What is a Standard?
A standard acts as a basis for comparison or reference point against which something can be evaluated. It can contain both quantitative and qualitative criteria or requirements.
For a standard to become widely recognised and acknowledged as a mark of excellence, it needs to be developed through a broad consensus building process involving all relevant stakeholders, and those for which it has been created accept to be measured by it.
The HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management was developed following principles of international standard development, which include:
- Standard development through a process of broad consensus
- Adoption of the standard by a recognised body
- The Standard addresses a recognised need
There are various types of standards, most designed to measure excellence as follows:
- Product specifications: usually measuring the final outcome or deliverables.
- Process specifications: usually measuring the methodology used so as to obtain a stated result, including the management of activities that lead to the stated result.
The HAP Standard goes beyond these, as it seeks to measure:
- Accountability and quality commitments made by an aid agency and as specified in their accountability framework – the product.
- Quality Management System – the processes used by the aid agency to achieve the commitments made.
- Quality of Service – as defined by disaster survivors, affected communities, partners, aid practitioners and other specified stakeholders.
In order to achieve certification, an agency will demonstrate that it meets the benchmarks and requirements in the HAP Standard. These cover the three areas mentioned above, with specific attention to continual improvement. For further information on the HAP certification process, download the HAP Guide to Certification.
Why a Standard in Accountability and Quality Management?
The problem of power
Non-government organizations exercise significant power in humanitarian crisis through their control over essential goods and services, such as food, medical aid and shelter. However, until recently, the "helping power" of emergency relief agencies has been fairly unregulated as few organizations formalized procedures to allow disaster survivors to participate in decisions about services or complain about poor practices.
Agencies take note
UN and NGO agencies became acutely aware of their lack of accountability after the Rwanda genocide of 1994. Over the next 10 years, they worked together on various initiatives directed at remedying the so-called 'accountability deficit' in humanitarian action. One of those initiatives eventually became HAP. Read more about HAP's history.
From Principles to the Standard
Immediately following its launch in 2003, HAP set about developing a set of Principles of Accountability. These summarized - for the first time - core elements of good practice in accountability in humanitarian situations.
Based on the Principles of Accountability alone, agencies were not able to demonstrate the quality and accountability of their humanitarian action. Therefore, HAP members asked the Secretariat in 2005 to develop a set of benchmarks and indicators for accountability and quality management in humanitarian work. HAP did so, consulting over two years with disaster-affected communities and staff from over 120 organisations. The result of this process was The HAP 2007 Standard in Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management, now used by agencies to assess accountability and quality management in their operations, including through certification.
To help agencies use the benchmarks in their work, HAP has developed a Guide to the Standard, which was published by Oxfam Publishing in 2008. You can order the Guide by contacting Oxfam Publishing.
Continual improvement of the Standard
To ensure that the HAP Standard in Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management continues to remain relevant to communities, agencies, donors and other stakeholder alike, emerging new practice, expectations and developments in aid assistance will be captured through a regular process of Standard revision. The Partnership, facilitated by the Secretariat, will continue to improve the Standard and strengthen the certification process.
2010 HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management
The first review process started in the latter part of 2008; and resulted in the HAP 2010 Standard.