Accountability and Learning

Strengthening accountability and learning in insecure environments

In contexts where humanitarian actors and communities face high insecurity, it becomes much harder to assess the reach and effectiveness of assistance. Together with 18 learning partners in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan, we identified different strategies for monitoring aid.

We found that:

  1. Current monitoring systems prioritise accountability to donors rather than to the people receiving aid. Crisis-affected communities rightfully demand more direct communication and participation in programming. Read our paper (PDF) on listening to communities in insecure settings.
  2. Monitoring needs to be better targeted and more strategic, to avoid creating unnecessary layers at agency, cluster, consortium, donor and country levels. Strengthening systems and personnel at the ground level should be the first priority for further investments. The Common Humanitarian Fund in South Sudan offers a good example for combining verification with capacity development.
  3. Third-party monitoring can provide a valuable layer of verification where access for own staff is limited, but it should not replace implementing organisations’ own monitoring. See the report on the use of Third-Party Monitoring (PDF) in Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
  4. Technology can improve monitoring, but brings extra risks in insecure settings. This toolkit (PDF) summarises the benefits, costs and challenges of different applications.

Main Research Outputs:

Eyes and Ears on the Ground: Monitoring aid in insecure environments

Listening to communities in insecure environments

The use of Third-Party Monitoring in insecure contexts

Technologies for monitoring in insecure environments

Additional Resources

Additional Reports

Interim Report: Accountability and learning in volatile environments (PDF)

Monitoring and evaluation in insecure environments: back to basics? (PDF)

Inventory of M&E training options (PDF)


Innovating for Access: The Role of Technology in Monitoring Aid in Highly Insecure Environments

Operating in insecure environments is one of the more critical tests for the humanitarian community. Access constraints, uncertainty, attacks and aid diversion make these unlikely settings for innovation. Yet several new approaches come from highly insecure environments. In these settings, technologies like mobile phones, radios, Internet platforms and GPS trackers are sometimes the only way to send and receive vital information, or track the movement of goods.

Drones in Humanitarian Crises: Between Useful Tool and Do No Harm

As part of the EU-ECHO funded research initiative 'Drones in Humanitarian Action', the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), CartONG and the Zoi Environment Network are looking at how drones can have a real impact in humanitarian crises and what humanitarian organizations should consider before using them. 

Are You Really Listening? How Feedback Mechanisms Work (or Not) in Insecure Environments

Consulting people about the aid they receive is recognised as central to improving the quality of humanitarian assistance. This is particularly valuable in insecure contexts, such as Afghanistan and Somalia, where humanitarian staff have limited opportunities for face-to-face contact with the population. But are we communicating in an appropriate way, on the right issues, on a consistent basis and through the best channels? And what happens when aid agencies receive that information?

Seven Requirements for Successful Third-Party Monitoring

Over the summer, the SAVE research team met with stakeholders in Afghanistan and Somalia to discuss the use of Third Party Monitoring (TPM) mechanisms. TPMs take a range of different forms in practice, but generally involve the collection and validation of monitoring information using parties external to an aid agency or donor organisation.

Put the Task Before the Tech

As we research the monitoring of aid in insecure environments, practitioners repeatedly express great interest in new technologies to gather information or communicate with affected populations. In contexts as diverse as Afghanistan and South Central Somalia, mobile phones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with cameras are promising: they can inform organisations about the needs of beneficiaries or, the whereabouts of food trucks. They can help us know whether vaccines have been administered and canals have been dug, and how many women, men, and children are staying in a shelter. Such knowledge crucially informs daily decision-making and keeps goals and efforts in alignment.