Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Influence of Informal Power Actors on Humanitarian Intervention

Knowledge about the socio-political structures and processes of a community is necessary to assist them in humanitarian emergency. Both academics and practitioners argue that the mismanagement of valuable resources during emergencies can be minimized, especially in developing countries, if the influence of the local power elites can be minimized in resource distribution. Till now, scientific studies on power structures in humanitarian settings has concentrated on formal power actors mainly from the political and administrative sectors of society. Although those studies have acknowledged the existence of informal power actors in a community, a methodology to identify them or their influences in a community is yet to develop. This group is significant in power practice as they play an intermediary role between the power elites and their clients.

In this study we will try to develop a methodology to identify the structure of these informal power actors and their influence in the implementation of external aid intervention. We will conduct the study in three villages of the Shyamnagar sub district in southwest Bangladesh. We will consider two intervention schemes, to select the potential respondents. The first scheme is a drinking water rationing programme, which took place in 2010 after the devastating cyclone Aila of 2009. The second scheme is the distribution of a tube well and pond sand filters free of cost or at a subsidized rate to the locals. Required information will be collected by narrative interviews, semi structured interviews, and structured questionnaire survey. Besides the methodology to identify the informal power actors and their influences in aid intervention, a set of guidelines will also be prepared for the practitioners to help them in identifying the local power actors and include them in aid distribution transparently to minimize the mismanagement.