Participation is the first Sphere core standard, one of the five commitments to accountability made by the Inter- Agency Standing Committee (IASC) and a concept central to many quality initiatives for humanitarian organisations.
Participation can positively impact the health, psychosocial wellbeing and safety of the camp population and camp staff. At the same time participation improves camp management and raises standards of protection and assistance.
Participation includes a wide variety of different activities which should be planned and integrated into all stages of a camp’s life cycle from design and set-up to closure.
Special attention should be given to ensuring that all groups are able to participate, including those with specific needs, those who are marginalised or who lack a voice in decision-making processes. While participatory approaches should respect local culture, they should also mitigate, where possible, culturally-embedded power relationships which may be exploitative or oppressive.
In order to promote participation, the Camp Management Agency should assess the context and existing participatory structures, and find ways to support and further develop and/or adjust them to ensure that participation is as representative and inclusive as possible. There are many ways in which the Camp Management Agency can encourage and develop participation, but the most common way is through representational groups.
The capacity to participate in decision-making processes increases if community representatives and members acquire the necessary knowledge to contribute to the governance of the camp. This is a fundamental method of reinforcing a sense of dignity, reducing vulnerability and helping build local capacity while reinforcing coping strategies in times of crisis.
Participation is a long term process which requires an in-depth understanding of the local context, well trained staff and the resources and capacity to develop ad hoc mitigation measures to tackle specific challenges.