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Accountability to affected populations
FAO is accountable to the women, men, boys and girls whose lives it aims to improve, and places this responsibility at the core of its humanitarian policy. As a matter of human rights and meaningful programming, FAO defines Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) as “an active commitment by humanitarian actors and organizations to use power responsibly by taking account of, giving account to and being held to account by the people they seek to assist”.
By being more accountable to affected populations – increasing their participation and feedback in programme identification, design, delivery and lesson learning – FAO achieves programmes of higher quality, with greater and more sustainable impact. It increases the space for communities to shape their own recovery and for FAO to better deliver against its commitments to stakeholders, including the people FAO assists and the resource partners who make assistance possible.
AAP in practice
On the ground, AAP starts with effective information sharing and communication channels. Sharing information about FAO programmes in a timely, accessible and inclusive way puts affected communities in a position to understand and shape decisions that impact their lives. Moreover, FAO is committed to ensure that people receiving support participate in and influence all steps of the programme cycle, including initial assessment, project design, beneficiary selection, implementation, monitoring and evaluations.
Accountability also hinges on establishing effective feedback channels as well as complaints and response mechanisms, so FAO and its partners know what impact programmes are having on participants and can incorporate feedback or address problems rapidly, including prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation. Systems of community representation must be fair and representative, enabling the most marginalized, vulnerable and affected to have a voice.
Lessons from the field
FAO accountability surveys and analyses are teaching the Organization how to deliver more relevant, efficient and effective agricultural support in local contexts. In 2012, FAO spoke with around 500 women and men who participated in its projects in Cambodia, Pakistan and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The exercise enabled FAO to challenge its assumptions and learn directly from communities: what went well and what needs to change to improve response.
Some good practices were identified. For example, using focus groups as a method of participation gives a voice to those in the community who are unable to speak up in a larger meeting or setting. Participants suggested using this format on a recurring basis to gain community input. With attention to their composition, such groups can counter unrepresentative power structures, gender imbalances, fear of losing assistance when issuing a complaint or other factors that may inhibit free and open speech.
Importantly, community feedback is shaping programme design. The AAP survey in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was integrated within the mid-term review of FAO’s Plan of Action (2011-2013), which put affected communities at the forefront of programme evaluation and invited donors to take part in the process. The lessons have been shared widely and are being incorporated into FAO’s programming. For example, the local FAO team is working on improved and more equitable information sharing and dissemination, and standardizing procedures such as beneficiary selection so that they are more transparent.
Common lessons are also emerging from the AAP studies. Across all surveyed areas, assisted populations request more information and updates on projects, particularly regarding selection criteria, when items will be delivered, why delays occur, who the project personnel are and who to contact. In this regard, ongoing challenges include ensuring equal information access, participation and ability to complain by more vulnerable or marginalized groups, including women, illiterate people, the elderly and those affected by disability or illness.
As a result of the work done during 2012, FAO developed an organization-specific guidance on AAP and a work plan that have been launched globally as long as a number of practical tools and resources to support country offices to deliver programmes in an accountable way.