There is no longer any doubt that the participation of the population during the implementation of humanitarian programmes is essential in terms of the quality and sustainability of the assistance provided. Numerous international commitments have been made in this respect over the decades by both aid organisations and donors. And yet, it is clear that results have been slow in coming and genuinely participatory programmes remain the exception rather than the norm…
Several factors explain this difficulty. On the one hand, humanitarian actors often do not have a good understanding of people’s coping strategies and underestimate the role they can play in terms of resilience. Consequently, the possibility of involving them in programmes is often eluded, the opportunities that this would create are under-estimated, and the question of the potential impacts of this engagement is not dealt with properly.
What is more, aid actors use different methods to establish dialogue with beneficiaries, and to consult and involve them, as they do not always have the same understanding of what participation is. Who should be involved, for what reasons, using what methods, with what risks and opportunities? These are all questions that need to be analysed in advance to ensure that the aid delivered has a high level of quality, sustainability and ownership.
Lastly, the constraints of the aid system (sector-based approach, standardization of responses, short-term action, etc.) make it difficult to implement participatory approaches which can require more time and flexibility.