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What are the differences between us ?

Although the initiatives share the same goal, there is also a necessary distinctiveness. Quality and accountability in the humanitarian sector are multi-faceted and each initiative has chosen or been mandated by the sector through its membership to take a distinct entry point and methods for addressing specific component(s). In this way, each one requires a different combination of skills and competencies, and has developed its own unique way of addressing its specific objectives. This distinctiveness can be described under the following 3 headings –mandates, constituencies and structures.

a) distinct mandates:

Each initiative aims to improve one or more component parts of humanitarian quality and accountability. ALNAP is concerned with promoting learning, especially through improved evaluation, whilst HAP aims to improve the quality and impact of humanitarian action through helping agencies to become more accountable to disaster survivors. People In Aid’s remit is to help NGOs to improve their human resource practices through the use of the Code of Good Practice and other targeted services and outputs. Sphere has developed and supports the use of standards and a humanitarian charter in disaster response, in order to improve the quality and accountability of performance by humanitarian professionals.

b) distinct constituencies

Because each initiative has a distinct approach, each one has different core constituencies, although there is considerable overlap between them. For example, an important part of ALNAP’s constituency is the evaluation community who are centrally involved in producing one of ALNAP’s core products, the Review of Humanitarian Action.

HAP, on the other hand, was created to ensure that humanitarian action is accountable to its intended beneficiaries, and thus its efforts are largely directed to the development and application of instruments and incentives that promote that goal.

People In Aid’s main constituencies are the human resource departments and the operational line managers among its Member agencies, and much of its work comes from and is directed at them.

Sphere’s core constituents are humanitarian professionals managing and implementing work in the main technical sectors. Improved accountability to those affected by disasters is also explicitly part of Sphere’s overall goal. Sphere users should as far as possible work with affected communities in designing the response, and monitoring agreed indicators of the Standards.

c) distinct structures

Given that each initiative has distinct aims, approaches and core constituencies, each needs different organisational structures and governance. Although there are literally hundreds of agencies involved in various ways, it is worth noting that only one humanitarian agency has a governance role on all four initiatives.

ALNAP’s network structure helps promotes a culture of learning throughout the humanitarian sector by creating safe places for discussion (biannual meetings), communities of practice, sector-wide initiatives and so on. The most effective way of achieving this is to put people in touch with each other through the multiple connections that a well functioning network can provide. The ALNAP Secretariat’s main function is to facilitate/operationalise the decisions made by the Membership.

HAP has been created to promote compliance with relevant standards through accreditation and certification, which is managed on a self-regulatory model. Thus, the HAP Secretariat requires a level of autonomy that is guaranteed by a formal constitution, which includes for example, rigorous criteria for the appointment of independent board members.

Like ALNAP, People In Aid responds to the priorities of its member agencies and increases the knowledge of its members by facilitating the exchange of information throughout the network. People In Aid is a registered charity and company limited by guarantee. At least 10 members have nominated employees on People In Aid’s Board, with up to 5 independents making up the full Board.

Sphere has some elements of a network structure. It is governed by a Board of NGO networks and families, but it does not have formal members and is effectively ‘owned’ by those who use it. This ownership is based on the informal acknowledgment of added value and therefore, unlike HAP and People In Aid, there is no formal compliance mechanism ensuring adherence to its standards.

Thus, each initiative has developed a distinct organisational structure, governance and modus operandi. However, conscious of the considerable overlap amongst members, partners and stakeholders, the initiatives are aware of the need to ensure that their work is harmonised effectively (see How is complementarity assured? below).