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Local humanitarian action in practice - Case studies and reflections of local humanitarian actors

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British Red Cross
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New publication launched: Local Humanitarian Action in Practice – Case Studies and Reflections of Local Humanitarian Actors

December 6th, 2017, London – The Humanitarian Leadership Academy and the British Red Cross have released a new publication: “Local Humanitarian Action in Practice: Case Studies and Reflections of Local Humanitarian Actors”, which highlights successes and the unique challenges faced by local humanitarian actors. The publication is launched over a year after the Grand Bargain commitments were affirmed by the international community.

Agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, the Grand Bargain commits donors and aid organisations to allocate global humanitarian funding by at least 25% to local humanitarian responders by 2020, remove barriers to partnerships, and provide multi-year funding for institutional capacity to ensure continuity in humanitarian response.

The case studies highlight the experiences of 10 national and local humanitarian organisations across Central and South Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and South and South-East Asia that have led or managed humanitarian response. These local actors operate in areas that are highly vulnerable to recurrent natural and climate-induced disasters, instability, civil conflict, and other emergencies.

The publication affirms what is being recognised by international and local organisations, that locally-led responses have critical advantages. These include better access to and deeper connections with affected people and local structures; greater understanding of the relevant geopolitical and cultural context; and a clearer view of what needs to be done in response to a crisis.

In the foreword, Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, IFRC Under Secretary-General and Chair of the Academy, emphasises the need to “play to the to the strengths of each actor and building complementarity and an appropriate balance between local, national, and international humanitarian assistance. It also means respecting local actors, working with local actors based in principled partnerships, and focusing our collective efforts on ensuring strong, sustainable, relevant, effective local organisations.”

These views are echoed throughout the case studies. Mr. Esteban Masagca, Executive Director of People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN) in the Philippines says: “External assistance should be directed towards enhancing the survivors’ indigenous coping strategies and local capacities, and that any intervention should be based from a thorough understanding of the situation of a particular community and that there is no single prescribed strategy that can apply to all.”

Local actors featured reiterated that change must happen at all fronts. As Mr. Belal Hossain, Director for Disaster Risk Management of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society notes, “Lasting impact requires a change in the mindset of the government and the population, including those affected by crises. But this will not happen overnight.”

Despite successes demonstrated by the case studies, the study reveals that in many situations, these same actors continue to face obstacles to greater autonomy and sustainability. In many countries, local humanitarian actors still find barriers to locally-led humanitarian response, such as access to secure and predictable funding, local actors being regarded as service delivery providers, and reluctance of some international agencies to invest in capacity strengthening and long-term partnerships. The study notes that challenges from the international aid mechanism, which maintains control on how support from the international community is provided and how resources are distributed.

Ms. Halima Adan, Programme Manager at Save Somali Women and Children in Somalia emphasises: “Sustainability is not yet a reality in Somalia. Long-term partnerships need to be pursued to help rebuild trust and deliver better services through mechanisms such as consortium based approaches and multi-year funding, with elements of capacity-development.”

Through these case studies, the research hopes to influence institutions at the global level to actively involve local actors in policy-making and implementation of global humanitarian aid.

With the increasing shift to a resilience approach, the study demonstrates how local humanitarian actors are finding ways to introduce innovations, such as the effective use of technology and cash programming for early warning-early action, improved sustainability through private sector collaboration, social enterprise development and provision of technical service, and an ambition to establish a pool of future local humanitarian aid professionals.

Ms. Pansy Tun Thein, Executive Director of the Local Resource Center in Myanmar closes: “To do things differently, international actors must learn to work with the local actors; they must learn to trust and give them opportunities to take the lead where relevant, as they know the country context and understand the culture.”

Local humanitarian actors are not just ready to lead the way—they are already doing so. To make the Grand Bargain commitments a reality, it is time for the international community to step up and invest their resources where they can make the biggest difference.

Humanitarian Leadership Academy media contact:
Anne Garçon, Communications Officer
020 3884 7715 |

About the Humanitarian Leadership Academy

The Humanitarian Leadership Academy is a global learning initiative set up to facilitate partnerships and collaborative opportunities to enable people to become more resilient in the face of disaster and give them the training and skills to respond to crises in their own countries. The Academy is opening a network of centres reaching out to vulnerable communities in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Europe. The Academy has a digital learning platform – Kaya – which provides training to over 43,000 humanitarian volunteers and professionals.

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