Residents carry their belongings through a flooded road in Risalpur, located in Nowshera District, in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province July 30, 2010. About 150 people were killed by flashfloods and bad weather in Pakistan in one week, with the country's northwest and Baluchistan provinces bearing the brunt of the storms. Photo: REUTERS/St-Felix Evens, courtesy of Reuters Alertnet.org

Rights in crisis: learning and progress

Women and men caught up in conflicts and disasters will be protected from harm and receive impartial and effective help including access to food, water, shelter and public health and hygiene education.

Our progress to date against the strategic plan

Mid-term review finding: good progress

We have strengthened our ability to respond to emergencies; however disasters will continue to occur more frequently and on a larger scale. For the next three years we need to confirm our position within Oxfam International, in terms of leading humanitarian work in Indonesia and Sri Lanka in particular, and develop the appropriate capabilities.

Read more about our progress in our rights in crisis goal in our mid-term review

Reflecting on our work

Our rights in crisis work has largely been focused on our own performance and accountability in humanitarian work. Consequently, the strongest element of our work has been strengthening our ability to respond to emergencies — preparedness, human and financial resources, management systems and procedures, and advocacy.

Over the past four years our rights in crisis work has demonstrated a clear path of development. Themes include:

  • Better outcomes: from 2007 to 2009, we focussed on investing in humanitarian capacity including staff and partner capacity, gender mainstreaming, learning and accountability, advocacy and disaster risk reduction. In 2009–2010 we saw a return on this investment through the increased scale and complexity of our rights in crisis work, and our growing profile and reputation within the Australian humanitarian sector
  • Strengthening humanitarian support structures and functions: the development of a supply chain project in collaboration with AusAID and other Australian aid agencies ensured greater logistical support for Oxfam Australia programs, particularly in the Pacific and East Asia. The development of an emergency response manual and emergency response training has also been significant in articulating an Oxfam Australia approach to humanitarian work
  • Monitoring and evaluation: our significant investment in monitoring, evaluation and learning, and developing and testing appropriate tools has resulted in improvements in the quality of our work. Important innovations include: real-time evaluations early in an emergency response, baseline and end-line surveys of staff understanding of protection in Timor Leste in 2009–2010; and the development and documentation of mechanisms to ensure accountability to beneficiaries in Sri Lanka and the Solomon Islands
  • Gender: the integration of gender into our humanitarian work was found to have improved significantly in 2009–2010, and the Sri Lanka Gender Impact Study and post-Typhoon Ketsana Gender Review provided opportunities to learn how best to incorporate gender in humanitarian responses. However, consistency of gender mainstreaming has remained a challenge
  • Humanitarian advocacy: our humanitarian advocacy capacity has increased, as has the use of innovative approaches such as Refugee Realities to highlight the plight of refugees and develop a constituency for refugee issues in Australia, and support for Australia-based diaspora groups

What we’ve learned

  • Real-time evaluations are a key learning tool for our rights in crisis work. They can provide rapid comment on a humanitarian response, which can immediately be fed into improved programming. It is important these evaluations are completed on time and that recommendations are addressed
  • We hosted a workshop by the Listening Project — an innovative approach which undertakes extensive interviews with beneficiaries, local civil society and government officials to gain insight into their perceptions of responses. We have subsequently facilitated Listening Project studies in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands and may also adapt this approach for Papua New Guinea
  • The frequency of earthquakes, tsunamis and climate-related disasters in the Pacific region, where homes are often destroyed, can mean humanitarian needs do not match our technical capacities.
  • We can add value to emergency responses managed by another Oxfam affiliate when  we have some form of longer term engagement or technical expertise; we offer more than routine monitoring; and our engagement is not at the height of an emergency.
  • We must be vigilant in ensuring that women are involved in all consultation and decision-making processes in our humanitarian responses, from the initial assessment to design and implementation
  • While we have given greater emphasis to incorporating accountability measures, such as complaint and feedback mechanisms, and women’s participation into our work, we can still improve. Other areas for further attention include greater integration of disaster risk reduction, HIV and AIDS programs, and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse into our responses

Read an overview of this key goal, and what we’re doing to achieve it.