Thematic area 3: National capacity

Humanitarian response is more effective when it acknowledges, builds on and strengthens national capacity.

When international response is triggered, it can sideline local actors, or fail to acknowledge, support and leverage existing capacity. The type of crisis, as well as an appropriate understanding of the capacity of civil society and national and local government, should inform the approach taken in each context, rather than adopt a one-size-fits-all format. Contextualising should be complemented with longer-term approaches that build preparedness and resilience of local communities to shocks. Working together with national actors in order to reinforce their capacity to deal with crises before they happen will help localise the response as far as is possible.

"For southern humanitarian organizations, accountability means working with communities rather than working for a community. We aspire to a relationship with our northern partners that mirrors this vision, one that is based on equality and dignity. The World Humanitarian Summit process allowed us to have such a dialogue, and this report makes welcome suggestions on how to move from aspirations to practice. Together with the launch of the Core Humanitarian Standard, we have a unique opportunity to trigger a paradigm shift in the relationship between the global and local level of humanitarian response." Reza Chowdhury, Director,  (COAST Trust), Bangladesh

Read all about it!

Chapter 5: National and international NGOs: equal partners?
International actors on the humanitarian scene don’t always have all the answers, writes Dr. Kamel Mohanna. Involving in-country partners on a more equal footing would deliver better humanitarian results. Download this chapter.

Chapter 6: Aid and the role of government: what we can learn from Colombia
Good humanitarian action is led by the state and builds on local response capacities wherever possible, says ALNAP ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit. Diana Marcela Barbosa Maldonado of the Colombian government’s Unit for the Assistance and Comprehensive Reparation of Victims explains how her country works towards this objective. Download this chapter in English or Spanish.

Key recommendations

  1. When appropriate, needs assessments and their revision should be contracted to national NGOs, given their privileged knowledge of and connection to local communities. (chapter 5)
  2. Rules of cooperation and collaboration between international organisations and national NGOs, inspired by the Principles of Partnership, should be enforced. They should result in an open dialogue, and joint project development, where international NGOs bring external expertise and financial resources, and national NGOs bring local knowledge and beneficiary communication techniques. (chapter 5)
  3. A certain amount of funding should be directed to national NGOs, either directly or through pooled funds. (chapter 5)
  4. International organisations should suggest a mechanism to offset the costs incurred when staff are poached from national NGOs. (chapter 5)
  5. Cluster meetings and documents should be systematically translated into the local language and documents relevant to beneficiary communities communicated in an appropriate and understandable manner. (chapter 5)
  6. Programmes should concentrate on effectiveness, not just visibility. In the same vein, attributed project funds should reach beneficiaries, rather than simply covering administrative costs. (chapter 5)
  7. State authorities have a responsibility and role to play in humanitarian response and under the right circumstances, they can do so more effectively than other actors. Humanitarian actors need to make a conscious effort to better understand and acknowledge the role and added value governments can provide in terms of coverage, resources, staffing, cultural understanding, and continuity. (chapter 6)
  8. Better understanding of the role national authorities can play needs to be matched with more interaction during crises and efforts prior to crises to reduce dependency on international aid. (chapter 6)

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