Humanitarian aid now has its quality standard: progress and issues at stake for field actors
After two years of development and numerous consultations, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) was officially launched in Copenhagen in December 2014. Does it bring anything new to the humanitarian sector? Will this Standard help to promote the NGO certification project? What issues are at stake for NGOs in terms of implementing this norm?
Much has been written in recent years about improving the quality of humanitarian aid, and this continues to cause heated debates in our sector. There has been a significant increase in humanitarian needs and this has put greater pressure on the sector. On the one hand, donors are demanding greater effectiveness, and on the other, beneficiaries and local authorities in the field are rightly asking to be placed at the centre of the system and to be involved in the decision making process for aid allocation. The concept of quality, which is closely related to issues of accountability, transparency and efficiency, is fundamental to cope with these increasing needs in increasingly complex situations.
But what exactly are we talking about? Is there at least some agreement between beneficiaries, humanitarian workers, governments, donors and researchers about what quality means in relation to humanitarian aid? One of the main conclusions of Groupe URD’s last Autumn School on Humanitarian Aid  was that the sector is unable to establish a single response to this question. How can progress be made if the community as a whole is not talking about the same thing?
At the launch of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) in Copenhagen, everyone (or at least all the representatives at the conference) seemed to agree about the nine commitments included in the Standard. The document was developed via numerous consultations with organizations from the sector. It is a return to a single standard, as some organizations had requested. It is true that in the last ten or fifteen years there have been more and more Quality and Accountability initiatives; initially with the Sphere manual, then the Quality COMPAS, HAP International and its certification system, the Good Enough Guide, the ideas of People in Aid for better management of Human Resources, etc. All these tools developed by the sector met different demands, but some actors and NGOs had difficulty juggling between them. There had also been pressure from donors for whom funding the development of so many initiatives was becoming too expensive…
The CHS comes in a single document, a short booklet of around twenty pages, based on nine fundamental principles. But will this tool be enough for the sector to improve its response to crisis situations?