This paper examines local perceptions of two international humanitarian organisations, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Malteser International, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (formerly known as Zaire). At times, the self-perception of these organisations differs considerably from the perceptions of local beneficiaries and stakeholders. This study begins by reviewing the current status of research on local perceptions of externally-introduced humanitarian action. It goes on to discuss the local perceptions of the IRC and Malteser International, as well as the origins of these perceptions, and to show that three different narratives are used by local actors to explain their different perceptions. The paper ends with an examination of the factors that help to account for the differences in perceptions and of the implications of this type of research for humanitarian principles and management, as well as for the study of local perceptions.
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