Part three: Delivering Better

Local Actors Play a Key Role in Humanitarian Action

Gongulong, Nigeria

Two women make climate-friendly cooking stoves in Gongulong, Maiduguri. In response to climate change and rising temperatures, FAO and partner organizations provide increased access to energy for IDPs, returnees and host communities in Borno State through improved and innovative energy technologies. FAO supports activities focused on providing technical assistance and policy advice to develop crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry subsectors. Emphasis is given to institutional capacity-building and developing local skills and expertise to ensure sustainability in camps and local communities across Nigeria. OCHA/Damilola Onafuwa

Local actors play a key role as first responders in a crisis and the providers of long-term support. In 2021, work continued through the IASC and the Grand Bargain to deliver on commitments that complement international action with ongoing nationally and locally led responses at the country level.

“Simply put people must be at the centre of everything we do. We can only achieve real impact through local action and empowered local actors. Our collective focus must be on addressing the needs, rights and aspirations of vulnerable people. A true and genuine partnership must be developed among the local and international actors where the leadership, knowledge and capacities of the communities, local organizations and authorities are genuinely respected and further empowered.”

– Mr. Jagan Chapagain, Secretary-General, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

In 2021, local actors were critical to and at the forefront of the response to COVID-19, particularly in sustaining humanitarian operations. Steady progress has been made in localization, backed up by sustained political support. International actors are making changes, particularly in the flexibility of partnership agreements, to better support local leadership and delivery. It is critical to continue strengthening principled engagement with national/local authorities to ensure a more relevant and sustainable response. Despite this, some local and national NGOs have encountered Government hindrance in accessing resources or operational space.

Local leadership and participation in coordination mechanisms

In July 2021, the IASC released its Guidance on Strengthening Participation, Representation and Leadership of Local and National Actors in IASC Humanitarian Coordination Mechanisms. Over 100 national and local NGOs were consulted for the guidance, which was translated into four languages. The IASC also agreed to start measuring global progress against indicators set out in the guidance. In the second half of 2021, work continued on the roll-out and further dissemination of the guidance as well as the production of a global snapshot. To ensure local and national NGOs were fully involved in IASC processes, eight local and national NGOs were included in the membership of the IASC Results Group 1 sub-group on localization.

Good practice: IASC Results Group 1 established an online repository to serve as a platform for strengthening resource and information sharing on localization and coordination. The repository includes guidance, policies, good practices, case studies and information on localization initiatives and projects, with a specific focus on the representation of relevant national and local actors in leadership and coordination structures.

Grand Bargain reconfirms commitment to localization

In 2021, the Grand Bargain (GB) workstream on localization continued its work. Following the GB annual meeting in July 2021 and the launch of GB 2.0, the newly appointed Eminent Person of the Grand Bargain, Jan Egeland, outlined that two of his three priorities concerned localization: the cascading of funding through better intermediation, and quality funding for local and international actors. These will be addressed through newly created GB caucuses.

Financing for local actors

OCHA-managed CBPFs continue to be a vital vehicle for localization in 2021, given that local and national actors’ opportunities to access funding have not grown at the expected pace. CBPFs continue to meet their target of allocating 25 per cent of direct funding to local and national actors; this stood at 39 per cent in 2021. Almost all CBPFs had at least one or more local or national NGO on their advisory boards.

Other pooled funds, such as the NGO START Network Fund, continued to promote nationally driven solutions. They also allow indirect support costs to be subgranted to these organizations. Denmark, Save the Children and NEAR have worked on establishing locally managed pooled funds in Somalia and West Africa to enable a greater flow of funds to local actors. Oxfam has been piloting a pre-financing rapid response facility that allows it to disburse funds more rapidly to local actors in acute emergencies.

As funding to local actors has increased, there is a greater need to better manage the risks associated with access to greater volumes of international funds. The inclusion of increased overhead/core costs for local partners is key to empowering them as leaders of humanitarian response, allowing for investment in staff development, institutional systems or policy engagement. Without predictable and flexible core funding, local organizations will continue to be trapped in a cycle of project-based approaches, and they will suffer from the consequent staff turnover, loss of institutional knowledge and the inability to build the capacity of their staff and their organization.

Good practice examples exist from across constituency groups. In CARE Philippines, an emergency response fund mechanism and humanitarian partnership platform allow local actors to access resources and respond within the first 48 hours of a disaster onset.

Localization and the nexus

IASC Results Group 1 and 4 are developing a series of podcasts, including an episode on how local actors can be better included in nexus approaches, and coordination between humanitarian and development actors.

Localization and gender

Support to women’s rights and women-led organizations, including refugee women-led organizations, has been a focus of organizations such as ActionAid, CARE and Oxfam in their localization efforts. CARE’s Women Lead in Emergencies programme empowered grassroots organizations and women’s collectives to ensure that women have a voice in decisions that affect their own lives. CRS, InterAction and IRC engaged local actors on PSEA, including working with local partners to build capacities.

Localization and the private sector

Local businesses are increasingly engaged in crisis response and recognized as key actors. In the Philippines, a local business network, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), is an observer on the HCT and is included in the HCT’s appeals and HRPs. PDRF is a member of the Connecting Business initiative (CBi), which is jointly supported by OCHA and UNDP and engages the private sector before, during and after emergencies to increase the effectiveness of response and recovery in a coordinated manner. During the flash floods that hit Sri Lanka in June 2021, the local CBi private sector network, A-PAD SL, quickly organized emergency assistance in partnership with the local hospitality sector, providing hot meals to thousands of affected people.  


  1. See Criteria for establishing Grand Bargain 2.0 caucuses in the Grand Bargain 2.0 Framework, page 8
  2. To be released in December 2021.