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F.23 Accountability to Affected Population (AAP)

Accountability M.4 to Affected Population (AAP) is essential for all WASH programmes at any stage of humanitarian action. It includes five dimensions: (1) participation of the affected population to voice concerns and express preferences, (2) transparency about the humanitarian WASH response through timely and interactive communication, (3) accessibility and inclusiveness of feedback and complaints mechanisms, (4) monitoring and evaluation of the WASH interventions and (5) staff competencies and attitudes.

AAP is ‘an active commitment by humanitarian actors and organizations to use power responsibly by taking account of, giving account to and being held to account by the people they seek to assist’. This means that individual organisations and humanitarian sectors must explain and take responsibility for what they do and do not do. They must provide accessible and timely information about their actions and decisions to affected women, men and children. They must ensure ongoing dialogue with affected people and welcome and act upon their feedback and complaints. They should identify opportunities to enable affected people to make decisions about WASH interventions, Monitor M.2 user satisfaction and learn from their work (M.6, M.7, M.8). This means enabling the affected population to exercise its rights. They include the right to safe, fair and equitable access to quality services and accurate, reliable and relevant information, the right to share their views and opinions on the quality and effectiveness of programmes and to participate in decisions that affect them. This requires building trusting relationships between humanitarian organisations and vulnerable people and communities based on mutual respect, transparency, two-way Communication (chapter  C ) and Engagement (chapter  E ).

Tools and Methods used

  • Community Mapping T.7
  • Exchange Visits T.12
  • Feedback Mechanism T.13
  • Focus Group Discussion T.14
  • Photo Voice and Participatory Video T.30
  • Observation T.28
  • Transect Walk T.52

More information can also be found in the Community Engagement and Participation  E  and MEAL  M  chapters


AAP is not a stand-alone activity but an integrated approach aimed at improving programme quality, effectiveness and accountability. It must be implemented from the outset of an emergency and integrated into all phases of the humanitarian programme cycle and all response phases. Sectoral coordination mechanisms may already have an established AAP system; it is important to contribute to or incorporate these existing systems.

Main Requirements / Investments Needed

AAP requires the whole WASH team to be trained in Participatory Communication C.4 and active listening. It requires human resource staff and senior management to establish measures designed to ensure that staff are competent and can communicate respectfully and effectively. Collaboration with other stakeholders and sectors P.9 is also required. Organisations that establish their own feedback mechanism should allocate an appropriate budget and, if required, dedicated and skilled staff.

Evidence of Effectiveness

The overall evidence for the impact and effectiveness of AAP is limited. However, it is a requirement and commitment in humanitarian programmes. Research is needed to identify the most effective strategies, approaches and tools.


  • Monitor [M.2] and Evaluate [M.3] how AAP is being integrated into the WASH programme

  • Use standards such as Sphere and the Core Humanitarian Standard as a framework for accountability, ensuring the programme responds to the needs of the affected community

  •  Ensure that information about the organisation and programme are shared with the community in a format and language they understand 

  • Ensure that all WASH staff are sufficiently trained and skilled (especially in active listening) to be able to integrate AAP into their work


  • Do not consider the population as a homogeneous group but promote the recognition of individuals with diverse needs and capacities and use a variety of communication and feedback mechanisms.

Practical Example

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the Syrian refugee population was provided with various WASH services by a large number of actors working in a range of camps across three different governorates. The WASH sector collected and maintained information on the activities of sector partners and the WASH service outputs. It was unclear to what extent and in what way the refugee population were utilising the services, whether the associated hygiene behaviours were being practised and whether the WASH services were adequate. As a result, a joint assessment was conducted involving all actors delivering WASH services in the nine camps. The assessment included approximately 1,300 household questionnaires and 80 Focus Group Discussions (FGD, T.14). During the FGDs, participants were asked various questions about the extent to which they were informed and consulted about WASH plans and the extent to which the organisations acted on their complaints. The assessment findings highlighted that, in general, the population did not feel informed, consulted or involved in the planning and design of the WASH facilities in their respective camps. A high percentage of people reported knowing how to submit a complaint but indicated that such complaints often failed to influence the WASH activities of the responsible organisation.

Key Decision Critria

Response Phase
Acute Response
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Protracted Crisis
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HP Component
Preconditions and Enabling Environment
Community Engagement and Participation
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Assessment, Analysis and Planning
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Social and Behaviour Change
Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL)
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Target Group
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Older People
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Persons with Disabilities
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Local Leaders
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Society as a whole
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Application Level
Individual / Household
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Community / Municipality
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Target Behaviour
Hand Hygiene
Sanitation Related Behaviour
Water Related Behaviour
Menstrual Hygiene
Food Hygiene
Personal Hygiene
Environmental Hygiene
Vector Control
Solid Waste Management
Infection Prevention and Control
Hygiene Away from Home


To ensure that humanitarian organisations are held to account by the people they are seeking to assist.