affected populations 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. Additionally, AAP ensures that appropriate protection measures are in place. When beneficiaries are better informed and empowered, they become more active program participants, which yields better program outcomes.
The U.S. Congress supports us in these efforts, stating in the FY 2020 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill:
Section 7034 (m) MONITORING AND EVALUATION.—Funds appropriated by this Act that are made available for monitoring and evaluation of assistance under the headings ‘‘Development Assistance’’, ‘‘International Disaster Assistance’’, and ‘‘Migration and Refugee Assistance’’ shall, as appropriate, be made available for the regular collection of feedback obtained directly from beneficiaries on the quality and relevance of such assistance: Provided, That the Department of State and USAID shall establish, and post on their respective websites, updated procedures for implementing partners that receive funds under such headings for regularly collecting and responding to such feedback, including guidelines for the reporting on actions taken in response to the feedback received: Provided further, That the Department of State and USAID 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 Ensure Its Funding Is Used To Support AAP?
Consistent with Secton7034 (m) of the FY 2020 appropriations bill, PRM takes a number of measures to ensure implementing partners have access to PRM’s expectations and requirements for regularly collecting and responding to beneficiaries’ feedback, as outlined below:
- AAP Requirements for non-governmental organizations (NGO) Proposals and Reports: The Bureau lists requirements in its NGO guidelines for NGO partners to describe how they will include AAP 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.
- 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 also 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 also 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.
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and PRM Framework Agreement: The 2020-2021 agreement states that UNHCR will:
- Strengthen its commitments to refugee women and girls and AAP through the implementation of its Age, Gender and Diversity Policy, which includes a global implementation and monitoring plan. (Source Data: UNHCR Age, Gender and Diversity Accountability Report, UNHCR child protection guidance).
- Regularly collect, analyze, and use feedback obtained directly from persons of concern to affect the quality and relevance of UNHCR’s assistance. UNHCR will seek and consider such feedback in program design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation as well as in its budget planning and prioritization, review, and re-prioritization. Further, UNHCR will provide feedback on such decisions directly to the affected population, ensuring transparency through communication, in line with its AAP work. (Source Data: UNHCR Age, Gender and Diversity Accountability Report).
PRM and UNHCR will continue to monitor UNHCR’s commitment to AAP.
- AAP by Other PRM International Organization Partners: In addition to UNHCR, PRM expects its other IO partners, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to demonstrate that they are implementing the commitments outlined in their AAP Frameworks and are reporting on the same. In June 2020, ICRC published its Accountability to Affected People Institutional Framework, which consolidates ICRC’s approach to AAP in its humanitarian response to maximize impact. Similarly, 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 populations 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” work stream that strives to improve engagement with and accountability to people and communities affected by crises. The work stream 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 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.
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:
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 you would 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?
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 beneficiary 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, the aged, 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 program reports and organizations’ institutional documentation:
- PRM’s 2nd and 4th quarter reports from NGO implementing partners include a section on how they implement AAP in the program. Reporting must include explanations and examples of how beneficiary feedback has been used to continue or change programming decisions.
- NGOs must submit their organizational AAP Framework before receiving PRM funding. Reviewing AAP Frameworks:
- Accountability frameworks should include collection and analysis techniques, and explain how beneficiary feedback will be used to change programming decisions where appropriate.
- AAP Frameworks should demonstrate the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) commitments to AAP leadership/governance; transparency; feedback and complaints; participation; and design, monitoring and evaluation.