Funded by

Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP)

Even though it is often mentioned (particularly in the Code of Conduct of the International Red Cross and humanitarian NGOs), the participation of beneficiaries in humanitarian action is often elusive. More often than not, it is extremely limited. The reasons for this vary: lack of time, lack of methodological know-how, it would endanger the local population or the humanitarian actors, etc. And yet, the participation of the local population appears to significantly improve the quality of humanitarian programmes.

The objectives of this study were to:

  • Identify and understand existing participatory practices, their constraints and their limits with regard to humanitarian action (in different cultural contexts with crises of different natures) as well as the opportunities which they bring;
  • Identify “good” and “bad” practice;
  • Understand their field of application, taking into account the social systems and crisis dynamics which exist where these practices are used;
  • Promote the good practices identified while keeping in mind the numerous constraints and risks which exist.

This study also aimed to shed light on political, ethical and deontological dimensions of consultation and participation.

Case studies were carried out in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Angola, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan. The idea was to cover a wide variety of contexts and types of situation in order to try to understand the connections between types of situation, types of crisis and the practices of humanitarians.

This research project led to the writing of a handbook for practitioners (available in French, English and Spanish), which can be used by field workers to implement a participatory approach throughout the project cycle and in a variety of operational sectors. It guides the reader through the issues involved and presents a series of participatory tools.

Groupe URD has also written a book called « Bénéficiaires ou Partenaires », which is part of the Pratiques Humanitaires en question collection.

To order the handbook or Bénéficiaires ou Partenaires”, contact Groupe URD

Tel: + 33 (0)4 75 28 29 35

Supervised by

Véronique de Geoffroy

Executive Director (employed since 1999)

Carried out by

A. Lear
Anna Lear

Training Coordinator (since 2012)

Bonaventure Sokpoh

Researcher, evaluator and trainer (2001-18)

Charlotte Dufour

Food Security Specialist (2002-05)

Karla Levy

Quality Advisor (2002-08)