Open Letter to CHS Alliance Secretariat and incoming Governing Board

November 2019

Dear CHS Alliance Secretariat, the outgoing and incoming Governing Board,

In advance of the CHS Alliance General Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand this month, we thank the outgoing Governing Board, alongside the CHS Secretariat, for its efforts over the past three years and welcome newly elected board members. As advocates for the localization of humanitarian action, the Charter for Change network sees the next three years as an important opportunity for the CHS Alliance to ensure that localization is at the heart of CHS commitments.

The Charter for Change (C4C) is an initiative, led by both national and international NGOs, to practically implement changes to the way the humanitarian system operates, to enable more locally-led response to deliver better support to crisis-affected people. The C4C network  brings together 36 international NGOs  and over 240 local and national NGOs – including many CHS Alliance Members, some of which were also founding members of the CHS Alliance.

We, as the C4C network, strongly support the CHS commitments and see the Alliance as a natural ally to the localization agenda given its focus on accountability to affected populations (AAP) and commitments 3 and 6’s explicit recognition of the capacities of local and national humanitarian actors in response. We appreciate, too, the localization metrics developed in the CHS, as well as CHS  emphasis on commitments to communication and participation with communities and the organization’s that represent them. Making real progress against these and other[1] global commitments is challenging, but necessary if we are to achieve a more equitable and effective global humanitarian response.

In the spirit of solidarity, the Charter for Change requests the Secretariat and incoming CHS Alliance Governing Board to consider the following as essential to Alliance next steps:

  1. Scale-up efforts to raise awareness about practical implementation of the CHS in strategic countries, embedded into wider dialogue on programme quality, particularly with agencies operating at the sub-national level.  We recognize that engagement at the country level has been an ongoing priority for the outgoing board and Secretariat. This has led to some good progress – indeed, a recent baseline conducted under the ECHO-funded Accelerating Localization through Partnership (ALTP) program suggested awareness of CHS is high amongst national civil society in some countries. Yet, consultations amongst Charter for Change signatory INGOs and endorser NNGOs suggest that more work is required to build awareness and understanding of the CHS in other countries,as well as greater practical support to implementation. We recommend the incoming board work with the Secretariat to develop a strategy for country level work, identifying priority countries where CHS and its members could promote practical implementation models that make sense in the context of wider localization dialogue and efforts on capacity-sharing.
  2. Deliberately increase the number of local and national actors that are self-assessed and CHS certified by reducing their barriers to the certification process. We appreciate the different approaches to verification offered by the CHS and recommend communicating the benefits of self-assessment as part of strategic country level work. Further, we urge the incoming Board and Secretariat to seek out solutions to these barriers and build a specific pipeline for supporting local and national organizations to become CHS certified. The resource and time-consuming nature of the CHS certification process, even with the generous grants available to support national NGOs, mean that CHS certification as currently framed is not a realistic option for many national NGOs.  We believe CHS certification is a positive pathway to institutional-strengthening, which opens the doors for a greater number of partnerships and funding opportunities for local and national NGOs. In addition, local and national NGOs that have completed the certification process can act as a resource for others in their communities on standards – strengthening accountability systems in a network of local responders.
  3. Strengthen advocacy to donors for the alignment and simplification of reporting processes on programme quality around the CHS. The C4C Network recognizes alignment amongst INGOs, UN agencies and donors around the CHS standards has helped to articulate a clear and consistent approach to programme quality and accountability standards. Such alignment helps avoid a situation in which national NGOs are requested to comply with multiple, different frameworks and indicators on the same issues, which leads to inefficiencies and duplication of effort. Strengthened advocacy to a greater number of donors on this alignment may lead to reduced bureaucratic barriers for local and national NGOs to accessing donor funding more directly.
  4. Move inclusive governance from good practice to policy, adopting more deliberate and creative ways to engage local and national civil society in CHS governance and decision-making processes. We commend the outgoing CHS Governing Board for its diversity and inclusivity of local and national NGO representatives and recommend this practice become CHS Governance policy. Further, CHS should explore options for its Board to engage more local and national NGOs in meaningful ways in its decision-making; both by recruiting more of such organisations to the Board, and through identifying other means to engage local actors in strategic input to CHS’s priorities, including specific processes like the revision of the verification scheme and development of safeguarding frameworks. This should ensure that internationally-driven initiatives on programme quality and accountability like CHS engage with and are supportive of bottom-up, locally-driven approaches to these issues.

We sincerely thank the Secretariat and Governing Board for your efforts and engagement to promote localization as a central part of program quality and accountability. We hope to continue to working together constructively to progress these commitments.

In support and solidarity,

Members of the Charter for Change network

[1] Including the Grand Bargain and Principles of Partnership commitments

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