Humanitarian learning and assessment providers have an essential role to play in contributing to the delivery of faster, more effective and efficient humanitarian response with increased local participation and ownership.

They build the capacity of individuals and the organisations that employ them by providing learning and development support that meet individuals’ learning needs to effectively build their competence to work in the sector. They also have an essential role to play in supporting individuals to demonstrate their competence, so that they can progress in their careers, and supporting employers to effectively recruit and develop staff.

Humanitarian learning and assessment providers who want to ensure that they are contributing to improved humanitarian action most effectively, invest considerable resources in ensuring the quality of their services. However, while there are quality assurance frameworks and quality standards that relate to a range of aspects of capacity building and assessment in other sectors, there is currently no single quality standard or quality assurance framework that is accepted across the humanitarian sector or that directly meets the sector’s needs and which could be applied to the humanitarian sector without adaptation. As a result, there is little standardisation in learning and assessment quality assurance across the sector and in some case the quality of services provided is affected.

In 2012, twenty four organisations came together in a conference in Doha organised by ELHRA and the Qatar Shelter Initiative to explore the challenges relating to education, training and professional development in the humanitarian sector and to consider the need for the development of a new global system for learning and professional development. The meeting concluded with a proposal to develop a system that is globally applicable to capture, recognise and certify the skills, learning and development of aid workers, in order to serve the most vulnerable and improve aid effectiveness, including volunteers.

 These discussions have continued since 2012 through an informal consortium of stakeholders, meeting regularly to bring the Doha proposal to life. The nine partners of the proposal currently include training providers, professional associations, a university and a private sector global education company.

In 2015 the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA) 2015 funded a Research and Inception Phase as the foundations for the future. This research mapped existing standards and quality assurance frameworks. Findings from the research revealed an appetite amongst humanitarian learning and assessment providers for a standardised system to improve the quality of their work. However many felt reluctant or unable to adopt existing standards that others in the sector don’t use, recognise or value for various reasons:

  • The work required to adapt standards from other sectors may be beyond the resource or ability of one organisation to undertake;
  • Current systems are often lengthy and costly to implement and with the effort involved being perceived as being disproportionate to the value;
  • Standards from other sectors are often not perceived to be relevant as they don’t reflect or account for the realities and challenges faced in humanitarian and low resource contexts.

Developing quality assured standards that are directly applicable for the sector, and developed by humanitarian learning and assessment practitioners will enable providers in the sector to demonstrate and improve the quality of their services. Being able to demonstrate the quality of their services, will enable learning and assessment providers to address the concerns of individuals seeking training and recognition; support humanitarian agencies seeking to recruit and train their staff; and generate more demand for their services, making their operations more sustainable. In addition, the quality standards will also fulfil the important function of supporting learning and assessment providers to improve the quality of their services, by providing criteria against which to measure the quality of current services and identify areas for improvement. Developing contextually relevant standards that are widely accessible will provide a powerful tool for strengthening the capacity of local learning and assessment provision.

Do you want to help create globally recognised, quality assured standards for humanitarian learning and assessment? The consultation process is underway and will include numerous opportunities to feed into the creation of the standards, including online collaboration and face-to-face workshops.

Take a few minutes to share your ideas on good quality learning and assessment via this online collaboration board. Your reflections will help us start off on the right track and be used to feed into a first draft of the standards.

More information on the consultation process is available here.

If you have any questions about this project or require any further information, please contact: Ana Urgoiti at

To view this text in Spanish, click here.

Pearson Education is an education organisation that helps charities to have a social impact through learning.
Humanitarian Leadership Academy is a global learning initiative set up to facilitate partnerships and collaborative opportunities to enable people to prepare and respond to crises in their own countries. 
RedR UK is a non-profit organisation that provides training, support and accredited certification to national and international crisis response stakeholders, both individuals and organisations.  

Image (c) Victoria Fontan for Institut Bioforce
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 By lyece