Localization of Humanitarian Assistance

Woman collects water

The international humanitarian system has long been criticized for marginalizing groups who are from crisis-affected areas, often referred to as “local” humanitarian actors. Historically, these local actors have received less than 3% of direct humanitarian funding, have been excluded from humanitarian decision-making and coordination mechanisms, have been treated as sub-contractors or vendors when partnering with international groups, and have often had their capacities called into question.

While there is still a lack of consensus about what “localization” means in practice, it generally refers to a loosely defined agenda to more systematically include local humanitarian actors in the international humanitarian system. It also includes reforms to center local leadership in humanitarian response.

Localization was made a part of the mainstream humanitarian reform agenda during the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit. Some people prefer the term “locally led humanitarian response” to “localization” and this agenda has some overlap with conversations about the decolonization of humanitarian aid.

This research program seeks to understand the enabling and hindering factors that support localized or locally led humanitarian responses to natural disasters, conflicts, and prolonged complex emergencies.

This research program includes the following research projects and outputs:

Cover of Localization Report Case Study

Four case studies that illustrate how key concepts related to the localization of humanitarian action differ across contexts.

Teddy Atim, Sabina C. Robillard

• June 2022
Localization Report Cover Thumbnail

This landscape study about localization examined the literature and spoke to over five dozen key informants from different perspectives, positions, and countries across the humanitarian sector.

Sabina C. Robillard, Teddy Atim, Daniel Maxwell

• December 2021

This brief highlights similarities and differences between two studies on localization of humanitarian action and identifies lessons learned that may reach beyond specific emergencies in Indonesia and the Horn of Africa.

Sabina C. Robillard, Kimberly Howe, Katja Rosenstock

• July 2020
perspectives on localization

This study examined the impact of a policy that effectively localized aid during the response to the 2018 Sulawesi Earthquake in Indonesia.

Sabina C. Robillard, Kimberly Howe, Katja Rosenstock, Jairo Munive

• April 2020

This study reviews fundamental questions about the humanitarian localization discussion in three contexts: a region of Haiti recovering from a hurricane, displacement and political crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the pressures of migration, conflict, and climate change in Colombia.

Sabina C. Robillard, Daniel Maxwell, Tonny Joseph, Daryl Grisgraber, Ledis Bohórquez Farfan, Carlos Esteban Mejía, Tara Gingerich, Isabella Jean

• May 2020
acción humanitaria local

Por mucho tiempo, los críticos del sistemas humanitario internacional han llamado por una mayor inclusión de los actores y organizaciones locales en países afectados por diverso tipo de crisis con...

Sabina C. Robillard, Isabella Jean, Tara Gingerich, Carlos Esteban Mejía, Ledis Bohórquez Farfan, Daryl Grisgraber, Tonny Joseph, Daniel Maxwell

• May 2020

Depi lontan, kritik sou èd imanitè entènasyonal yo sigjere li dwe pi enklizif pou aktè ki nan peyi kriz la touche. Yon atansyon ki pa sispann ogmante sou kesyon sa...

Sabina C. Robillard, Isabella Jean, Tara Gingerich, Carlos Esteban Mejía, Ledis Bohórquez Farfan, Daryl Grisgraber, Tonny Joseph, Daniel Maxwell

• May 2020
Report on Localization

This study interrogates the assumptions that underpin a localized response, and identifies the factors that enable and hinder local actors in providing a high-quality, principled, and effective response in three countries in the Horn of Africa: Kenya, Somalia/Somaliland, and South Sudan.

Kimberly Howe, Jairo Munive, Katja Rosenstock

• October 2019
The Localization of Humanitarian Research Webinar
March 2023

The current structure of humanitarian research systems marginalizes Global South institutes. However, a recent study has shown that southern-led research has a number of comparative advantages, including an emphasis on...