In the final part of Victoria Barrios’ series on the localisation of humanitarian aid, Barrios looks at a number of case studies where localisation efforts have been tried and tested.
Localisation may be widely accepted in the humanitarian field as a concept, but in practice, how effective is localising aid? By looking at case studies, we can clearly see both the practical benefits of localisation as well as the challenges of implementation. This article will compare and contrast a case study from the perspective of a local NGO and a case study from the perspective of an international NGO to understand how each measures success and highlight how localisation is specifically affecting marginalised groups.
When Hurricane Irma hit north-east Haiti in 2017, the local NGO FONHARE (Fondation Haitienne de Rehabilitation) was able to demonstrate how a localised response could be successfully led by people with disabilities. Local community-based organisations made up of disabled people led FONHARE’s on-the-ground response and the German-based donor CBM (Christian Blind Mission) funded the wider response, providing technical support as needed. However, the money from CBM did not arrive until a week after Irma hit. Luckily, FONHARE was able to use their own resources from individual supporters to quickly conduct need assessments, distribute food and hygiene kits, set up mobile clinics to provide medical assistance and disease prevention, and restore livelihoods that were destroyed.
FONHARE has since supported international agencies in Haiti to be more inclusive in their emergency response as the disabled often struggle to access distributions by international organisations. Thus, this localised response demonstrated how important it is to have local partnerships for both immediate funding needs, local knowledge, and rapid mobilisation. FONHARE is nevertheless well aware that their own resources are not enough to respond to large-scale emergencies such as Hurricane Irma. Therefore, this case study also displayed the need for donor requirements to be simplified and fundamentally changed so that local actors such as FONHARE can fairly compete for direct funding on their own and not have to wait for international funding partners in an emergency.
Interestingly, analysing case studies from the international vs. local perspectives reveals that international actors perceive there to be more challenges to localisation than local actors seem to. For example, CARE International reflected on the localised response to Cyclone Winston in Fiji and noted certain challenges surrounding project implementation. This included the need for individual and agency-wide capacity building and a clear set of communications protocols regarding the media. CARE also found it difficult to find local partners that have similar vision and commitments in regards to gender to ensure gender-sensitive and gender-transformative programming.
In conclusion, there needs to be greater communication and agreement between local and international actors to guarantee an effective shift of power that truly acts on its promises so that the humanitarian system as a whole can work together to protect and empower the vulnerable.
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