What is it?
In the humanitarian sector, localisation means empowering local responders in affected countries to lead and deliver humanitarian aid. It aims at strengthening the capacity and resources of local organisations to respond to crises and promote long-term sustainability.
This approach recognises the importance of local knowledge and cultural understanding in providing effective and culturally appropriate aid.
By empowering local actors, localisation aims to improve the relevance, efficiency, and impact of humanitarian interventions.
Why is this important?
Localisation in humanitarian aid is crucial as it puts affected communities at the centre of the response.
In humanitarian crises, the primary stakeholders in managing the response are the local and national actors. They remain in the communities before, during and after emergencies.
They are also often the first to respond to crises, playing a key role in rapidly delivering life-saving assistance. Despite this, local and national actors are often given little recognition when the international response gets underway.
In many contexts, humanitarian action is more timely, cost-effective, and efficient when locally driven. This is because local actors have the knowledge, networks, and political and cultural awareness to deliver results on the ground.
In addition, local actors typically have better access to affected populations due to their geographical proximity. This is particularly relevant in conflict areas where access for international actors may be limited.
Involving local and national actors is essential when managing the humanitarian response to a crisis. It ensures accountability to affected populations and that assistance and protection is relevant. Implementing the localisation agenda is even more critical as humanitarian needs increase.
Stronger collaboration with local actors, including transfer of knowledge and capacity, can:
- help better anticipate the response to a crisis
- facilitate community-led solutions
- promote long-term recovery and development.
How are we helping?
The EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has been strengthening relations with local actors since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. This effort translated into a global commitment to localise humanitarian aid, actively contributing to the Grand Bargain’s standard-setting process.
We have supported multiple initiatives to introduce new approaches to fill localisation gaps, especially through its global funding instrument, the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC).
Among others, our department has supported research into partnership models between international non-governmental organisations (INGO) and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to strengthen local leadership.
Localisation has also been identified as a priority for ERC funding in 2023 in 3 main areas: certification, capacity strengthening and risk management.
In 2021, the Commission’s communication on the EU’s humanitarian action confirmed the commitments made in recent years. These were made concrete in March 2023, when we issued our guidance note on promoting equitable partnerships with local responders in humanitarian settings.
This guidance’s goal is to encourage the humanitarian community to recognise and strengthen the capacity of local and national actors to respond to crises. By doing so, responses can be more inclusive and better address the needs of affected populations.
In the document, the Commission outlines how it plans to further operationalise its commitment to localisation. It also sets out key recommendations, expectations and commitments for more equitable partnerships with local responders, including:
- recognising the value, skills and resources of local and national actors
- establishing fair and impartial partnerships between international and local organisations
- enhancing direct communication with local actors and their active participation in the humanitarian response
- facilitating access to localised financing models.
In addition, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department funded or contributed initial funds to the following projects:
- the Start Fund – the first multi-donor pooled fund managed exclusively by NGOs
- the Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR), which introduces local actors into global coordination mechanisms such as the Grand Bargain Facilitation Group, and Inter-Agency Standing Committee structures
- the diaspora emergency action and coordination initiative, which bridges the gap between established humanitarian aid approaches and diaspora organisations engaged in humanitarian activities
- in South Sudan and Ukraine on a pilot basis, through which the EU can financially support local and national NGOs as directly as possible, by promoting their participation in country-level mechanisms
- the Local Initiative Fund in Türkiye (LIFT), a fund which fosters, expands and improves the services provided by local NGOs and community-based organisations to respond to the urgent needs of vulnerable and at-risk groups in Türkiye.
Furthermore, we are increasing our multiannual and flexible funding arrangements with humanitarian partners.
Our department has engaged in multi-year funding for many years already, notably in disaster preparedness/risk reduction and, more recently, in education in emergencies.
The pilot programmatic partnerships with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Save the Children are illustrative examples. They showcase the meaningful engagement of local actors.
The Commission has committed to increasing the share of its multi-year portfolio by the end of 2023, seeking to extend it to new areas and sectors.
We are also committed to prioritising environmentally friendly and locally procured humanitarian supplies and maximising the use of local labour to reduce travel-related carbon emissions.
Last updated: 12/04/2023
Facts & figures
Localisation means empowering local responders in affected countries to lead and deliver humanitarian aid.
It is crucial as it puts affected communities at the centre of the response.
The EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department has been strengthening relations with local actors since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles
- DG ECHO Guidance note on promoting equitable partnerships with local responders in humanitarian settings
- Grand Bargain Factsheet
- Grand Bargain Workstream 2: Localisation
- Caucus on funding for localisation - Grand Bargain 2.0
- Enhanced Response Capacity Humanitarian Implementation Plan 2023