ATHA Community Participation in Humanitarian Relief and Protection: From Principle to Reality

Release Date: 
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

According to the Sphere Standards, disaster-affected populations should actively participate into the design, implementation and evaluation of humanitarian programs. Necessitating the involvement of beneficiaries is viewed as a way to lessen the inherent dependency in the aid relationship and inform the decisions of humanitarian planners and managers. However, from a practitioner's perspective, such participation of beneficiaries may become problematic in both the immediate delivery of assistance as well as the design of longer-term programs, particularly in terms of the independence of humanitarian action in times of armed conflict. Furthermore, arguments have been made that such participation in times of crises is for the most part subject to limited options and actual choices. Finally, one may wonder the extent to which leaders of communities, as compared to individual beneficiaries, should be engaged as the traditional representatives of communities' interests and expectations.

This ATHA online workshop engaged participants in a dynamic web based discussion with field professionals. Participants were asked to engage in a case and converse about the challenges and potential solutions in incorporating community participation in relief in protection. 

This ATHA online workshop considered the following questions:

  • How practical is it to consult disaster victims in the structure and delivery of aid in the midst of a complex emergency? *
  • How can communities be engaged as groups? *
  • How such consultations affect the status of humanitarian organizations? *
  • What should be the timing of a more integrated approach? *
  • How can one consider the integration of beneficiaries in the governance structure of relief organizations?

This discussion was moderated by Claude Bruderlein (Director, HPCR) and Christina Blunt (Program Coordinator, HPCR). Panelists included: Michael Delaney (Director of Humanitarian Response - Oxfam America) Cécilia Furtade (Training and Promotion Support, Sphere Project)


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