FAO, WFP and gFSC assess accountability to affected populations in Pakistan

FAO, WFP and gFSC assess accountability to affected populations in Pakistan


FAO, WFP and the global Food Security Cluster undertook a two-week mission to Pakistan in September and October 2012 to support activities of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) to strengthen accountability to affected populations (AAP). The mission sought to investigate how humanitarian agencies are integrating AAP into their programming, propose means to strengthen AAP at interagency level and develop a model for an interagency-level approach to AAP that could be applied to other situations and country programmes.

The team interviewed a wide range of stakeholders – including members of communities as well as representatives of national and international NGOs, UN agencies, the Food Security Cluster and the donor community – in order to understand their views on accountability and to identify examples of good practices and challenges faced. Discussions were held with communities and local staff in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provinces, where a cross section of food security project sites were selected. In the seven communities visited, male and female focus group discussions were organized to ensure understanding of the perspectives of women and men, and to examine linkages between AAP work and gender equality programming.

Information was collected relating to the five IASC Commitments to AAP, namely (1) leadership and governance; (2) transparency; (3) feedback and complaints; (4) participation; and (5) AAP design, monitoring and evaluation. The full analysis is included in the mission report and draws an interesting profile of the agencies in-country and their efforts to be more accountable and inclusive in their operations.

Regarding participation, many agencies seem to apply a similar model which is adjusted depending on the region and degree of conservatism related to gender (e.g. whether male and female representatives meet together or separately). While the model focuses on ensuring the participation of women, other special interest groups – such as the elderly, people living with disability and minority religions – seem to have much less formalized access to participatory processes. Furthermore, the level of genuine participation of women was questioned by many. In one instance of response activity following the 2010 floods, for example, women were consulted during the needs assessment phase, but after that initial contact, they reported never being consulted again.

The commonly used systems rely on women’s and men’s groups electing representatives of high community standing. People from community groups that used such a system seemed generally satisfied with it. However, it was unclear whether methods were in place to ensure that the ‘power’ associated with being a representative was not abused, or if it prevented community members from challenging representatives’ views. During consultations with men’s groups, it was often noted that those not in positions of power – either as representatives or members of local NGOs – seemed far less likely to speak up or have the opportunity to express an opinion.

On the other hand, in some of the women’s groups visited, the women seemed more likely to participate even in the presence of the female community representative. When asked what they would do differently if they were in charge of the projects, one group replied they would establish more women’s empowerment programmes, while another group stated they would ensure women are consulted more often.

Several variations of a participatory model emerged. For example, one UN agency described introducing a new structure in which there were no chair positions on community committees; rather, coordinators were appointed and required to invest a lot of time in that role. This aimed to deter people seeking the role merely for status. Another model implemented by a national NGO was to routinely establish community-based quality management committees that have a role in addressing complaints, setting selection criteria, applying those criteria and monitoring the quality of delivery. However, only a small number of agencies specified that they ensured community participation in determining criteria for the receipt of assistance and for selecting recipients.

While the various participatory processes appear robust and reliable, an important question remains: how tailored and responsive are these systems to meet the different needs of a community? If most agencies are running similar systems, it is unclear how adaptable these systems may be over time or whether they may continue to be applied rigidly, regardless of changes in a community. The systems described demonstrated a positive approach and intent, and indicated a significant degree of commitment from the implementing agencies.