1. Quality and Accountability

CARE is committed to responding to humanitarian crises in such a way that it has the greatest, longest-lasting impact on the lives of those people affected. This commitment is reflected in CARE’s 2030 Vision (July  2021) and  in the Humanitarian Strategy for the 2030 Vision (Dec 2021).

We understand Programme Quality as a constant process of improvement that should be largely driven by the rights, needs and aspirations of the people in our programming areas.  ACCOUNTABILITY is therefore a central element for both CARE’s Programme Quality and CARE’s Governance. CARE’s Programme Quality Standards require that we:

  • proactively seek feedback from the people we serve and partners we work with, adjusting our programs and how we work accordingly.
  • communicate in a transparent and timely manner to communities and other stakeholders about our programs, their results and our learnings, and on how we respond to the feedback we are given.
  • model accountability within CARE and our own partnerships, in line with our commitments under the Core Humanitarian Standard, and
  • promote the accountability of power holders and other duty bearers.

CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF, see section 3 below) sets out how accountability is a constant, guiding principle in CARE’s humanitarian work which, when applied at every stage of the programme cycle, provides an essential means of achieving high programme quality standards and greatest impact.

For CARE accountability is not an add-on but is integral to every aspect of its work and the responsibility of every CARE staff member. Having a HAF as a core policy commitment means making decisions, managing performance and measuring success in an accountable way. It means that transparency, engagement and empowerment are built-in features of good quality humanitarian programme management.

This chapter is intended to guide CARE staff in the application of CARE’s HAF, particularly those in Country Offices who are engaged in humanitarian programming.

CARE publicly recognizes its obligation to give voice to and be held to account by all stakeholders, not least the people affected by humanitarian crises, its implementing partners and its staff. CARE also understands that careful application of accountability standards improves the quality and relevance and enhances the positive impact of its humanitarian programming. With its membership of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance,  CARE makes a public commitment to uphold and promote global standards of quality and accountability that have been set and agreed by leading humanitarian actors including CARE. This chapter also refers to the quality and accountability framework required of each full member of the CHS-Alliance.

Programme quality when responding to humanitarian crises means addressing immediate needs in an appropriate, effective and timely manner. CARE has developed Global Outcome Indicators for humanitarian programmes that define ‘quality and lifesaving assistance’ as called for in the CARE Program Strategy. Further detailed definitions of quality humanitarian assistance are provided by SPHERE and its companion standards (see Humanitarian Standards Partnership).  

Good quality cannot be achieved without accountability. Only when people whose lives are affected by crisis are meaningfully engaged in programme design, delivery and review will their needs be met and will they be supported by CARE to become empowered, less exposed to risk and more resilient in the long-term.

Accountability is the responsible exercise of power and therefore must be a built-in feature of an agile response management practice: how decisions are made in a response, how performance of a response is managed, and how success of a response is defined and measured. CARE must be accountable from top to bottom, bottom to top, inside and out, and to every stakeholder. Most important of all, the decisions CARE makes at every stage of a humanitarian crisis must be determined by the needs, concerns and interests the women, men, girls and boys whose lives are affected. CARE must make those decisions in the spirt of openness and transparency and be accountable for their impact. With this firm commitment CARE aligns itself with the IASC Commitments on Accountability to Affected People (CAAP).

CARE is committed to a wide range of internal and inter-agency policies and standards. Central to these standards and policies is our commitment to being directly accountable for the quality of our work by making certain that communities affected by disasters have a say in planning, implementing and judging CARE’s response. However, the large number of different standards and accountability initiatives can be confusing.

In order to simplify their application CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF), first developed in 2010 and then revised in 2016:

  • shows how they relate to each other, rather than providing an entirely new set of standards or benchmarks
  • clarifies what CARE staff (CO staff, Lead Members, CEG, CARE members) will actually be held accountable for during emergency responses
  • defines compliance systems to ensure implementation of the HAF is driven by senior management, who are expected to model appropriate behaviours to ensure genuine accountability
  • is a policy statement and framework on quality and accountability for CARE’s humanitarian mandate. It sets out how accountability is a constant, guiding principle in CARE’s humanitarian work which, when applied at every stage of the programme cycle, provides an essential means of achieving high programme quality standards and greatest impact.

Therefore, the HAF has three pillars which are described in more detail in the following sections.

All CARE staff and offices should understand and comply with the HAF in the design, delivery and review of humanitarian programming. Compliance requires meaningful engagement with and the empowerment of people affected by crisis, partners and CARE staff. The HAF, as such, prescribes a culture of transparency and learning to drive real-time and long-term improvements in CARE’s responses to humanitarian crises. The HAF is also a vehicle for bringing CARE together in focus, coherence and consistency to achieve high quality, accountable humanitarian programming across the globe.

3.1 COMMITMENTS on Humanitarian Quality and Accountability (see section.)

3.2 TARGETS for CARE’s Humanitarian Performance (see section)

3.3 ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM for monitoring compliance with commitments and performance against targets (see section)


3.1 Commitments on Humanitarian Quality and Accountability

3.1.1 The Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS)

3.1.2 CHS quality criteria and indicators

3.1.3 CHS Verification

3.2 Humanitarian Performance Targets

3.2.1 Scale and Scope

3.2.2 Relevance of the Response

3.2.3 Alignment with the CARE Approach

3.2.4 Efficiency

3.2.5 Management against Global Standards

3.3 Humanitarian Accountability System

3.3.1 Accountability monitoring

3.3.2 Learning and Evaluation Activities

Compliance with CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF) is a CARE-wide obligation and priority. It is the responsibility of every CARE staff member to treat quality and accountability (Q&A) as integral to his or her role. All CARE Country Offices and CARE Members should have plans in place for operationalization the HAF in their particular context and for relevant monitoring its implementation.

Position Key responsibilities
All staff –    be aware of and adhere to CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF)
CI Secretary General –    regularly report to the CI Board on CI-wide HAF compliance and progress (including sharing the annual Performance Metrics report, which includes consolidated scores against CARE Humanitarian Quality and Accountability Commitments and Humanitarian Performance Targets
CARE Member Senior Management (especially Lead Members with Country Office oversight) –    ensure that CARE Members have in place plans of action for implementing and reviewing their own performance against the HAF, with a focus on the Performance Targets and Commitments 7, 8 and 9

–    ensure that all staff are aware of and adhere to CARE’s HAF

–    alongside CEG, ensure that CARE’s humanitarian programming complies with Q&A standards as set out in the HAF and CHS

Humanitarian & Operations Director (HOD) –    ensure that CEG has in place a plan of action for implementing and reviewing its own performance against the HAF, with a focus on Performance Targets

–    alongside CARE Member Senior Management, ensure that CARE’s humanitarian programming complies with Q&A standards as set out in the HAF and CHS

–    oversee the collation of annual Humanitarian Performance Metrics reports

–    ensure that CARE keeps to its commitment on transparency in publishing its Performance Metrics reports, CHS verification outputs, evaluations and other learning outputs

CEG Humanitarian Operations Team –    Ensure maintenance and management of Humanitarian Crisis & Response Database with related platforms for data access and visualization

–    Prepare regular global Crisis Overviews

–    Prepare annual Humanitarian Performance Metrics reports

Country Directors (CD), Country Office (CO) Senior Management Teams (SMT) or Emergency Response Team (ERT) and Emergency Team Leader (ETL) –    alongside CO Focal Point, ensure that COs have in place plans of action for implementing and reviewing their own performance against the HAF, with a focus on all CHS commitments

–    maintain overall responsibility for HAF compliance, including relevant systems, measurement processes and application of lessons / improved Q&A practice

–    ensure adequate resources are allocated for Q&A activities across all humanitarian programming

–    facilitate Rapid Accountability Reviews (RAR) and After Action Reviews (AAR) during the course of any emergency response (Type 2 or above)

–    report periodically on HAF compliance to CEG

Crisis Coordination Group (CCG) –    ensure planning of appropriate response specific reviews and evaluations as well as related management response to key accountability & performance issues as raised by RPS

–    engage critical CARE stakeholders in management response on in a particular response

–    alongside CEG REC and MEAC, maintain oversight over HAF performance measurement processes within a particular response (primarily RARs, AARs, evaluations).

CO Focal Point (FP) for Programme Quality and Accountability (PQ&A) –    alongside CD / SMT / ERT / ETL, ensure that the CO has in place a plan of action for implementing and reviewing performance against the HAF, which is reviewed regularly and adapted as required

–    ensure that the HAF is incorporated in programme plans, monitoring, evaluation and review

–    ensure that effective accountability mechanisms are in place

–    provide relevant training and mentoring for CO and partner staff

–    alongside CD / SMT / ERT / ETL, facilitate RARs and AARs during the course of any emergency response (Type 2 or above)

CO Project Manager(s) (all alongside the FP for PQ&A)

–    ensure application of HAF throughout the programme cycle, including monitoring, evaluation and review

–    ensure that effective accountability mechanisms are in place

–    provide support to project staff (CARE and partners) to implement the HAF

–    ensure adequate resources are allocated within project budgets for quality and accountability activities

Regional Emergency Coordinator (REC) –    guide COs in their adherence to the HAF

–    provide technical support on programme quality and accountability standards and measures, as per the HAF

–    support (alongside with CO-FP for PQ&A) facilitation of response reviews and AARs

–    support CO in engaging critical CARE stakeholders in management response to critical performance issues

CEG Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Coordinator (MEAC) –    maintain oversight over HAF performance measurement processes (primarily RARs, AARs and CHS verification)

–    provide technical support to COs on HAF compliance

–    support learning between COs and emergencies

–    support HOD on CEG HAF plan of action

–    lead on compilation of Response Performance Summaries (RPS)

–    coordinate CHS verification processes

–    ensure maintenance of HAF performance data section of CEG database

–    support CO and REC in engaging critical CARE stakeholders in management response to critical performance issues

Field-based Accountability Officers –    conduct information campaigns

–    facilitate participatory mechanisms

–    establish and maintain feedback and complaints mechanisms

–    investigate or support investigation of complaints (according to complaints policy)

–    ensure feedback to communities about management response to issues raised

Quality and Accountability Specialists (roster) –    provide support to COs in setting up and implementing quality and accountability systems suited to the operating context

–    provide HAF-related training and mentoring to CO staff

–    lead or support RARs and AARs

CO Communications staff –    ensure communications support is in line with the HAF, especially in relation to Commitment 4
CO and CI Human Resources staff –    ensure human resources support is in line with the HAF, especially in relation to Commitment 8 and Response Target 4
CO and CI Finance staff –    ensure finance support is in line with the HAF, especially in relation to Commitment 9 and Response Target 3

The CARE Emergency Group (CEG) maintains oversight of CARE’s humanitarian Q&A performance – including leadership on Rapid Accountability Reviews (RAR), Response Performance Summaries, Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Verification, Humanitarian Performance Metrics.

This checklist is intended for Country Offices engaged in an emergency response. It draws from CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF), which incorporates the CARE Humanitarian Quality and Accountability Commitmentsand Humanitarian Performance Targets  and the relevant Compliance System.


  1. ensure that an organisational culture of transparency and accountability is modelled at every level including CARE leadership.
  2. plan and budget for quality and accountability (Q&A) including M&E capacity, feedback and complaints mechanisms, reviews and evaluations (see also chapter on M&E).
  3. ensure that that Q&A commitments are integral to every CARE staff member’s role and every stage of CARE’s humanitarian programme cycle
  4. ensure that CARE’s response is timely and reaches as many people as possible according to CARE Performance Targets whilst maintaining high Q&A standards as indicated in CARE’s Humanitarian Commitments
  5. have in place safe and responsive feedback and complaints mechanisms that are designed, implemented and monitored with the involvement of people affected by crisis
  6. meaningfully engage all stakeholders, and primarily those people affected by crisis, throughout the programme cycle, such they are informed, empowered and able to influence CARE’s response
  7. ensure that robust monitoring and evaluation and HAF compliance processes – Rapid Accountability Reviews and After Action Reviews – take place, for the sake of accountability as well as to enable real-time and long-term improvements in CARE’s humanitarian programming
  8. ensure that CARE’s response is focused on its core sectors and aligned with its programme approach such that it promotes post-emergency transition, recovery and resilience-building
  9. assess and monitor the risks, vulnerabilities and capacities of people affected by crisis, making sure to plan and adapt programming accordingly
  10. ensure that there is adequate protection of all stakeholders, including people affected by crisis, CARE and partner staff, and that any negative effects of CARE’s programming are mitigated and managed
  11. coordinate effectively with other humanitarian actors, including ensuring adherence to CHS commitments and to relevant technical programming standards, and jointly organisng appropriate verification processes
  12. develop effective, accountable working relationships with partners based on clear and consistent agreements whilst supporting and ensuring their adherence to CARE’s HAF
  13. ensure that staff are sufficiently skilled and supported to adhere to the HAF (and thereby to deliver good quality, accountable humanitarian programming)
  14. ensure that staff policies and procedures are fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and compliant with local employment law
  15. ensure efficiency and transparency (including sharing information on community-level budgets and expenditure) whilst avoiding diversion and wastage in the management of financial resources


  1. Fail to establish and communicate clear accountability systems during an emergency response, both within CARE and partners
  2. Not allocate dedicated resources for monitoring and evaluation from the early phases of the emergency response
  3. Not provide communities with timely or adequate information about their entitlements
  4. Think there’s not enough time or capacity to involve disaster-affected communities in participatory processes
  5. Establish beneficiary feedback or complaints systems that are difficult to access by vulnerable groups and/or can be manipulated by elite people – or none at all.
  6. Measure simple outputs, e.g. quantities of food distributed, rather than using accepted quality standards and indicators (e.g. CHS, Sphere) to assess and monitor needs and assistance provided
  7. For new staff, focusing only on technical training and not bother with orientation on relevant parts of the Humanitarian Accountability Framework (codes of conduct, etc.)
  8. Not prioritise capacity building/orientation in practical accountability methods and mechanisms of ‘front-line’ field staff from CARE and partners that are the primary points of contact with communities
  9. Not adapt monitoring and evaluation, and accountability systems for longer-term projects and programmes to a more dynamic and fast-moving context of an emergency response.

While HAF compliance relates to all of CARE and is the responsibility of every CARE staff member, this checklist highlights only the most critical Q&A actions and responsibilities for Country Offices engaged in an emergency response. It should be read alongside the sections on Q&A roles and responsibilities, Q&A resourcing, and Q&A support.

How quickly and effectively CARE is able to meet benchmarks and targets defined in the HAF will depend largely on the context. While the HAF will be used as a basis in judging the quality and accountability of each response, this will be in the context of a ‘good enough’ approach. The good enough guide acknowledges that in an emergency response, adopting a quick and simple approach to impact measurement and accountability may be the only practical possibility. ‘Good enough’ does not mean second best, but rather it means recognising and acknowledging limitations in terms of capacity and time, prioritising appropriately, taking steps to anticipate and fill gaps and, when the situation changes, review and revise accordingly.

The Country Office (CO) must ensure that there is sufficient staff capacity and financial resource to support implementation of CARE’s Humanitarian Accountability Framework (HAF) from the outset of any emergency response. As far as possible costs for staffing (including training, salaries and other costs) and specific activities (including communications and any relevant monitoring or learning activities) should be included in donor-funded project budgets.

Activity budgets should include resourcing for:

  • induction and capacity building for all CARE and partner staff on the HAF
  • communications and information provision (primarily to people affected by crisis)
  • stakeholder feedback and complaints systems
  • compliance and accountability processesincluding Rapid Accountability Reviews (RAR), After Action Reviews (AAR), and routine monitoring activities as well as (external) evaluation(s)

Human resources budget lines for quality and accountability might include:

  • A focal point on programme quality and accountability (this could be included as part of the responsibility of an existing M&E coordinator)
  • field-based accountability officers
  • (a proportion of the time of) an information and/or communications manager
  • (a proportion of the time of) local project managers for organizing induction and capacity building activities for staff and partners
  • special technical assistance(e.g. deployment of a specialist from another part of CARE)

The CARE Emergency Group (CEG) and all CARE Members must also have adequate resources for quality and accountability in place for activities such as HAF training; supporting RARs; participating, supporting or leading (CARE members: Type 2; CEG: Type 4) AARs and other accountability-related processes; and engagement in inter-agency networks, not least the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance.

Country Offices (CO) requiring guidance on humanitarian programme quality and accountability, particularly in relation to CARE’s Humanitarian and Accountability Framework (HAF) and the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS), can contact their Regional Humanitarian Coordinator (RHC) or the CARE Emergency Group (CEG) Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Coordinator (MEAC).


COs can also access specialist technical support on quality and accountability during emergency response operations via the Roster for Emergency Deployment (RED) following standard personnel mobilisation procedures. The Q&A section of the RED is managed by the CEG-MEAC who can be contacted through emergencyQA@careinternational.org.


The CDAC network and the IASC AAP/PSEA Task Team review and consolidate existing guidance, tools and case studies around Accountability to Affected People.  A matrix of AAP resources is available to guide practicioners at the organisational and collective (e.g. cluster) levels. For Principals and Senior Managers at the organisational and collective levels the Task Team developed a Guidance Note with recommendations adapted from the ‘Grand Bargain Participation Revolution Recommendations (GBPRR) to Promote Effective Participation of People Affected by Crisis in Humanitarian Decisions’.