Localisation in practice: Emerging indicators and practical recommendations

This report was commissioned by the DEPP (Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programmes) Learning Project to contribute to learning on best practice for localisation, and to move forward the discussions. The research was intended to test, refine, deepen and, where needed,adapt a framework developed in 2017 for the Start Fund and Network, commonly referred to as the ‘Seven Dimensions of Localisation’. It also aims to reflect whether and how DEPP projects have contributed to ‘localisation’ and provide tips or recommendations for further similar preparedness strengthening work.

The concept of localisation of aid has been present in the humanitarian sector for decades in the form of ‘building on local capacities.’ Before and after the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, there have been many discussions about making the humanitarian system more effective and relevant, by ensuring that humanitarian preparedness and response capacity sits with those nearest to the crisis affected-populations as they are best placed to respond quickly and appropriately – and stay longest. The Grand Bargain Commitments agreed at the Summit are a landmark attempt at reforming the international humanitarian system.

The Start Network has also made some specific commitments to localisation. The Start Network’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) was a multi-stakeholder, three-year programme that has invested in building national capacity for disasters and emergencies preparedness in 11 countries made up of 14 projects overall. This report was commissioned by the DEPP Learning Project to contribute to learning on best practice for localisation, and to move forward the discussions on localisation.

This report was based on direct conversations with DEPP and non-DEPP agencies took place in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), several more days in Bangladesh (Dhaka and Cox Bazar district), and sessions at DEPP conferences in London and Geneva. Other conversations were led by members of the DEPP Learning team in Kenya, Pakistan, the DRC and at a conference in Bangkok. Reports from the DEPP, as well as others related to the topic but not produced under DEPP, were also consulted.

This report also draws on a rapid, real-time review of the overall response to the Rohingya influx in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh (February 2018), and on GMI’s longstanding and ongoing engagement with local, national and international actors around issues now grouped under ‘localisation’, since the 2005 Tsunami Evaluation Coalition study of the ‘Impact of the International Response on Local and National Capacities.’

Key findings and recommendations include the following:

  1. Recommendation 1: Develop clear practical guidance for country-level decision makers and staff and set up a monitoring mechanism to ensure that GB and Charter for Change commitments are being implemented. 
  2. Recommendation 2: Continuous communication through verbal or written briefing notes and  via short video or audio clips are necessary to explain the why, what and how of ‘localisation.’
  3. Recommendation 3: Ensure that there is special attention to recognise and support the capacity at local level, which could include community-based organisations, local civil society groups, local authorities, etc. 
  4. Recommendation 4: Ensure space for and support already existing local level networks and forums, as it helps them to collaborate and strengthen their own collective capacity to communicate and respond to issues in their own communities. 
  5. Recommendation 5: In contexts of chronic or recurrent crisis, in-between times provide the opportunity to map and strategically reinforce the eco-system of collective capacities. That will reduce the need to rely heavily on international surge capacity. Global surge preparedness should include policies, procedures and competencies to support and reinforce local capacities in a crisis situation.
  6. Recommendation 6: The leaders of international organisations and donors should articulate more clearly what is expected of their staff to ensure implementation of the commitments to localisation. 
  7. Recommendation 7: Relief actors, individually and collectively, need to take action at the above four levels if they are to succeed in adhering to their commitments.  The ‘Seven Dimensions Framework’ will assist action most directly at the operational level.