On 8 November, PHAP and ICVA organized the first session in the learning stream on the Navigating change. The discussion provided an overview of the concept of localization in the humanitarian sector, how it has evolved, and how it is currently used. Participants learned more about how governments, private donors, the business community, and diaspora actors see current opportunities, trends, and challenges. The potential impact of localization initiatives on principled and effective humanitarian action were also examined.
The event featured Dr. Rahmawati Husein, Advisory Board, Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), Firzan Hashim from Asia-Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka, and Rabiah Nasir-Habeeb, Trustee, Foundation for Refugee Economic Empowerment (F.R.E.E). While many of the questions from participants were answered during the event (listen to these in the event recording), there were more questions than there was time for, and the guest experts have answered follow-up questions in writing, which you can now read on this page.
“ How do you define local? What does “localization” mean to you? ”
- Organization Founder, Spain and NGO Director,Turkey
“Identify and Optimize local resources and create mechanisms in reaching out to the needy faster” – this would be a likely definition. Contrary to the belief that allocating percentage funding is localization, for us, it would mean that we create localized, less bureaucratic, more effective and efficient mechanisms where funding/aid from all actors can be channeled to reach out to the most vulnerable with speed, better transparency and accountability. Such local mechanisms should prove effective and desirable for donors and international partners to align, work in partnership and channel funding. However, local/international intervention and partnership will differ in complex emergencies and protracted conflict.
“ How ready are the different humanitarian and development agencies ready for localization? What are the interventions being taken internally by different humanitarian agencies to shift from the traditional centralized approach to localization approach? ”
- Solutions Officer, Uganda
Circumstances will certainly lead to alternatives. Diminishing funds, job security and the inability to respond to dire needs (of the destitute) due to lack of funding need to be at the top of the strategic planning agenda of agencies, especially the local agencies and ably guided by international agencies/donors. Partnership is key. Working with, and gaining trust of partners is an absolute necessity. Gap between international and national NGOs need to be reduced. Sensitization of all aid workers (both national and international) towards a change – inclusive of an attitudinal change is vital. As for interventions to shift to a localized approach, it should be guided by the North for implementation by local agencies in re-discovering their traditional approaches. Country specific localization should be at the top of the agenda of HCT and donor meetings.
“ Here in Pakistan, the country leadership of some international NGOs are against the Localization of Aid agenda. What can we do to reduce their fear and advocate with the global leadership of international NGOs to clear the misunderstanding of their team in countries like Pakistan to reduce their concerns so that the local agenda are truly implemented? ”
- NGO Chairman, Pakistan
Very often policy decisions are not implemented at ground level. One of the achievements of The GHP (Global Humanitarian Platform) way back in 2006 was the development and endorsement of PoP (Principles of Partnership) which was well accepted at the top level but hardly did it trickle down to the local levels. High-level policy commitments and endorsements need to be institutionalized, implemented and monitored. Sensitization to these international agreements is mandatory especially by those who lead organizations. It is also important that the environments at local levels are made conducive for acceptance and implementation. A process which needs to be collectively accepted, implemented and reviewed.
The skepticism from some international NGO to fully commit to the localization agenda might stem from lack of understanding of the capability of local NGOs in delivering aid to the standard required. All parties need to recognise that an open and collaborative approach can be a mutually beneficial relationship in responding to crisis.
Communication and openness are key, we have been able to earn the trust of the communities where we work and engage with international NGO’s by participating in sector meetings and showcasing what we’ve achieved.
“ What do your organizations use to track progress of aid even after (international) humanitarian agencies have left? What is the biggest struggle for you transitioning and taking over and continuing the reconstruction of villages and etc.? ”
- Technical Support Engineer, Netherlands
Lack of effective partnership and absence of linking relief to recovery are the challenges we face. Agencies working in isolation and leaving once their project ends or funds deplete are gaps difficult to fill. Tracking is possible through national and local government platforms, HCT and relevant ministerial for which we are a part of. Advocacy becomes the best alternative in highlighting continuity through inclusion to local government development plans or other agency/stakeholder involvement. Prior agreement of agency involvement and fulfilling their planned activities as per required standards will certainly provide credibility and acceptance. Funding is the greatest challenge. Initial phase of emergency is always well funded and in abundance, the latter part which is most crucial is a challenge as always.
“ How are the code of conduct and humanitarian principles (including impartiality) to be implemented by diaspora actors? ”
- Senior Programme Officer, Netherlands
The focus should be the delivery of aid based on needs assessment, which will facilitate decisions on how to allocate resources. Diaspora actors, and indeed any participant in humanitarian work should aim to add value, improve the wellbeing and preserve the dignity of those affected by disaster without bias.
“ As a diaspora actor, how do you link to the UN coordination system? ”
- Senior Programme Officer, Netherlands
We work in a challenging and complex environment and believe that engaging with other organisations (Local, National and International) to implement our programme (s) is important. We link up with the UN system through our local teams. They seek to actively participate in sector meetings and keep abreast of pertinent activities in the sector. This has allowed us to express interest in relevant bids when they become available.