Pathways of participation : Considering the case for empowering participation within humanitarian action
Author(s)Baldursdóttir, Nína Guðrún
Humanities and the Arts
Humaniora och konst
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AbstractWhen consulted, aid-recipients consistently report not feeling included or adequately consulted regarding the planning and execution of programmes. On top of a serious lack of opportunities to be engaged or empowered this seems to provide a sufficient reason to explore ways of making participation in humanitarian action an empowering experience in itself. This paper will explore how empowerment could be used in practice and employs the term empowering participation to refer to the desired process of including aid-recipients. To do so it uses a hypothetical example of how it might be accommodated in a programme’s feedback mechanism (FM), that controls a certain access to information and influence, identified as key to empowerment, as a case study to understand some of the potential, and limits, of empowerment as praxis. To get a better idea of how the special circumstances of different groups affect the process youth have been singled out as the programme’s hypothetical target group. The key finding is that for a FM to facilitate empowering participation a clear focus has to be on a commitment to, and recognition of, an incentive to see the relationship within it as one between experts. Requiring the reasons for entering into a communicative relationship to be clearly stated as well as clarifying the roles of those involved. Perversely, confusion or vagueness could frustrate or counter empowerment efforts. There are certainly challenges, but without confronting them we will not know what benefits could have been reaped and if we take serious the view that people should fundamentally be supported to help themselves, we should not shy away from asking and giving serious consideration to difficult questions.