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Ager et al (2015). World disasters report: focus on local actors, the key to humanitarian effectiveness


Bibliographic details:

Ager, A., Baillie Smith, M., Barbelet, V., Carpenter, S., Carter, W., Cartwright, A., .. & Halff, K. (2015). World disasters report: focus on local actors, the key to humanitarian effectiveness.


Local actors are often the most effective in conducting humanitarian operations. However, despite their critical role, they struggle to attract the funding and support they need. The 2015 World Disasters Report – launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – examines the complexities and challenges local actors face in scaling-up and sustaining their humanitarian response.

Although widely recognized, the effectiveness of local or national humanitarian organizations is not reflected in humanitarian financing or coordination structures. The Report found, for example, that just 1.6 per cent of funding for humanitarian assistance is channeled directly to national and local NGOs.  It presents the case for a shift towards the “localization” of aid and a more equal partnerships between international and local actors.

Chapter 1 presents the variations in interpretation of who are local actors and what it means to work with them. It will also highlight the dilemmas and some of the consequences of current practices.  Chapter 2 is a summary of a global study and presents a clear message that investment in capacity development pays off in the long term in cases where it is driven by a real local need, where local actors are active in programme design and where cultural values are mixed with creative methods, rather than merely fulfilling donor requirements or facilitating delivery. Chapter 3 points out that the current profile of local actors in normative frameworks for disaster risk management is growing progressively stronger at both the international and the national levels, but the access of local actors to key decision-making forums has not yet caught up.

What the international community has been funding and where such funding has gone is the focus of Chapter 4. Chapters 5 and 6 focus on how both international and local actors had to adapt to such changes. Chapter 7 brings in an aspect that cuts across all crises, whether conflict or disasters resulting from natural hazards – technology in the hands of the population and used in either organic or organized ways by local actors is redefining the way crises are managed and dealt with. The chapter poses a central question: to what extent would technology contribute to changing the relationship between international and local actors or put local actors in the lead, thus altering any balance of power?