Humanitarian Accountability

Humanitarian actors have an obligation to ensure accountability to affected populations which means using power responsibly, ensuring the voices of affected populations are valued and heard and that they have an opportunity to participate in and influence relevant decisions affecting whether and how we work with them. Honesty and transparency are core values in DRC’s work – this means that we are open about what we do and the choices we make. Our values compass ensures that we take responsibility for using our resources efficiently, achieving measurable results and being accountable to our supporters, partners and, most of all, the people we aim to assist.

Participation is an integral part of a humanitarian organisation’s accountability to displacement-affected people. Formal procedures to capture and utilise feedback and complaints raised by People of Concern (PoC) are a critical component of agencies being able to comply with internationally recognized accountability standards like the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS). The development of complaints handling processes can alert an organisation to serious misconduct or failures in the response, allowing them to take timely action to improve programme quality. All organisations are susceptible to fraud or abuse of power and a community feedback and complaints system can help an organisation to recognise and respond to malpractice, manipulation and exploitation.

It is a requirement that all DRC programmes formulate local strategies for participation including a description of how the different groups are consulted or participate in the initial assessment, project design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation. The degree and manner of involvement will vary depending on the circumstances and the type of programming it relates to. DRC requires all staff to involve conflict-affected people in all phases of a project to the greatest extent feasible, and to constantly look for new opportunities to increase the level of participation.

DRC’s Code of Conduct (CoC) and global Code of Conduct Reporting Mechanism (CoCRM) are the cornerstone of DRC’s commitment to accountability and integrity. The CoC and CoCRM apply to all staff and volunteers in DRC’s international operations. Anyone can submit a complaint or report a suspicion of misconduct via the CoCRM. It thus functions as both DRC’s internal whistle-blower mechanism and DRC’s external complaints mechanism for suspected misconduct of DRC staff. The above accountability mechanisms together with our zero tolerance Policy on Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse and the CoC complaints dashboard openly reporting on the number and types of incoming complaints – commits DRC to being an efficient, effective, responsive and rights-based organisation.


DRC has two sets of standards against which stakeholders can hold us accountable:


Beyond enshrining participation as a critical operational principle within its overall policy apparatus, DRC has further invested in accountability primarily through the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) certification process. DRC was successfully audited against the CHS standard in May 2017, the first step in a four-year cycle. The audit was conducted by HQAI, the independent audit body providing official certification to the CHS. The Core Humanitarian Standard is an international standard for humanitarian organisations, and the certification process is the most rigorous assessment of several available verification options. For more information about the Core Humanitarian Standard, visit the CHS Alliance website.

When emergency operations are launched from existing DRC operations, they are expected to meet existing accountability standards as described above from the outset.


In new DRC emergency operations, full compliance with DRC’s accountability operating standards as per the Programme Handbook and Code of Conduct Reporting Mechanism may not be possible from day 1.

MANDATORY ACTIONS in newly established emergency operations for first 6 months

Day 1:

  • Among emergency responders, one trained DRC staff should be appointed with responsibility to establish full accountability measures within the first 6 months of the operation.
  • Ensure contact details of DRC, including a local telephone number is accessible for stakeholders to contact DRC at any stage.

Day 1 – Day 90:

  • Different levels of participation may be appropriate at different times. However, from the outset efforts should be made to identify opportunities for different groups to be consulted via assessments and to be more involved in decision-making, particularly groups or individuals traditionally excluded.
  • Where possible, conduct a rapid gender analysis to ensure the intervention can understand the different needs, capacities, vulnerabilities and opportunities of women, men, girls and boys. Design the response according to the analysis and ensure it places special emphasis on and prioritises vulnerable groups.
  • Develop simple communication campaign information materials for PoC and other stakeholders to be informed about DRC’s identity/mandate and planned assistance in the area. Ensure information shared is accurate, timely, and accessible in multiple languages and formats to strengthen trust, understanding and levels of participation from different groups.
  • Time and resources will be needed to ensure that the affected population know what they can expect from DRC in terms of services, staff attitudes and behaviour, as well as what to do and where to go if they want to make a complaint if we have failed to meet these standards. Further, DRC’s global accountability framework and CoC should be made available to all stakeholders.
  • Establish a help desk or information centre where dedicated trained DRC staff (ideally independent of project teams) can be approached with feedback or complaints. Feedback should be managed appropriately and sensitively, and cases dealt with by trained staff, who have experience dealing with Code of Conduct and Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) issues.

Day 90 – Day 180:

  • Based on the initial intervention concept, a country specific accountability framework should be developed. Inspiration can be found on DRC’s website under each country operation.
  • After 6 months it is expected that the emergency operation is at a level to comply with DRC’s accountability framework.
  • Policies and strategies should outline how the operation aims to facilitate community engagement and decision-making, listen to affected people and manage feedback.
  • Formalised complaints handling guidelines/procedures are developed clearly stating which complaints fall within the agency’s remit, and when and how to refer them to other service providers. The possibility of working with other agencies on complaints mechanisms in specific locations, consortia or sectors should also be considered as this may be less confusing for communities and staff.


DRC Progamme Handbook

DRC Complaints Mechanism Handbook

DRC Accountability Framework

DRC Code of Conduct Reporting Mechanism



Help Desk Terms of Reference

CRM database and setup guidelines Lebanon

Code of Conduct info and trainings from Greece

Good Enough Guide: Impact Measurement and Accountability in Emergencies



For questions related to the Code of Conduct please contact

Name:                Jonathan Martin
Position:           Code of Conduct Advisor
Email:                [email protected]

For question related to humanitarian accountability please contact

Name:                Joanna Nevill
Position:           Advisor Participation and Accountability
Email:                [email protected]

For other questions contact the HQ Emergency Unit: [email protected]