People in Aid: Promoting Best Practice in the Management and Support of International Aid Personnel
by Humanitarian Practice Network June 1996

As emergency aid budgets rise as a proportion of total oda, and more NGOs are active in more complex emergencies than ever before, debates on NGO accountability to both donors and beneficiaries and best practice in the provision of humanitarian assistance have begun to bear fruit.

In 1994, the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief was published (RRN Network Paper 7) to which a total of 77 agencies worldwide have now signed up.

A more recent development, explicitly linking the quality of human resources management and the quality and effectiveness of aid programmes, is the People in Aid project, the result of a joint initiative between the British Red Cross, International Health Exchange, RedR and Save the Children Fund (UK). In 1994, funded by the ODA, the four agencies commissioned a report into the working experience of expatriate staff and managers employed in relief and development programmes overseas. The report was published within the Relief and Rehabilitation Network as Network Paper 10, entitled Room for Improvement, and was the subject of a high-profile launch at a meeting of 40 aid agencies in London, September 1995. The report highlighted a number of major shortcomings in current practices of recruitment, selection and training within aid agencies. The report, together with the establishment of an eleven-member Steering Committee representing several major UK NGOs, Registers, ODA and ODI, has resulted in the recruitment of a full-time Interagency Coordinator, a much increased awareness among agencies of the issue of best practice and an expressed desire to share information and raise standards. Following on from the recommendations in “Room for Improvement”, the Interagency Coordinator and expanded eleven-member steering group – People in Aid – are now undertaking a further one-year project funded by ODA. The project’s objectives are:

  • To develop a Code of Best Practice for aid agencies on the recruitment, management and support of expatriate aid personnel
  • To work with members of the international aid community to advocate adoption of a Code of Best Practice
  • In support of the Code, to establish an information resource on personnel management, training, and employment issues relevant to the international aid community
  • To make recommendations on future initiatives by People in Aid, including best practice in the management and support of host country aid personnel

A draft of the Code is currently being drawn up, to be presented to the Steering Group in mid-May. Once the Steering Group has endorsed the draft, it will be discussed at a wider meeting of NGOs to be held in August this year, to be followed in October by a workshop discussion on the setting up of a professional body.

The Interagency Coordinator, Sara Davidson, has just returned from the US where she took the proposals to NGOs at the Interaction network’s AGM. She found there to be great interest in the initiative amongst both US and European agencies attending the Washington meeting, as well as from the US disaster relief donor – OFDA, UNDP and UNICEF. Once the People in Aid Code is agreed, UNICEF plan to include signature of the Code as part of the pre-contract assessment process for potential UK-based NGO implementing partners.

Further information on the People in Aid initiative can be obtained from:
Sara Davidson
Interagency Coordinator
Tel/fax: +44 171 235 0895