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The participation and consultation of local communities during the implementation of humanitarian programmes is an extremely important yet sensitive issue. Different forms of dialogue, consultation and participation are used by NGOs, international bodies and local authorities. In order to guarantee the quality, sustainability and local ownership of aid projects, a number of questions need to be considered such as who should be involved and for what reasons, what means should be used and what are the risks and opportunities involved?

In crisis situations, humanitarians often do not understand local people’s coping strategies, seeing them purely as ‘victims’ and almost systematically under-estimating their capacities and the role they play, or can play, in ensuring their own survival. As a result, the idea of involving crisis-affected people and the benefits that this could bring are not given proper consideration.

Participation is often overlooked by humanitarians because it has “development” connotations. Participatory methods need to be adapted to unstable emergency contexts and the specific vulnerabilities that they involve. It is also important to keep in mind that applying a participatory approach can be difficult and even dangerous in certain crisis contexts.

Though there is a consensus that it is important to give people the chance to express themselves about actions which will affect their lives, questions remain about applying a participatory approach in crisis contexts. How and when should they be applied in practice, who should be involved and what are the potential positive and negative impacts, etc.?

In order to analyse this complex but fundamentally important question in detail, Groupe URD carried out the Global Study on Consultation and Participation in Humanitarian Action in partnership with ALNAP, from 2002 to 2004. Case studies were carried out in six countries with very different characteristics. This led to the production of a Participation Handbook which presents tools and methods for implementing participatory practices in emergency contexts.

Participation is a central theme in Groupe URD’s work.

For more information, please contact Véronique de Geoffroy

Groupe URD’s projects related to this theme:


Articles related to this topic in "Humanitarian Aid on the move":

Read more

The Community-based Approach in Haiti, Alice Corbet, November 2012
The community-based approach in urban context in Haiti, Alice Corbet, November 2012, in French
Co-development between Catalonia and Senegal: Lessons to be drawn from 10 years of experience – Evaluation of the Migration and Local Development programme (MIDEL), SOKPOH, Bonaventure Gbétoho, Groupe URD – Fons Català de Cooperació al Desenvolupament, 2006, 141 P., in French