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Humanitarian Aid on the move # 19, special issue: Aid localisation

Localisation: moving from commitments to implementation
Kirsten Hagon

Key word: Point of view /

In the Grand Bargain, donors and international humanitarian actors (UN Agencies, INGOs, IFRC and ICRC) recognized that:

National and local responders comprising governments, communities, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies and local civil society are often the first to respond to crises, remaining in the communities they serve before, after and during emergencies.

They committed to…

Making principled humanitarian action as local as possible and as international as necessary recognising that international humanitarian actors play a vital role particularly in situations of armed conflict. We engage with local and national responders in a spirit of partnership and aim to reinforce rather than replace local and national capacities.

There now needs to be some significant (but not overwhelming) changes to how we all do our work, in order to line up practice with rhetoric.

 Why localisation?

Local and national actors are crucial to humanitarian response. They are there before any of the international actors arrive and long after they leave. Local action is not a “nice to have” add on to a relief operation that is a distant second consideration to getting aid out – it is a critical vehicle for that lifesaving action and even more so, in preventing crises where possible. The reality is that, the vast majority of crises never receive international support and attention. In these instances, local actions by local actors, based in and made up of members of the community, are saving lives and helping people to prepare and to rebuild again and again. In the crises that do receive international support and attention, assistance is often branded as international, but it is in fact local and national actors doing the work.

Local humanitarian action is core to the Red Cross and Red Crescent model of humanitarian action. National Societies’ volunteers are present in communities around the world working in the community for the community, before, during and after crises. The IFRC was established to support, coordinate and represent these actors. It is because of this that we have taken on the role, alongside the Swiss Government, of co-chairing the Grand Bargain workstream on providing more support and funding tools to local and national responders.

In theory, the international humanitarian community has long recognized the specific comparative advantages of local humanitarian actors, while also highlighting the complementary value of international actors. It is widely recognized that local actors are fast because they are close, that local actors often have access that no international actor can achieve and that local actors have a strong understanding of local circumstances, politics and culture. We also know that local actors are in a strong position to link preparedness, response and long-term recovery, to make resilience real. The advantages of supporting and building upon this local capacity, rather than pushing it aside, is acknowledged in many of our fundamental normative and guidance texts, from UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 of 1991, to the RC/RC NGO Code of Conduct of 1994, to the Principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship of 2003.