Context-based Programming


DRC’s emergency response will never come as a predefined package but will be adapted to individual contexts based on needs and gaps, safety and access considerations, the capacities of communities, as well as those of DRC and other humanitarian actors. Engaging in context based programming entails that we strive to understand the political, social, cultural, legal and economic environment of the countries in which we work. An integral part of our understanding comes from a focus on analysing displacement dynamics, the capacities of affected populations as well as the role of other stakeholders.

Working with IDPs, refugees, host communities, people on the move or other groups has implications for the type of programming and coordination we will have to engage in. So does the difference between working with duty-bearers (formal or informal) who are willing and able (or the inverse) to assume their responsibilities. A thorough protection and gap-analysis should inform how DRC will design an intervention in any given context.

An emergency might cause significant contextual changes and we must do our best to understand these changes and their implications. A variety of methods can be used, such as secondary data analysis, go-see visits, joint assessments, observations, and key-informant consultations. Sometimes part of understanding new realities is to work with the mindset of country teams. Make use of and redeploy existing human resources and assets, constitute ad-hoc multifunctional teams, capitalize on the access and knowledge of national staff, encourage a community-based approach where DRC staff take the time to be present in crisis affected locations and talk to affected populations and understand their capacities and dynamics, systematically look at the condition of latrines and shelters, ask what people are eating, what the children are doing, what the particular risks are. Document your findings and feed it into an overall analysis of the changed context while triangulating findings with other actors. By doing so we will quickly have a solid idea about what the gaps are and what we can potentially do to address them.

Where possible, we strive for an area-based approach with multi-sector service provision.

In most emergencies we work with a combination of 2 or more of the following 6 sectors:

We will always ensure protection mainstreaming across sectors but will also strive to include stand-alone protection activities in our intervention design. This does not mean that other activities cannot be part of a DRC response: everything depends on the context and whether an activity contributes to protection outcomes for affected populations in a meaningful way. The above are nonetheless the core emergency sectors which should take priority.

The context analysis should always take cash as a delivery modality into consideration.


Displacement Contexts

Inspired by DRC’s global Refugee Emergency Response Agreement (RERA) with UNHCR, a context analysis can potentially differentiate between three “ideal” displacement contexts where corresponding “ideal” interventions will typically be of relevance. In practice there will however be an overlap between the three contexts and context-specific factors will always determine the actual intervention design regardless of the displacement context.

Camp or camp-like settings

This scenario refers to situations where affected populations are primarily located in a camp or camp-like setting. This can include regular camps, collective centers (typically in urban or semi-urban contexts), way-stations and reception centers. One of DRC’s principles is to deliver assistance to people where they prefer to receive assistance. We should not actively encourage encampment by only delivering services in the camps if the displaced are equally safe in non-camp communities.

When working in this displacement context, DRC should aim to also work in surrounding communities with a view to prevent or reduce possible conflicts between the displaced and hosts.

If feasible DRC will aim for the position of Camp Manager as over the years we have built up particular expertise in this function while combining it with protection, community mobilization and multisector service provision (see also CCCM chapter). Our objective should be to support that camps or camp-like settings are managed in a community-driven way to ensure efficiency of services and dignity of affected populations with a mainstreamed protection lens across all activities.


Approach in rural areas

The rural context refers to situations where affected populations live with host families or in spontaneous collective sites in rural settings. These contexts are characterized by affected populations living in rural areas around small villages as a preferred option to living in hard to reach and isolated rural areas in order for them to remain closer to roads, information, markets, basic services and humanitarian relief.

We acknowledge the capacity of local communities as the primary responder to emergencies in rural areas and should strive to support them and work with them in targeted areas. In general DRC does not differentiate between people based on their status (IDP, refugee, returnee, host) but will target the assistance based on needs and vulnerabilities and with the active involvement of affected populations with due consideration for age, gender, diversity mainstreaming.

When governance structures exist in affected communities/districts/provinces, DRC will relate to and plan/coordinate the emergency response with these. Needs assessments should to the extent possible be done in coordination with local authorities. When the situation is so that communities host displaced populations an early effort must be made to strengthen livelihoods, and ensure that communal infrastructure and services are scaled up and replenished, to meet the increased needs. This will support peaceful co-existence between the displaced and the hosts.


Emergency response in urban contexts

Operationally, emergency interventions in urban locations tend to be more complex and politically-sensitive compared to responding in camps or rural areas.

Forced displacement in urban contexts will often be one of several migration flows that urban areas are prone to attract. Depending on the resource level of affected populations in this context, the urban environment entails particular protection risks that can be difficult to address: it generates higher strains on existing infrastructure and public service provision; increases the demand for core items and shelter resulting in higher costs for rents, core items and shelter; increases the supply of labor which results in more competition for wage labor, decreased salaries, unemployment and not least the creation or consolidation of an informal and often predatory economy, and consequently results in potential tensions between hosts and displaced people. Targeting in the urban context is highly complex as displaced persons are likely to live in communities where many non-displaced share several similar vulnerabilities. This necessitates more integrated and area-based approaches combined with self-targeting methodologies and/or sensitive outreach strategies, depending on the particular context.

However when compared to their urban poor neighbours, the urban IDPs/refugees are often more vulnerable with land, harvests and other assets (including personal documents) being lost, stolen or destroyed. Often the newly arrived displaced are at a further disadvantage as they tend to lack support networks, knowledge of the urban setting and may not speak the language. Their legal status can also be unclear due to lack of documents, or even illegal if they are foreign nationals without documents. This restricts their access to civil rights and social benefits such as health, education and formal work, and in some contexts it may expose them to harassment, violence, extortion, and even deportation (for refugees) from militia, security forces, landlords and/or the civilian population.

We may thus encounter a situation where the urban displaced are primarily interested in remaining anonymous and not having their status exposed. Profiling and direct support from humanitarian organisations is therefore not always welcomed by the displaced and humanitarian organisations risk doing more harm than good if large emergency interventions are launched in support of the urban IDPs/refugees.

In order to avoid exposing the urban displaced to further risk, DRC’s approach in urban areas should include protection as a primary sector. Components to be considered under protection include legal aid and in particular support in obtaining personal identification documents, as this will reduce the risk of extortion, harassment, expulsion and will improve access to social services and livelihoods opportunities.

Further to this, DRC may consider intervening in NFI, food or cash distributions, should the context allow.





Contact the HQ Emergency Unit: [email protected]