Building Effective Monitoring and Beneficiary Accountability Systems for Remotely-
managed Humanitarian and Development Projects, in Insecure Locations
1. Project Summary
Project Start Date 16 August 2011
Project End Date 15 February 2012 (6 month project duration)
Project Coordinator Bryony Norman, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer,
Tearfund Disaster Management Team, Afghanistan
Funding Source Humanitarian Innovations Fund (http://humanitarianinnovation.org)
Total Budget £20,000.00
Project Stakeholders Humanitarian and Development Non-Government Organisations (local, national
and international levels);
United Nations (UN) Agencies;
Institutional Donor Agencies;
Research and Good Practice Agencies (both consortia and individual agencies);
Humanitarian Innovations Fund (HIF).
Project Overview A duel-purpose project, designed to research the issues faced by humanitarian
and development organisations, donors and UN agencies, that currently
implemented (or are considering implemented) remote-management strategies
as a response to high insecurity in project location areas, in regards to
monitoring and beneficiary accountability practice. This research will feed into the
brainstorming and innovative development of solutions and practices which will
address the issues raised with regard to monitoring and beneficiary
accountability practice. A final report, detailing the research produced, issues
faced by individual agencies, and potential solutions that can be used to address
these issues, will be developed and published, in order to make it widely
disseminated to different humanitarian and development agencies.
Whilst there is a strong focus in this project on remote-management approaches
and strategies in Afghanistan (and the impact that these have on monitoring and
beneficiary accountability), humanitarian and development organisations from
Darfur, the Republic of South Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have also
been invited to participate in the research.
The project seeks to be as demand-led by humanitarian and development actors
as possible, so as to ensure that the research and proposed solutions to address
and enhance project monitoring and beneficiary accountability, can be as useful
and relevant as possible to individual humanitarian and development agencies.
To this end, individual humanitarian and development organisations, institutional
donors, research and good practice organisations, have all been invited to
participate in a combination of individual interviews and focus group discussions
at key stages in the research and innovation processes of this project.
2. Project Context and Background
Deterioration in security across Afghanistan, in conjunction with a rising number of violent attacks against
humanitarian workers, has led increasing numbers of humanitarian agencies to adopt systems of remote
management as a way of continuing humanitarian assistance to civilian populations, whilst removing portions
of their staff from harm‟s way . UN OCHA state that “violent attacks against aid workers [have] tripled in the
last decade” . What was initially a reactive and temporary response by humanitarian agencies to high
insecurity is now considered a permanent way of working in some areas. Tearfund, like other agencies, has
now been operating remotely in Kandahar for approximately 3 years.
Tearfund has operated in Kandahar since 2001 with senior project staff initially based in situ and able to visit
project beneficiaries. Following the kidnap of an expatriate NGO worker in Kandahar in 2008, Tearfund and
other agencies moved to a system of remote management. Tearfund relocated its Area Coordinator to Kabul
Once Removed: Lessons and Challenges in Remote Management of Humanitarian Operations for Insecure Areas,
Humanitarian Outcomes Paper, February 2010
Afghanistan: Humanitarian work most dangerous in ten years, One World Article, April 2011.
and insecurity limits their ability to safely visit project beneficiaries. This practice is not unusual in
Afghanistan, as well as in many other insecure locations across the world (agencies in Somalia, Iraq, Sri
Lanka, Darfur are operating projects remotely).
This has significant implications for project monitoring and, therefore, on the assurance of project
quality in insecure areas. Where senior project staff cannot directly monitor project activities and meet
beneficiaries, there is a reliance on local project staff, who are themselves implementing the project, to also
monitor it. There is currently a huge gap in published research addressing the issues faced by humanitarian
agencies who are attempting to monitor projects remotely and attempting to improve and enhance
beneficiary accountability practices in remotely-managed project locations. While the Humanitarian
Practitioners‟ Network (HPN) has published guidelines on remote management , limited guidance is provided
on remote monitoring. Likewise, Oxfam International collaborated in 2009 with Merlin to develop a discussion
paper for the Somalia NGO Consortium which focused on remote programming modalities. A briefing paper,
developed by G. Hansen, also aimed to address remote management, focusing on operational modalities in
Iraq (2008). Though many of these existing publications pay some attention to the issue of remote
monitoring, it is only done so as an aspect of the wider issue of remote management, and research and
guidance on the issue is highly limited . A Humanitarian Outcomes paper, published in early 2010, noted that
“shifting to remote management [means] accepting an unavoidable lowering of technical sophistication and
versatility, as well as for programme monitoring and evaluation standards” , but failed to identify any
stringent guidelines or procedures to address this issue. An opportunity therefore exists to capture current
practices and to critically evaluate remote monitoring practices so as to determine the extent to which recent
adaptations are meeting the challenge of ensuring quality project implementation in insecure areas.
Alongside ground breaking remote monitoring systems that have yet to be widely disseminated there exists
ample scope for innovation of new practices.
3. Project Approach and Methodology
This project will deliver innovation by researching other agencies‟ current approaches to remote monitoring
and beneficiary accountability (both within and outside of Afghanistan), and by identifying solutions which will
enable them to tighten or implement more effective and quality-assuring remote monitoring systems. The
project will be demand-led through collaboration with these humanitarian actors. The project facilitator will
use individual interviews, focus group discussions, baseline assessments, and email and skype
consultations in order to identify the issues related to the successful monitoring of remotely-managed
projects, and to identify, test and select innovative solutions. Learning reviews will be conducted regularly in
order to draw out key learning and recommendations from the process, which will be fed back into the future
stages of the project.
Project implementation has been planned across 5 separate processes, as follows:
1 Research (2 Individual research-based interviews with project stakeholders will be facilitated in the
months) first 2 months of the project. Standardised questionnaires for each group of project
stakeholders have been developed in order to standardise interviews, and to support
the analysis of research data. Interviews with the following project stakeholders have
o 20 Humanitarian and/or Development NGOs or UN agencies (local, national and
international) currently operating in Afghanistan;
o 12 Humanitarian and/or Development NGOs or UN agencies (local, national and
international) currently operating in Darfur, the Republic of South Sudan,
Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka;
o 6 Good Practice and/or Research Consortia or Individual Agencies (including
HAP International, ALNAP, BOND, the Overseas Development Institute, the
Afghan Public Policy and Research Organisation, Samuel Hall Research
o 5 Institutional Donor Agencies (based in and supporting programmes in
Humanitarian Exchange 47: Security; GPR 8: Operational Security Management in Violent Environments.
The Humanitarian Outcomes paper (2010) includes a chapter on Programme Quality and Effectiveness. The research
that is included here is a useful introduction to the issues related to remote monitoring, and will be used as part of the
research for this project. Contact will be made with the project facilitators for this publication, in order to invite comments
and shared-learning on the issues of remote monitoring.
Once Removed… Humanitarian Outcomes Paper, 2010
In further support of the research for this project, a baseline assessment of
Tearfund‟s own monitoring and accountability practice in its remotely-managed
project location (Kandahar, Afghanistan), will be externally facilitated. The project
coordinator will also visit Tearfund‟s Kandahar project team, and other „peer
monitors‟ in Kandahar, in order to conduct own research.
Review of existing research and interest into the issues of remote monitoring and
accountability will also be undertaken (including contact with Once Removed paper
2 Consultation Data from each individual interview will be analysed and documented. A report
(1 month) summarising the predominant issues related to monitoring and beneficiary
accountability that are faced by humanitarian and development actors, because of
the constraints of remote-management strategies, will be developed and presented
to those actors who are based in Afghanistan at a focus group discussion meeting.
Opportunity will be provided at this meeting for the representatives from each
participating humanitarian and development organisation to comment on the
research and feedback to the project coordinator. The report will be circulated by
email to humanitarian and development actors outside of Afghanistan, and will also
be followed up by skype and phone calls, and by face-to-face meetings with UK-
based Head Office personnel, where necessary. (Circulation to HAP, ALNAP, and
BOND will be included in this).
The consultation process will be used to refine the research report, and to identify
obvious „solutions‟ which can be developed in the next process.
3 Development The project coordinator will utilise the research collected from individual interviews
of Practical and focus group discussions in order to identify different practical solutions to
Solutions (1.5 address the issues faced by humanitarian and development actors, related to
months) monitoring and accountability in remotely-managed project locations. Solutions will
aim to be as practical as possible, and some will begin to be piloted by Tearfund‟s
Kandahar project team, for further research and testing purposes (this will include a
further visit to Kandahar‟s project location by the project coordinator). At least 5
separate solutions should be identified. The project coordinator will ensure the
participation of at least 5 individual humanitarian and/or development organisations
within Afghanistan, 3 outside of Afghanistan, and at least 2 separate research and/or
good practice institutions (1 within Afghanistan and 1 internationally). The project
coordinator will also work closely with representatives from CAFOD UK and Tear
Australia, as they seek to research and identify solutions for similar issues.
A set of practical guidelines, detailing each individual identified solution will be
4 Consultation A further focus group discussion, based in Afghanistan, will be coordinated in order
on Developed for the practical guidelines to be presented to wider project stakeholders. Opportunity
Solutions (1 will be provided during this discussion for individual project stakeholders to comment
month) and feedback on the proposed solutions. Focus of discussion will address the
practicality and feasibility of the solutions, the impact of the solutions (whether they
will truly work), the costing to support the solutions. Opportunity to feed in other
comments will also be included.
The practical guidelines will also be circulated to humanitarian and/or development
actors outside of Afghanistan, in order to support the consultation with those actors
who are not based in Afghanistan. Likewise, it is assumed that a trip to the UK in
order to meet with UK-based Head Office personnel of organisations will be
undertaken (these will include meetings with ALNAP, and BOND, where relevant).
This trip is planned for mid-December 2011.
5 Finalisation of This will complete the project. Learning, research, feedback from throughout the
Research, project process will feed into a final report, detailing the research findings from the
Case Studies project, case studies proposed by NGOs, as well as the developed solutions. A final
and focus group discussion will be scheduled in order to present this report (which will
Developed also be shared by email with organisations outside of Afghanistan). External
Solutions (1 publication will be sought, and currently the Overseas Development Institute, HAP
month) International, as well as the Humanitarian Innovations Fund, are interested in
publishing the report.