Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, undersecretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies gave the keynote at the Medicine Sans Frontiere annual Scientific Day 2017.
Her message was that humanitarian work needs to work far closer with local populations before, during and after humanitarian action. She emphasises five key principles to achieving this all of which would be relevant to those working in engagement with research in low income settings as well as humanitarian aid workers:
1-Listen twice before you speak
2-Start where they are not where your agenda is. Be aware that local politics will always be at play. Listen to people as experts and come from a position of humility.
3-Remember that technology transforms- Whilst communications technology can help in coordinations efforts it can also be a tool that can transmit unhelpful messages and stigma.
4-Remember that technology can break. Don't overrely on communications technology. There is no better way than addressing real challenges than with face to face interaction.
5-Follow through on your promises: Earning trust is an important part of relationship building.
She laments that often humanitarian work happens in contested information spaces where there is a lot of misinformation, political messaging and confusion and that for Community Engagement to be effective in these contexts it must both abide by the above principles and receive adequate funding. She is sad that whilst Community Engagement is fundamental to humanitarian work it tends to be poorly resourced.
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