Jane Muthoni, 50, buying ingredients to make homemade yoghurt which she sells to the local community in Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya. 2016. Credit: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

New standards for humanitarian programmes and markets

Cash transfers, General, Humanitarian

The new Minimum Economic Recovery Standards will support quality market-based programming, and effective working between humanitarian and development practitioners explains Jonathan Parkinson, Oxfam’s Senior WASH Programme Development Adviser.

Jane Muthoni, 50, buying ingredients to make homemade yoghurt which she sells to the local community in Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya. 2016. Credit: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

Jane Muthoni, 50, buying ingredients to make homemade yoghurt which she sells to the local community in Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya. 2016. Credit: Allan Gichigi/Oxfam

During and after emergencies, both in acute and protracted or reoccurring crises, there is a strong argument for helping affected communities by working with existing market supply chains to provide essential goods and services. Working through local markets supported by cash transfer programmes can provide livelihood opportunities and contribute towards economic rehabilitation as well as meeting basic humanitarian needs. However, as with any emergency response, the best theoretical approaches can be compromised by poor programming. Poor implementation may undermine outcomes and lead to questions about the suitability of cash transfer and market based programming as a means to effectively and efficiently meet people’s needs during emergencies.

the best theoretical approaches can be compromised by poor programming
Having internationally agreed standards plays an important role in bringing about good programming. Many of you already know of the Sphere humanitarian standards, but you may be less familiar with the Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS). These standards have been produced by the Global Humanitarian Standards Partnership to support the Sphere standards and to complement other humanitarian standards such as the Minimum Standards for Market Analysis and the Minimum Requirements for Market Analysis for Emergencies, both produced by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP). At the recent launch of the 3rd Edition of the MERS, Katie Whitehouse presented the experiences from Oxfam Zimbabwe’s project funded by USAid’s OFDA as part of a global programme which aims to increase disaster resilience and the effectiveness of WASH related emergency responses through strengthened governance and market-based solutions.

The pre-crisis market analysis and the subsequent market strengthening actions were successfully utilised to support the response to Zimbabwe’s typhoid outbreak.
Katie described how the pre-crisis market analysis and the subsequent market strengthening actions were successfully utilised to support the response to Zimbabwe’s typhoid outbreak in January this year. Although the response was not designed specifically to be in line with MERS at the time, a retrospective assessment undertaken by Oxfam shows that a good number of standards were effectively met, whereas others were seen to be partially met. In relation to the MERS core standards, the most relevant were considered to be “Humanitarian programmes are market aware” and “Interventions for target populations well defined”. In addition, the programme embraced MERS standards related to “Assessment and Analysis”, such as, “the scope of assessment is determined by how data will be used”, and standards related to enterprise and market systems development, working with existing market actors and use of facilitation approaches.

We see that the MERS provide a strong basis for Oxfam and other agencies and governments’ responsible for humanitarian programmes, as well as those responsible for development programmes, to ensure that their efforts and investments are not compromised as a result of poor programming. The MERS are a basis for shared understanding and cooperation between humanitarian and development practitioners, who should ensure that these standards are promoted, adopted/adhered to and monitored in further programmes as market based programming and cash transfers become embedded into mainstream humanitarian programming.

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Author
Jonathan Parkinson

Jonathan Parkinson

Jonathan is a public health engineer and urban WASH specialist with 20 years of consulting experience working in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Eritrea, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Vietnam. His project experience centres on improved urban services delivery including dimensions of infrastructure development; management and financing arrangements, partnerships between government agencies, service providers and civil society; human resource development, policy development and institutional strengthening.