Closing the gap: A strategy to strengthen community engagement and accountability in Africa

Trust is needed to ask personal questions to people when they are at their most vulnerable. Trust to let strangers treat your desperately ill loved ones. Trust that the life-saving information we share is real and should be acted on. Trust to welcome us into their communities.

When people don’t trust us, our ability to help them—our whole reason for existing—becomes harder and in some cases impossible. And, for people affected by crises, the result can be deadly if it means they forgo lifesaving services.

To build trust, we have to listen and we have to act on what people tell us. We need to do better. We need to make sure that people are able to participate in the decisions that affect them. We need to realize that engaging communities is not an extra burden, nor a box-ticking exercise, but an investment in a relationship that will make projects easier, better, more sustainable, and safer.

At the global Statutory Meetings of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in 2019, we took a huge step forward by adopting a new and ambitious set of commitments that place community engagement and accountability at the centre of all that we do. This strategy provides clear and practical recommendations to make these commitments a reality in Africa and close the gaps in how we work with communities, and among ourselves. This strategy, rooted in the practical experiences of Movement members working in Africa, will help us institutionalize community engagement and accountability into our organizations’ DNA. It will help us to put people’s voices at the heart of our operations and programmes and start shifting the power imbalances that continue to exist. This will ensure we not only gain the trust of the people we serve but that our work is relevant and impactful.

The Red Cross Red Crescent is not entitled to trust. We have to earn it every day by listening to those in need and acting on what they tell us. This strategy will help us achieve that.

The summary document of this strategy can be found here. Other resources you may be interested in: