"If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.": Outsiders Learning From Insiders in a Humanitarian Context





partnerships, humanitarian system, disaster, conflict, affected communities, Western Darfur, Sudan


A healthy global humanitarian system depends on effective partnerships. Donors, implementing actors, local organizations, and individual experts are all presented with the opportunity to partner with local actors in a beneficial manner, with the goal of best serving disaster- and/or conflict affected populations. This paper argues that lost in the current process is the mutual respect, compassion, and humility needed to establish such meaningful partnerships between the mobilizing team, or outsiders, and the local organizations and affected population, or insiders. Even with the recent emphasis on promoting the localization of aid delivery, the system has missed the mark by using semantics such as “developing local capacity,” which subtly labels the insiders as not equal to, and therefore lesser than, the outsiders. Such a relationship fails to allow those whose lives have been directly affected by disaster and conflict to have an active role in re-shaping the world around them. By relating the impact of a personal experience in Western Darfur, Sudan, and examining the experience within the partnership system approach, the author shows that outsiders who do not build adequate partnerships fail to respect the affected population, and thus fail to learn from them. What needs to be understood about such partnerships is that the affected population, used interchangeably with insiders throughout this discussion, continue to live their lives both through and beyond the crisis, while the international humanitarian actors, outsiders, come and go as is convenient for themselves and/or their organizations. While the insiders inherently live as the experts of their own lives, the outsiders continuously fail to apply the humility and mutual respect needed to partner with these experts.

Author Biography

Janaka Jayawickrama, Department of Health Sciences, University of York

Janaka, a native of Sri Lanka by birth, started his career as a local humanitarian worker in Sri Lanka in 1994. He collaborated with conflict affected Tamil, Sinhala, Muslim and other communities in Sri Lanka to help improving their wellbeing in uncertain and dangerous times. Since then he continued to collaborate with disaster, conflict and uneven development affected communities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He has played key roles in various humanitarian responses including tsunami responses in Sri Lanka (2004), IDPs in Western Darfur, Sudan (2005), Afghan refugees in Pakistan (2006), refugees in Malawi (2006) and Iraqi refugees in Jordan (2007).

Janaka received his PhD in Social Anthropology and an MSc in Disaster Management and Sustainable Development from Northumbria University. Janaka also holds a Post-Graduate Certificate in Counseling and Psychotherapy from the All India Institute for Counseling, Psychotherapy and Human Relationships in Vellore and a Diploma in Trauma Treatment from the International Trauma Treatment Program in the USA.

Throughout his career Janaka has worked within and between academia and policy and practice in disasters, conflicts and uneven development. His on-going work on community wellbeing seeks to shape future policy and practice on humanitarian and recovery interventions in disasters and conflicts. As well as teaching graduate courses on humanitarian assistance, post-conflict/disaster reconstruction, project management, research methods, sustainable development and community wellbeing Janaka has also conducted local, national and regional workshops for national professionals on concepts of community care in disasters and conflicts, disaster risk reduction and humanitarian assistance.




How to Cite

Jayawickrama, J. (2018). "If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together.": Outsiders Learning From Insiders in a Humanitarian Context. Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies, 5(2), Article 5. https://doi.org/10.24926/ijps.v5i2.1309