LOCALISATION & GLOBALISATION: The conversation gets serious

Recent conversations and reports signal that the localisation debate is changing in significant ways: After three years of talk and research dominated by international agencies, without much progress in practice, the conversation is moving away from technical questions about definitions, indicators, and tracing money flows. The spotlight is now on the nature of the relationship between international and local/national agencies. Distrust, prejudice and compliance overwhelm, outdated notions of capacity-building, and localisation as driver of globalisation are coming to the foreground. Having been framed all this time in terms of operational efficiency, it is now acquiring a strategic perspective, with more profound questions about the purpose of international cooperation, the relationship between global civil societies, and the future role of international NGOs in a rapidly changing world. Read more about this here.

PREPARED-FOR-PARTNERSHIP? Trust and distrust in international cooperation

The prevailing mood in the relief sector is distrust; the prevailing effort in the peacebuilding sector is trust building. This has significant impact on the abilities to collaborate and form equitable partnerships. Why these stark differences. The blog identifies a number of structural contributing factors but invites attention to the different appreciations in these sectors of the importance of ‘being’ skills, in complement to ‘doing’ ones.

 

CHALLENGES IN PARTNERSHIP GOVERNANCE: Some attention points and tips

The bigger challenges in today’s world are often too complex to be handled by one agency alone, however capable and well resourced. More often than not, we have to collaborate with others to have effective influence and create more significant impacts. Each brings distinctive competencies, legitimacies, connections and understanding, and can take up distinctive roles. Unfortunately, the prevailing mindset and practices are towards organisational competition, with our attention very inward looking to the organisation we belong to. There is an assumption that collaboration, if needed, is no different from ordinary autonomous practice. It is not: collaboration, certainly in a more equitable ‘partnership’ spirit, requires distinctive competencies. Facilitators, partnership brokers and organisational relationship and systems coaches, can help.

Let me share here a few attention points, and tips. When reflecting on them, I have some concrete examples in mind where I played or continue to play a brokering and coaching role. But I am quite confident they have much wider applicability. Judge for yourself. Read on.

Bring ‘Humanity’ and ‘Dignity’ back into the Relief Industry

International relief action has become much professionalised and is the better for it. But are the continued professionalisation and technological innovations driving out the fundamental ‘humanity’ and ‘compassion’ in our engagement with crisis-affected people? Is our concentration on ‘vulnerability’, ‘data-driven decision-making’ and ‘effectiveness-at-scale’ unintentionally depriving those we seek to help of ‘agency’, of the ability to regain more control over their lives and the decisions that affect it? Is our desire to communicate to and with affected people, in practice impeding their effective participation? Explore these questions with us here.

Local Capacities & Locally-Led Response

‘Localisation’ did not originate with the Grand Bargain. The Red Cross and INGO Code of Conduct is two decades old and commits us to “attempt to build disaster response on local capacities”. Similar principles, recommendations and commitments can be found in the Sphere Standards and the Common Humanitarian Standard. Reinforce rather than replace!

Why Localisation? The Grand Bargain, drawing on the report of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, argues for ‘localisation’ because it will be more costs-effective. Unfortunately, who gets what share of the money has become a major consideration, and source of resistance to effective localisation. Why would supporting local capacities, to the point that they themselves can handle most crisis responses by themselves, not be a valued strategic objective? Governments, like the ones in Nepal and Indonesia, are also beginning to restrict the number of international relief agencies coming in and taking over. So, do we want to keep aid-recipient countries dependent? Are we trying to sustain and expand our relief business – or work ourselves out of a job? Listening to over 250 local CSOs allowed GMI to identify seven areas where they often find the relationship with international relief actors frustrating – and where they want to see change. Clink here to discover the seven dimension and the strategic framework for localisation.

Position paper - Grand Bargain Equal partners not only passengers

The A4EP, which is a network of organisations committed to strengthen the humanitarian architecture, has taken an advocacy position to positively influence the debate and transformation of the humanitarian system. A4EP urges the GB signatories and the secretariat to work in a more open and transparent manner, and in the spirit of equitable partnership, which is espoused in the GB. We urge the localisation workstream co-conveners to be more transparent in their decision-making and embrace more local actors to make it truly representative. Most of its meetings should be held in aid-recipient countries, not in Western capitals. The members of A4EP are ready to take their responsibility and work with the GB secretariat and the localisation workstream to achieve this. Click here for the A4EP Position Paper on the Grand Bargain.