10.3 Localisation
  • 11 Mar 2024
  • 10 Minutes to read
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10.3 Localisation

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Article summary

Since the 2016 WHS and Grand Bargain commitments (see 1.3.2), the ‘localisation’ agenda has been prioritized by major donors and UN agencies (the latter, mainly through the Grand Bargain workstream 2 and since 2020, through the Localisation sub-group established under IASC Results Group 1, which in 2022 transitioned to IASCTask Force 5’) as well as by international and local NGOs (mainly through the Charter for Change movement).  More recently, Grand Bargain Caucasus (a new initiative of the Grand Bargain 2.0 focused on specific strategic issues) have worked to further strengthen the commitments to localisation. This has included work to:

  1. Clarify the role of intermediaries in the humanitarian system in order to encourage direct (quality) funding to local actors, its better tracking, allocation of overhead costs, capacity strengthening, as well as to incorporate the principle of “equitable partnerships” and empowerment of local actors (caucus on the role of intermediaries), and
  2. Establish political agreement between donors, UN agencies, and international NGOs on how to increase direct and “as direct as possible” investment in L/NAs (caucus on funding for localisation). 

The Aim of Localisation 

The broad aim is to ensure that local and national actors (L/NAs) are more central to the planning and implementation of humanitarian operations, have better access to resources and take greater leadership roles in decision-making processes. It is essential to ensure humanitarian action is led and implemented as locally as possible, and only supported by complementary international actors where necessary (see pp. 36-37 and 161-163 in the IASC Handbook for the RC and HC, 2021). 

Local and National Actors

L/NAs include national and sub-national NGOs and CSOs, national and local government, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their branches and domestic private sector entities. 

It is especially important to support women-led NGOs and NGOs working with groups at risk of being left behind (such as organizations of persons with disabilities) to take greater roles in decision-making on humanitarian matters.

This entails increasing the amount of funding that is channelled as directly as possible to national and local organisations (the commitment of the Grand Bargain was 25%), supporting multi-year investment in their capacities, removing barriers to equal partnerships, and promoting local leadership and local voices in coordination and decision-making.  

Critical Value of Local and National Actors 

The localisation agenda recognises that the engagement of L/NAs is critical for effective humanitarian coordination and interventions aimed at a more sustainable, locally owned response. An international humanitarian response can capitalize on the added value these organizations can bring in increasing the reach and effectiveness of humanitarian action. For example: 

  • They can provide invaluable contextual awareness and analysis of complex situations and understanding of the needs of affected people and how best to meet them.
  • They can provide support with establishing access and presence in insecure environments. 
  • They can contribute to a more effective, efficient, and sustainable humanitarian response with an enhanced accountability to affected populations. 

Localisation and the Humanitarian Architecture 

Localisation also means ensuring local representation at the operational level (clusters) and at strategic level (HCT) as a minimum requirement for localizing a humanitarian response and making humanitarian coordination products (such as the humanitarian response plans, humanitarian needs overviews and country-based pooled funds) more accessible to local actors. It is therefore important that the humanitarian community works to ensure equitable, meaningful and active participation and inclusion of local actors in cluster/ sector coordination groups, strategic advisory groups, technical working groups etc groups at national and sub-national level. 

For example, the FSC Coordinator, should meaningfully (i.e. actively involve instead of merely ensuring participation) include national NGOs and other L/NAs in cluster meetings, planning sessions etc. Whilst CLAs are encouraged to support and mentor national NGO actors to take on co-coordinator / co-facilitator roles alongside international Cluster Coordinators (see 3.6.1 and below). The importance of engaging with national authorities is explained in chapter 3, including the importance of shared leadership with government counterparts ( working on transition and handover planning from the outset (3.8). See also Framework for Engagement between Local Governments and Humanitarian Actors (IASC, Placeholder, expected in 2023).

Increasing the role of L/NAss requires taking concrete steps to remove barriers and create an enabling environment for L/NAss where they can contribute to discussions and decision-making. Details are included in guidance from IASC in 2021 and from the Grand Bargain Localisation Workstream in 2020 (see resources below) however, some of the key actions Coordinators can take are summarised below:

To support localisation efforts, the FSC Coordinator should consider the following:
Mapping and Induction Sessions:
  • Map local actors, ensure representativity and participation of vulnerable groups (WLO, YLO, minority groups etc.).
  • Engage with them to ensure a sufficient understanding of their priorities and focus and to learn from them.  
  • Brief them on the role and responsibilities of the FSC and explain acronyms (and jargon), meeting protocols and membership criteria and provide guidance on the different ways in which organisations can engage, and the benefits of participation.  
Existing Local Structures:
  • Not all local actors can or should be expected to participate in the IASC coordination approach (including the use of clusters). There may be other forms of local coordination. 
  • Consult with key local actors to clarify existing coordination structures and link with these (e.g. local coordination platforms) where relevant. 
  • Pro-actively visit local NGO HQ or offices, governmental structures, red cross/crescent societies.
  • To the extent possible, systematically provide translation (ideally both ways) for meetings (also virtual). If the majority of FSC members speak a common language, consider providing translation to the international members if needed.
  • Translate key documents and other information and resources where possible. 
  • Translation services should ideally be considered a routine operational cost.
  • Develop meeting agendas with input from all participants and allocate time in each meeting to address the priorities of L/NAs.
  • Encourage ‘pre-meetings’ among L/NAs prior to FSC meetings to allow for development of collective analysis and positions// identify issues specific to them.
  • Propose presentation on local practices related to food security, including social habits, approach, cultural sensitiveness.
  • Pro-actively propose presentations from Local actors on food security programming.
  • Identify culturally appropriate meeting times and accessible and acceptable locations (pay attention to local circumstances that may affect the meaningful participation from of L/NAs, especially women’s groups, minority groups, youth groups, people with disability (such as night-time curfews, cultural acceptability of women’s mobility, safe access etc.).  
  • Organise virtual meetings that allow local organisations to join on-line calls, organise organising coordination meetings as close to operations as possible to minimise the logistical strain on L/NAs or 
  • rotate meeting locations so different groups can attend. Provide transportation and logistical support, where required. 
  • Consider holding ad-hoc meetings in hard-to-reach areas based on need and/or ensure representation and participation from those areas to the cluster meeting with appropriate logistic support.
  • Careful scheduling across sectors is important.
  • Keep reporting and information management (IM) tools simple. Provide training as required and/or individual session to help fill the 5W and other tools.
  • Use multiple channels of communication with FSC members and engage L/NAs on their preferred ways of communicating and accessing information (WhatsApp, skype, Facebook or zoom or other platforms may be more suitable than the FSC country websites).
Capacity strengthening: 
  • L/NAs often report they lack the knowledge or experience to engage effectively with the clusters: undertaking capacity assessments involving local, national, and international actors and jointly developing a two-way ‘capacity strengthening plan’ to fill the gaps is therefore key (see 3.7 on capacity strengthening, see also 8.5 on supporting L/NAs in resource mobilisation to improve their access to humanitarian funding)
  • The Coordinator should consider facilitating partnerships between more experienced FSC partners and less experienced L/NAs through for example training and shared cluster responsibilities, mentorships, shadowing, and peer-to-peer support.
  • The Coordinator should consider flagging institutional capacity strengthening in HNOs and in HRP sector/cluster chapters to make connection with programme outcomes and funding.  
  • Coordinate with other clusters to avoid duplication of efforts and consider reaching out to development actors who typically fund institutional development and organizational strengthening of L/NAs who often work across the HDP nexus.
Principled Partnerships: 
  • L/NAs are often treated as implementers/sub-contractors with little role in strategic processes: it is important to promote a culture of principled partnership (equality, transparency, result-oriented approach, responsibility, and complementarity), with and among FSC members.
Access to funding: 
  • Advocate for joint resource mobilization with LNA/s (see 8.5).
  • Advocate and support L/NAs to have projects funded through the Humanitarian Pooled Funds (HPF) mechanisms and advocate/support L/NAs to be in Selection/Review Committees of the HPFs (see 8.4 on CBPF and CERF and 8.5 on L/NAs’ access to humanitarian funding).
To encourage meaningful involvement in decision-making, FSC Coordinators and CLAs should consider the following: 
  • L/NAs should have equitable opportunities to take on leadership and co-leadership/co-facilitation roles in the FSC, including as part of FSC strategic advisory groups and review committees of pooled funds which should have representation of L/NAs). 
  • FSC Coordinator and CLAs: Encourage L/NAs to participate in SAGs, review committees and TWGs (keeping gender balance in mind) and provide coaching support where needed for full contribution.
  • CLAs with FSC Coordinator support: Encourage and incentivise cluster participation for national NGOs, through establishing national NGO co-facilitators/coordinators. Explore opportunities for funding NGO co-leadership and advocate for this with donors (see also 3.6.1 on sharing leadership).  
  • Develop transition plans (see 3.3.1 and 3.8) that prioritize L/NAs coordination leadership from the outset and promote this with the national authorities to ensure buy in and support for L/NAss after FSC deactivation.
Examples of FSC activities on localisation: At country-level, the FSC is working to implement the recommendations for localisation in line with the above and available guidance. In South Sudan for example, the FSCworks closely with the Area Reference Groups mechanism, which allows participation

and better coordination, at local level, among community representatives and/or leaders, local partners, NGOs, UN and government and have filled the gaps in national and local actors coordination.

At country level, there are often localisation WGs or task forces to further the agenda. The HPC Step by Step Guide 2023 emphasizes sub-national consultations (engaging local NGOs, CBOs, and community actors) as a key activity and participation of local actors in joint intersectoral needs and response analysis and monitoring (HPC guidelines are updated yearly).

At global level, to support the localisation efforts, the gFSC is piloting coaching of local partners to increase the presence of national FSC co-facilitators (who could eventually become future Coordinators).  


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