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Implementing collective accountability to affected populations: ways forward in large-scale humanitarian crises

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Kerrie Holloway, Oliver Lough

Hero image description: Charging bank of mobile phones Image credit:AMISOM Photo

Collective accountability to affected populations (AAP) has been enshrined in policy through high-level commitments over the past few years, such as the Grand Bargain and the terms of reference for Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs). In practice, collective AAP is not yet happening.

UNICEF, on behalf of the former Communication and Community Engagement Initiative, commissioned HPG to identify solutions to current bottlenecks and challenges to collective approaches to AAP, develop evidence of their added value and limitations and highlight future implications, given the rapidly changing nature of humanitarian crises. 

This policy brief summarises our findings (detailed in the project's synthesis report) and makes recommendations for how different stakeholders can translate current commitments on collective AAP into more effective practice.

Key messages

  • Blockages to implementing collective AAP include a lack of shared understanding of what it entails, a lack of buy-in at the leadership level, failure to fully involve local actors in all phases of the approach and a lack of dedicated funding.
  • Humanitarian Coordinators and HCTs are not delivering on their responsibilities on collective AAP and must go further in ensuring it is fully embedded into responses. This means having a clear strategy and objectives, integrating collective AAP in a structured way across the humanitarian programme cycle, and ensuring it is adequately funded.
  • HCTs and other key stakeholders should establish collective AAP that builds on existing capacities and structures, instead of developing complicated or overly ambitious new systems. It is critical to understand what local actors can bring to the table and place them firmly at the centre of this process.
  • Collective AAP is cheap, yet most donors have so far failed to invest in it adequately. Donors can support collective AAP by funding it predictably, at scale and across the humanitarian programme cycle. They can also strengthen the work of collective AAP by demanding more systematic implementation, using funding mechanisms that support collective action and avoiding concentrating too much power in the hands of lead agencies.