Reflections on upholding humanitarian principles and sustainable programming 

Project: Learning Project 19th February 2018

What are the best approaches to programme design to ensure collective ways of working for sustainable solutions based on humanitarian leadership in preparedness programming? How can we maintain a balance between the contextualization and over-contextualization of universal humanitarian standards?

In the upcoming global conference ‘Preparing for Shock: Is Preparedness the New Frontier?’ taking place in Geneva on 14th and 15th March, we will explore enabling approaches and obstacles to sustainable preparedness programming and hear from local implementing staff, national networks, global programmers and researchers who have first-hand knowledge on these areas. For more information about the conference, please visit our event page here.

In this blog post leading up to our conference, Shahana Hayat, Country Learning Advisor for Bangladesh and former Talent Development project staff, reflects on a few key questions on the themes of upholding humanitarian principles and sustainable programming.

Reflections on upholding humanitarian principles and sustainable programming 

In recent years, we have seen the creation of tools and systems that aim to standardize humanitarian operations and make the sector more professional. Numerous policies and frameworks, including the Core Humanitarian Competencies framework, Red Cross & Crescent Code of Conduct, Sphere Standards, Core Humanitarian Standards and the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership guide how aid workers and organizations should behave according to humanitarian principles.

But why is there a gap between policy and practice? Why do aid workers and executive/senior management in humanitarian organizations find it challenging to uphold these values and apply them at all times? What are the challenges in making sure individuals and organizations remain accountable?

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) has invested in building capability of staff in core humanitarian competencies & standards and ensuring these can be implemented at the individual level, organizational level, and in emergency response.

One programme participant considers the effect of this capacity building I have learnt how to apply humanitarian standards & humanitarian competencies in practice and ensure that every meeting, agreement and performance demonstrates these principles, rather than simply saying that we value them.” 

Another stakeholder in Bangladesh shares her reflections: We often talk about contextualization of global humanitarian standards, but I feel this discussion can be used as a way to maintain social and cultural norms that prevent equal participation of women, without considering global standards as an opportunity to challenge these. Therefore contextualization sometimes does not attract me.”

We know that short-term solutions are not always beneficial in the long-term. So, as we are coming to end of DEPP, the fundamental question is: how could donors join together so that the investment in human resources and momentum created under this specific programme is not lost, but continues to increase individual and institutional performance?

It would be interesting to hear thoughts from others involved in either the DEPP or similar programmes. We’d love to hear your comments below!

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