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Localisation of aid will lead to efficient use of resources and benefit all

By Chege Ngugi | Jan 17th 2022 | 2 min read

Relief food from Kuwait at the JKIA, January 2022. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Covid-19 has taught us many things. In the humanitarian sector, the pandemic has reinforced the essential role local actors, including governments, community-based organisations, local NGOs and communities play in humanitarian response.

Covid-19 restrictions, combined with shifts in perception of collaborating with international organisations, have created new opportunities for locally-owned responses. The value of local leadership in humanitarian response is clear – understanding of the local culture, language, operating context and needs.

Unfortunately, despite the growing popularity of the idea of localisation, international organisations continue to drive the humanitarian agenda worldwide. Funding for local actors, globally, not just in Africa, remains low. According to the 2021 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, between 2016 and 2020, direct funding to local and national responders increased by 23 per cent from $615 million to $756 million. Despite this growth, it represents just 3.1 per cent of total international humanitarian assistance and only a marginal increase from 2.8 per cent in 2016 when the Grand Bargain commitment was made.

The Grand Bargain is a unique agreement between some of the largest donors and humanitarian organisations who have committed to get more means into the hands of people in need and to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action. It is encouraging to see agencies such as USAID pushing for localisation.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power agrees that locally led development supports local institutions in the most effective manner and nurtures sustainability, prioritises the perspectives and preferences of those we hope to serve. This shows the reality of localisation, which goes beyond humanitarian assistance and encompasses the entire development spectrum.

Even as we push for localisation, we must acknowledge existing challenges and develop solutions. For example, the inadequate capacity of local actors such as community-based organisations, is a big challenge. Without adequate capacity, such entities may not attract decent funding and even if they do, effective programme implementation may be unattainable, meaning unachieved project goals, unhappy communities and unhappy donors. Local actors need robust structures in areas such as HR, finance and administration to ensure effective programme implementation, efficient service delivery and accountability.

Therefore, international actors should invest in strengthening local capacities by adopting an integrated capacity strengthening, mentoring and training approach to consistently transfer skills, knowledge and resources to local entities. This should be based on the premise that organisations’ capacities are evolve depending on their operating contexts. For example, an organisation that has the capacity to respond to floods, may not be able to respond to droughts.

By acting in partnership, sharing resources, knowledge and experience, we can create greater impact in the short-term and build stronger communities in the long-term. The future of aid lies in including greater support for locally-led actions and embracing community-centered approaches.

Chege Ngugi is the Africa Regional Director at ChildFund International

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