Barriers and perceptions that can limit locally-led humanitarian action

The advantages of local engagement in creating viable – and measurably effective – humanitarian projects are unquestionable. However, when International Non-Government Organisations need to make substantial inroads, it has become apparent that real change comes from the tangible involvement of local agencies and relevant individuals.

Roles and Responsibilities

The main reluctance to support locally-led humanitarian action is often tied up with a belief INGOs can deliver compliance and control in a more assured and accountable way. This can be due to the practicalities of devolving roles and responsibilities to local contacts.

However, it can also be attached to perceived risks in ‘power sharing’. Can local contacts offer the correct level of adherence to the international humanitarian community’s vital principles, codes, and standards, including reporting mechanisms and financial controls?

Building Local Trust

The answer to the above hinges on establishing both robust and transparent working systems with local humanitarian projects. It can also demand an investment in trust-building methodology.

There needs to be a focus on providing the local players and beneficiaries of humanitarian efforts with the knowledge and tools needed to deliver what they need, to support their own recovery.

Creating local humanitarian vision

One of the real or perceived barriers is that locally-led humanitarian projects may become skewed to survival needs. The work to offset this also needs purposeful structuring and support, to develop projects that build resilience and capacity in global communities.

It is often startling how much can be achieved ‘on the ground’ in affected areas when the local community is united behind common goals and provided with the road maps to achieve them.

Risks and financial controls

Devolving delivery systems and mechanisms to support locally-led initiatives does bring risk, particularly with regard to governance and financial accountability. This includes cementing project effectiveness by providing local contacts with control over how funding is spent and creating new funding regimes that make shared operations possible.

To make this possible, there needs to be a focus on the local socio-political dynamics and sustained open dialogue between national and local contacts.

Overcoming barriers to enhance locally-led humanitarian projects

None of the above practical or perceived barriers is insurmountable, with the right level of expertise to create locally-led humanitarian initiatives.

This is especially relevant in the post-pandemic era, when INGOs are seeking alternatives to remote project control, and developing innovative localised delivery of humanitarian projects.

Also, dismantling obstacles to localisation serves the wider agenda for global humanitarian endeavours. Though disaster and crisis response will always be a priority, there is also a marked shift towards projects that support preparedness and prevention, as well as a focus on such issues as climate fragility and migration.

Working in partnership with Seamless can help INGOs to meet more of their goals, by optimising localised humanitarian contacts and projects and finding ways to plan and structure project funding and delivery within national legislative frameworks.

Ultimately, this can create local collaborations that are both accountable and effective, throughout their life cycle.