Stop treating local actors as 'pipeline for delivery,' report says

A new report is again highlighting the need for the humanitarian sector to boost local capacity.

The report, “Building the Future of Humanitarian Aid,” said the role of civil society and national governments is increasingly becoming important as natural disasters grow in scale and number. And supporting local systems is the way to go to save more lives — the same message Oxfam emphasized in a report it released in February.

Katherine Nightingale, senior humanitarian policy adviser at Christian Aid and the report’s author, said that in a disaster, the affected population is often viewed as “pawns” and the international community as “knights.”

This needs to end. The report says international humanitarian organizations should “stop scoring goals and celebrating in the public eye” and instead cede power and control to national actors. The international community needs to help these local actors score goals, save their own people’s lives, and get recognition and support for it.

What then should be done to promote this? The report identifies three key areas of action: Change in practice, change in global perspective, and change in funding, coordination and attitude.

International humanitarian organizations should move away from treating local actors simply as a “pipeline for delivery.” It should, instead, develop partnerships with civil society and national governments before emergencies, helping local actors incorporate disaster risk reduction, resilience and response capacity in their preparations.

As the world moves toward achieving sustainable development, meanwhile, the report recommends that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appoint a panel to lead a global review of disaster prevention and response. It also suggests that the United Nations include disaster prevention work in post-Millennium Development Goals agenda.

As for funding, coordination and attitude, the report proposes that, by 2015, the United Nations should only fund emergency aid work in areas where local government or civil society takes the lead role. Also, international organizations should channel funds to their local partners during emergencies instead of setting up their own emergency responses in countries where they have no prior programs or experience — which could only add to the chaos. Local partners have more knowledge of the area and the situation, and are therefore best placed to respond.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.