Community Engagement and Accountability
Yemen Red Crescent


Accountability is more than an idea – it is a commitment.

Accountability to affected people is at the heart of humanitarian action and should be at the heart of HSPs. Accountability is more than an idea – it is a commitment. The recent Council of Delegates resolution on Movement-wide Commitments for Community Engagement and Accountability (CD/19/R1) reminds us of the Movement’s commitment to strengthening accountability to and engagement with vulnerable and affected people.

This commitment should also apply to agencies the RCRC partners with. Humanitarian actors committed, at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, to a ‘Participation Revolution’, putting the needs and interests of people affected by humanitarian crises at the core of humanitarian decision-making. This commitment is also articulated in the Core Humanitarian Standards.

Operationalisation of this commitment is through Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) – a series of activities that aim to put communities at the centre of its response.

This includes ensuring people are consulted and participate in the design and implementation of programmes, and have the opportunity to provide feedback on it. It also means ensuring people have the opportunity to complain about programmes and services and how they are delivered, and about behaviour outside the RCRC Code of Conduct.

Key Commitments on CEA include:

The Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief.

IFRC 2018 Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

IFRC 2013 General Assembly decision (GA/13/40) on promoting active engagement and wider participation of the communities in operations and programmes.

2015 International Conference resolution on sexual and gender-based violence (32IC/15/R3)

Migration Contexts: Special Challenges

Communicating with and engaging migrants can be challenging, particularly on rapidly moving migration routes.

Migrants can be difficult to locate or identify.

They may be hidden by or from smugglers or traffickers, or from authorities.

They may be dispersed in urban areas.

These challenges are often compounded by language and cultural barriers.

LRCS migration 2

Migrants also have many concerns they prioritise over giving input into or feedback on programmes.

Often they are travelling long distances and navigating a complex range of issues, including their current survival – food, shelter, clothing, and protection – onward transport, legal documents, and maintaining contact with family and community members.

They may feel no sense of ownership in the programmes that we offer. Importantly, they may see no point in complaining about the quality of services or even about exploitation or abuse, particularly if they expect to move on soon.

It is highly recommended that a CEA delegate is consulted about the best ways to look at how to do this.

Some of these issues can be addressed, while others can only be worked around.

There are also a number of examples of how the RCRC is already tackling these issues when working with migrants, including through the AmiRA programme in West Africa and, in conjunction with other actors, through the Regional Safe Spaces Network in the Americas.

How is CEA operationalised at an HSP?

This toolkit cannot give step-by-step guidance to every aspect of CEA at HSPs, particularly as this will need to be adapted to the specificities of the context and situation. The following are some of the main components of an effective system.


Be Prepared!

Any mechanism for collecting feedback, whether formal or informal, may receive a sensitive complaint, including about sexual exploitation or abuse. Staff and volunteers should be aware of this possibility and trained about how to respond to the complainant (if the complaint is made in person) and channel the complaint.



Anticipate Change

Migration contexts are constantly changing, and HSPs need to adapt rapidly. Monitor and consult constantly to ensure you are on top of the latest developments, including how people want to receive information and to communicate with you.


Engagement and accountability requires trust

The single most commonly repeated tip for engaging migrants is to have other migrants doing the outreach. People are most likely to speak openly and with confidence with people like them, who share a gender, age group, ethnicity or culture and language.


Use multiple forms of communication

Experience shows that most people prefer face-to-face communication, and that this is what migrants trust most. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes not even possible. Consult people about what the best way is for them to communicate with you to inform programming and to make complaints, including sensitive complaints. Bear in mind that people may want to use different ways of communicating depending on what they want to say, and that that men, women, girls and boys will all communicate differently. Consider as well that many people are not comfortable with the word ‘complaint’ and you may need to find more culturally acceptable ways for them to express concerns.


Systematically collect informal feedback

Informal feedback is particularly important in HSPs. People are often moving through rapidly, and giving you feedback is not their priority. It can also be difficult to follow up feedback and complaints. Informal feedback is also a way of addressing the issue that migrants can be uncomfortable with formal systems that require them to share their names or other information. Informal feedback can be captured on systems with which staff and volunteers are probably already familiar, such as ODK and Kobo.


Resource your CEA systems

Feedback and complaints mechanisms aren’t finished when you have put them in place – they need to be monitored, followed up, and continually refreshed. Information management and analysis are also needed to ensure that information is being effectively responded to.


Keep track of rumours

Sometimes the rumours that are circulating online or by word of mouth will tell you more about people’s needs, experiences, concerns and fears than anything they will tell you directly. Don’t dismiss rumours, but instead find ways to look into them and find out what lies behind.

Key Resources

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Case Study:

Resolutions and Policies:

Tools and Resources: