François Grünewald, Claire Pirotte and Bernard Husson, Editions Karthala, Paris

This was the question at the heart of “the Global Study on Participation and Consultation of Affected Populations in Humanitarian Action”, which was instigated by ALNAP, (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action). Groupe URD ran this project for two years, studying six crises of a different nature in three continents.

Though ALNAP members all believe in the right of crisis-affected people to give their opinion about the actions that affect them, questions remain about ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘with whom’ paricipatory practices should be used. The debate around the issue of participation in humanitarian action has never moved beyond theories and good intentions. There has never been a clear definition of what participation means and there has never been a clear idea of the level of participation which should be expected. This document is an attempt to analyse the current state of participation. It is not a condensed summary of general recommendations which have still to be validated by the other members of the network. It is a compilation of six case studies each of which raises a number of questions.

The cases of Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Colombia represent a variety of different contexts (culture, conflict history and humanitarian response). The many different ways in which beneficiaries participated throughout these crises are presented to encourage reflection amongst international aid actors.