If you only read one thing this week…

An argument for more accountability by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
November 30, 2007, 7:13 pm
Filed under: accountability, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

Take a look at this recent report by World Vision, Why do Accountability? A Business Case from Sri Lanka, which we have been kindly given permission to publish here. The report offers and interesting counter perspective to the HPN article we highlighted a couple of weeks back that challenged some of the humanitarian world’s uncritical focus on accountability.
In areas that have been impacted by disaster there is an especially imperative need for NGOs to be more accountable in their operations. The participation and involvement of community members has proven essential to international development strategies and now needs to be included when responding to emergency situations.
In order to demonstrate and address this particular need – a Humanitarian Accountability Team (HAT) was established by the (Sri) Lanka Tsunami Response Team (LTRT) to aid in relief efforts after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. According to the evaluation of this process, the addition of the HAT function significantly improved all aspects of operations in Sri Lanka including: Senior Leadership/Organizational, Communications, Field leadership, DME, Finance/Resources, Human Resources, Technical Specialists, and Transition Processes.
The evaluation suggests the addition of the HAT function greatly increases NGO accountability because it works specifically towards strengthening community engagement, community based advocacy, and peace building through tools like Local capacities for Peace. HAT also focuses on liaison with other parties such as NGOs and Government in order to work together towards relief and development in a highly accountable manner.
The accountability framework set by LTRT should be reviewed and adapted by all NGOs working in disaster affected areas.


1 Comment so far
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Can’t work out where you’ve published the World Vision article.
The link takes you to the World Vision US site, not their international site or Sri Lanka site. However, Google found it. It’s published on the World Vision Australia website.

What I can’t find is the evaluation you refer to and presume you are in fact referring to the World Vision article itself. But this is entitled a business case, which, by definition almost, is focussed on the benefits to the business, and reading it you can see this throughout. It clearly isn’t an evaluation and it doesn’t refer to any either.

My conclusion from reading it is not that it offers a fresh perspective from Davis (the article he wrote for HPN). If anything it complements what Davis is arguing and demonstrates some of his points. As does your own small entry above.

What is lacking from this business case is the proof and evidence that in fact any of the effort they went to actually improved the organisation’s accountability to beneficiaries. With fantastic and seemingly unnoticed irony, the business case is is based on a set of interviews with World Vision’s own employees and not any beneficiaries. i.e. the people to whom they were supposedly increasing accountability.

To make such a bold statement as you’ve made, that NGOs should all adapt this particular framework and use it themselves, is really questionable in the absence of evidence that it actually changed anything for the beneficiaries. The opinion of the staff of the NGO that used it really isn’t quite enough.

The framework is certainly interesting and clearly the professionals involved feel that it worked very well, but in order to actually consider it, we need to know the process that it enabled. What is the framework actually suited to doing? How did it actually accomplish accountability? In other words, if we were to use it, what would the staff actually be doing? All we can say for now is that it successfully allowed the staff to do something that they feel was useful.

What would be most useful and add weight to this business case, is firstly explanation of the actual mechanisms or process that the framework was used to employ, e.g. what specific tools did the HAT use and how? and secondly
an evaluation of the process that actually gives us the beneficiaries’ perceptions of the extent to which World Vision was accountable to them.

Comment by Kevin Savage

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