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When relief organisations provide assistance for refugees, they expect refugee beneficiaries to perform in particular ways that align with and achieve the desired outcomes of a given intervention. Yet, in practice, refugees often do not ‘perform’ to an organisation’s prepared script. In the journal Ethnos, Professor Naohiko Omata writes about the expectations and mismatches between aid agencies and refugee beneficiaries.

When refugees’ responses to aid interventions fall outside of expectations, some aid workers struggle to understand the causes of mismatches, leading to the creation of labels such as ‘refugee syndrome’. Drawing upon two case studies in refugee camps in East and West Africa, Omata examines the roots of such disjuncture between refugees and relief agencies through a lens of performance. He particularly explores the social and political dynamics between different actors in the humanitarian sector, and offers a theoretical approach to describe why such gaps emerge and endure in the implementation of aid programmes.

Read the open access article: Humanitarian assistance as performance? Expectations and mismatches between aid agencies and refugee beneficiaries