Empowering Refugees through Humanitarian Quality and Accountability Programming in Uganda

Author: Rizwan Iqbal | Global Accountability and Safeguarding Coordinator, ACT Alliance

Uganda, a country known for its generous approach towards refugees, has been a safe haven for thousands fleeing conflict and persecution in neighboring nations. In a bid to further enhance the support provided to refugees and ensure they receive dignified assistance, a workshop on “Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS)” was hosted by ACT Uganda Forum and facilitated by ACT Secretariat’s staff Mr. Rizwan Iqbal and Ms. Caroline Nguju on August 30-31, 2023. It was a collaborative effort between several ACT Uganda Forum members to strengthen the quality and accountability of humanitarian aid. Thanks to the active participation of dedicated participants from Church of Uganda (CoU), Rural Action Community Based Organization (RACBO) , Cordaid, Dan Church Aid (DCA), Finn Church Aid (FCA), Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and World Renew.

The workshop was designed based on a pre-Learning Needs Assessment and for 89% of the attendees this was the first comprehensive workshop on CHS. Participants engaged in vibrant discussions, shared best practices, and identified key challenges in humanitarian aid delivery. The diversity of perspectives and experiences enriched the discussions enabling them to develop a comprehensive action plan to enhance the quality and accountability of aid programs.

The plans included:

  1. Capacity Building: Strengthening the capacity of staff and partners involved in refugee assistance to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver high-quality aid based on Humanitarian Principles, Code of Conduct and CHS Commitments.
  2. Accountability Mechanisms: Implementing robust accountability mechanisms to track the effectiveness and impact of aid programs, ensuring that they meet the needs of refugees. Including CHS requirements in the monitoring tools and establishing/improving Complaints Response Mechanism.
  3. Community Engagement: Promoting greater engagement with refugee communities to understand their unique needs and preferences, enabling more tailored and effective assistance.
  4. Data and Monitoring: Enhancing data collection and monitoring systems to provide real-time feedback and improve decision-making in aid delivery.
  5. Collaborative Partnerships: Encouraging collaboration among ACT Forum members, other humanitarian organizations, government agencies, and NGOs to leverage resources and expertise effectively.

In conclusion, the CHS workshop in Uganda received good feedback and participants marked it useful during the workshop evaluation, thanks to the dedicated participants, the exceptional hosting arrangements by LWF, and the outstanding coordination by Ms. Irene – ACT Uganda Forum Coordinator. The action plans developed during this workshop will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the lives of refugees in Uganda, improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance.

As we move forward, let us continue to work together to uphold the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, ensuring that refugees in Uganda receive the support and assistance they deserve. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

ACT Alliance’s innovative mentorship for greater CHS impact

This news is a duplicate of an article  that was originally published on the CHS Alliance’s website

ACT Alliance, a dedicated CHS Alliance member, has embarked on an innovative approach to support programme quality and accountability within its membership. ACT Alliance has been CHS Certified since 2017. Committed to the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and its transformative potential, ACT Alliance initiated a pilot programme to mentor and guide selected national organisations through the CHS self-assessment process.

As a result of this new approach, ACT Alliance and CHS Alliance are witnessing increased interest from local NGOs operating in similar contexts. Rizwan Iqbal, Global Accountability & Safeguarding Coordinator at ACT Alliance, emphasises the importance of supporting local and national NGOs: “As meeting the CHS is so fundamental for providing the type of accountable aid crisis-affected people have the right to, donors and large partners must support them to achieve this.”

This pioneering initiative by ACT Alliance, supported by its funding member Kerk in Actie, is not just about meeting standards; it’s a journey of empowerment, collaboration, and positive transformation that is rippling through the sector. As these organisations continue to champion accountability and quality improvement, their impact resonates far beyond this pilot.

Global engagement

ACT Alliance established clear criteria for engagement with the pilot initiative and hosted a global webinar to explain how it works to potential participants. The response was very strong, with over 20 applications received. Ultimately, four organisations—Anglican Development Services (ADS) Kenya, Cuban Council of Churches, Service Chretien d’Haiti (SCH), and YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) Indonesia—were chosen to participate based on their applications which showed a good understanding of the pilot and how they would constructively utilise the support available.

Flexible support

ACT Alliance provided these organisations with technical support and a flexible grant of USD 7,500 to conduct a comprehensive CHS self-assessment and improvement plan. The funds were not restricted to specific uses, allowing organisations to leverage existing efforts, use innovative approaches and address their unique needs.

“For the Council of Churches of Cuba, conducting a CHS self-assessment represented a great opportunity for staff self-reflection on how to improve the quality of our response to affected communities and renew our commitment to more transparent accountability. Without the support to carry it out, we would not be able to evaluate ourselves in the same way.” Maria L. Navas Zorrilla, Humanitarian & Development Specialist Adviser, Cuban Council of Churches.

Hands-on help

While these organisations were already incorporating the CHS into their operations, they sought verification against the Standard to better understand and act on the CHS Commitments. ACT Alliance collaborated closely with each organisation, offering support in initiating the self-assessment process, identifying resources in relevant languages, and fostering senior management commitment.

Throughout the process, ACT Alliance played a strong mentoring role, offering guidance, specialised training where needed, and assistance in navigating tools. Ernst Abraham, Executive Director of local ACT Alliance member SCH Haiti, highlighted the impact of this support: “SCH received continuous support from ACT and CHS Alliance. This assistance made a dramatic difference, and without it, SCH would not be able to make the assessment correctly and completely.”

Transformative changes

The self-assessment process has become a catalyst for internal and external collaboration, as organisations examine precisely where they need strengthening and what resources—internal or external—are required.

The simultaneous engagement of pilot organisations in the self-assessment process has fostered peer learning, creating a supportive community working towards a common goal. Anastasia Maylinda, Executive Member Manager of YEU Indonesia, noted, “This self-assessment process has had a positive impact, especially in areas of organisational governance, operational and partnership building.” Ernst Abraham of SCH, Haiti highlighted a significant change in staff sensitivity to abuse and sexual exploitation, leading to the hiring of more women as field staff to better support vulnerable women.

Charles Macharia, Programs Manager of ADS Kenya, shared, “We now feel more confident engaging at many different levels with quality and accountability mechanisms nationally, regionally and globally. The self-assessment process also gives us the chance for different departments to work together internally on our shared quality and accountability goals.”

Championing the cause

These pilot organisations have become champions of CHS in their respective countries, actively promoting the Standard and sharing their experiences. YEU in Indonesia recently conducted a learning workshop on the CHS self-assessment journey for ACT Alliance Forum members in Indonesia and local partners, setting an example for other organisations. ADS Kenya is actively encouraging and supporting other entities to initiate their CHS self-assessments.

Leadership in action

ACT Alliance have shown what is possible when national organisations are proactively supported to make the most of the CHS. CHS Alliance calls on all INGOs to actively champion the CHS: now is the time for the CHS movement to step up and ensure all organisations can fulfil our shared CHS Commitments to the people we serve.



Independent Appeal Panel upholds appeal by ACT Alliance.

Geneva, SwitzerlandFollowing HQAI’s decision to suspend ACT Alliance’s certification and the subsequent appeal by ACT Alliance against that decision, the Appeal Panel mandated by HQAI’s Advisory and Complaint Board (ACB) has stipulated that the audit report does not provide sufficient objective evidence to support the major corrective action request (CAR) M2023-8.4 and requests the HQAI Secretariat to withdraw the major finding and lift the suspension of the certificate with immediate effect. The HQAI Secretariat has also been asked to allocate additional resources and time to the next audit so that there can be a specific focus on issues identified in the now-revoked major corrective action.

What does this decision concretely mean?

  • The suspension of ACT Alliance’s certificate is lifted with immediate effect. The major CAR M2023-8.4 (The ACT Alliance Secretariat does not have the management and staff capacity to deliver the effective operation of its humanitarian mechanism – Appeal and RRF – in compliance with the CHS) has been withdrawn, and the audit report is subsequently being updated.
  • It confirms ACT Alliance’s unwavering commitment to Quality and Accountability and the CHS, as demonstrated through its longstanding audit journey since its initial CHS Certification in 2017.
  • ACT Alliance is committed to addressing all CHS audit findings, and the next certification audit (maintenance audit 2025) will follow its progress on ensuring sufficient management and staff capacity to deliver its humanitarian mechanism in compliance with the CHS. Before finalising and sharing the 2025 public audit report, HQAI will report detailed findings back to the ACB.
  • The appeal decision clearly demonstrates the impartiality of the ACB in its decisions and corroborates HQAI’s commitment to professionalism, impartiality, and objectivity. The independent accreditation body Accredia annually assesses HQAI’s impartiality as one of its audit criteria against ISO/IEC 17065:2015.
  • HQAI welcomes and values complaints and appeals and will use every case as an opportunity to learn and continue offering independent, adapted quality assurance services. HQAI will embark on a meaningful reflection and comprehensive analysis of the Appeal Panel’s findings to ensure that HQAI’s interpretation of audit findings is systematically substantiated by factual and objective evidence and clearly conveyed to our partners.



On August 09, 2023, HQAI’s audit report identified a major corrective action request (major CAR M2023-8.4) on ACT Alliance’s renewal audit, leading to the suspension of the CHS certificate, which was communicated to ACT Alliance on August 11, 2023. ACT Alliance appealed against the audit decision on August 24, 2023. The subsequent investigation and decision by the Executive Director of HQAI to uphold the audit findings was not accepted by ACT Alliance and motivated ACT’s request for the appeal to be escalated to the ACB of HQAI, dated September 22, 2023. An independent Appeal Panel of two ACB members was formed to conduct a review process evaluating all the documents and records submitted by both parties to the appeal. The Appeal Panel decided to uphold the appeal. The decision is binding for both parties.

It should be noted that provisional suspensions are common practice in certification schemes across various sectors and can typically last up to six months. They are used to indicate situations where the management system of a certified organisation has undergone significant changes that impact the organisation’s ability to comply with a given standard or when one or more minor CARs could not be addressed within the specified timeframe. Unfortunately, despite being a normal part of the HQAI audit process of CHS, suspensions may still cause reputational damage to audited organisations even if, like ACT Alliance, they have consistently proven their long-standing commitment to Quality and Accountability and the CHS. It is therefore acknowledged that a better sector-wide understanding of the CHS certification process, its transparency and purpose, is necessary to ensure that audited organisations’ commitments to quality and accountability are recognised and valued. HQAI is committed to furthering this understanding.

Download the Word document here


“Dignified Assistance in Every Crisis”: CWSA’s campaign to promote quality and accountability in humanitarian action

In June 2023 Community World Service Asia (CWSA) launched a digital campaign to promote quality in humanitarian action. The campaign “Dignified Assistance in Every Crisis”, which is still running, aims at strengthening the understanding of humanitarian principles among field workers, emergency responders and local civil society.

« As a regional and national focal point for quality and accountability standards, CWSA is focusing on activities that aim at strengthening the capacity of local NGOs, as well as the availability and use of contextualised resources, techniques, and procedures to reinforce systemic and cultural changes, » said Palwashay Arbarb, Head of Communications at CWSA.


Although focused on the local context and translated into local languages, the English version of the campaign, which is currently running on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook, is available for all ACT members to circulate.

« We really urge our partners in ACT Alliance, and its network in Pakistan, to widely circulate the content of  this campaign to ensure humanitarian response in the country at all levels is safe, people- centered and dignified. », concluded Palwashay Arbarb.

Please, find some key resources here:


Gender Transformative Safeguarding: Help us shape the new policy, guidelines and training

Safeguarding is not a tick-box activity, it requires the strengthening of our policies, guidelines and training to ensure the well-being and protection from harm for all. The ACT Safeguarding Community of Practice and ACT Gender Justice Programme have initiated a collaborative process with our members to broaden the scope of the ACT Safeguarding Policy, develop guidelines and create a new FABO blended learning course, to revitalise our practices and accountability mechanisms.
Why are you developing a new approach to safeguarding?
 “To ensure “everyone’s right to life with dignity”, driven through effective organisational and programmatic practices, we need to prioritize safeguarding, as it helps overcoming abuse of power particularly towards gender and race. ACT has a policy on Child Safeguarding and Communities Data Safeguarding, which is implemented with the support of ACT Safeguarding Community of Practice (CoP) and Reference Group on Quality and Accountability. We must bring all safeguarding policies under one umbrella and expand the scope to broader safeguarding aspects, including gender transformative practices. This new model will also meet the recommendation from the ‘ACT’s Roadmap on Accountability Improvement and Compliance’ which advised streamlining compliance requirements and balancing compliance burden. We are aiming to channel the Safeguarding case reporting to the complaints mechanism as well. We are looking forward to the member’s engagement and contributions to this important piece of work.”Rizwan Iqbal, Global Accountability and Safeguarding Coordinator

How can my organisation be involved?

  • We kindly ask ALL members to complete the survey below by 16 June 2023, which will shape the work going forward (in English / in Spanish / in French). If you have any difficulties accessing the survey please email corinne@gcps.consulting
  • Please express your interest in one or more of our focus group discussions here by 2 June 2023, which are: (1) Leadership, (2) Human Resources/Communications, (3) Safeguarding Focal Points / Risk Management, (4) Programme Design / Operational Staff, (5) Monitoring and Evaluation, and (6) Cross-cutting group in Spanish.

How will my input contribute to the process?

Your contributions are critical to:

  • Determine the scope of the new safeguarding policy and good practice guidelines
  • Understand what key elements should be included in the blended learning programme
  • Obtain information on resources or tools that you use that we should consider in the development of the policy, good practice guidelines and blended learning programme
  • Consider your current strengths, issues and challenges in safeguarding to inform setting standards in the policy that can be achieved by all

We would like to express our sincere thanks to our members involved in the Steering Group – Australian Lutheran World Service, Anglican Overseas Aid, Act Church of Sweden, Global Mission Partners, for funding this initiative, and Community World Service, Salvation Army, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission, for providing leadership. GCPS Consulting is providing the technical team to deliver the outputs.
If you have any questions, please contact ACT Alliance:

Rizwan Iqbal, Global Accountability and Safeguarding Coordinator, rizwan.iqbal@actalliance.org
Rachel Tavernor, Gender Justice Programme Strategist,

Opportunity for members: Webinar on CHS Self-Assessment

The ACT Alliance quality and accountability team invites all ACT Alliance members, especially the local and national members, to join a  webinar, organised in collaboration with the CHS Alliance, to increase their understanding of the CHS self-assessment tool. 

The webinar is intended for all ACT members’ staff, especially for senior management, programme managers, and those having a role in monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning within the organisation.

At the end of the webinar, participants will be able to describe the CHS Verification Framework and conduct a CHS self-assessment following a step-by-step methodology.

Participants will also be able to listen to the experience of CHS Alliance and ACT Alliance’s members who have already completed the CHS verification process.

Please register in advance.

When: October 27th, 2022

Time: 15.00-16.30hrs CET

Where: Zoom (register here)

Language: English

About Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS)

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) sets out the essential elements of principled accountable and high-quality aid. ACT members engaged in the humanitarian response are required to apply the Core Humanitarian Standard in the design and implementation of the humanitarian response. 

To access different language versions of the CHS standard click here:  https://corehumanitarianstandard.org/language-versions

A short e-course on CHS is also available in several languages, it can be accessed by clicking here: https://kayaconnect.org/course/info.php?id=260&lang=en 

For more resources on CHS you are encouraged to visit CHS Alliance website: https://www.chsalliance.org/