On 26 – 27 April 2017, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy Kenya, in collaboration with the National Drought Management Authority, organised a two-day conference titled “Localisation and contextualisation of Disaster Risk Reduction Management in East Africa”.
The conference converged a cross-section of representatives from local and central governments, research and academia, local and international NGOs, as well as private sector from whom it was evident that localisation is a burning agenda for humanitarian actors right across the spectrum.
The conference also brought to light that in order for localisation to gain ground it must of necessity address the inherent needs of communities in affected areas and a demonstration by local ability to be accountable for resources supported by the necessary structures. “Localisation needs creativity, long-term thinking, not just reacting to situations” said Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Humanitarian Leadership Academy Kenya Director.
Participants brought to the fore different locally-implemented humanitarian programmes in the region, demonstrating that despite facing challenges of capacity and resources, they have the advantage of better access and closer links with affected communities.
For instance, institutions of higher learning in the region such as the Makerere School of Public Health in Uganda and the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kenya already run programmes in DRR&M that churn out students equipped with knowledge and skills to implement humanitarian activities in their countries or the region. In recognition of the need for seasoned professionals at the work place, the Humanitarian Leadership Academy is implementing a structured internship programme that will endeavor to link students with humanitarian organisations in a win-win arrangement where the students gain practical skills in a workplace setting.
In Kenya, the County Government of Kakamega has enacted a Disaster Risk Reduction Act “to provide for more effective organisation of the mitigation of, preparedness for, response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters”. The Act clearly outlines activities addressing the various hazards experienced in the County such as: (i) programmes to adequately sensitise the general populace on courses of action in the event of any disaster, (ii) proper management of county emergency funds to ensure an immediate and effective response when disaster strikes in the county and constituting county and sub county disaster management committees that will be a link between the grassroots and the upper decision making levels. These directly speak to localisation efforts.
Partnerships were generically cited as fertile ground for localisation to take place as different actors strengthen and synergise each other’s interventions to ensure holistic rather than piecemeal approach to these actions. This would entail reaching out to private sector, some of whom are renowned for best practice algorithms, such as procurement of supplies in humanitarian service provision.
Asked about how to shift the power, Helen Asnake from DEPP said: “We need a shift of the power to locally owned and led humanitarian response: a better-balanced system where local actors take their place alongside INGOS”.
But what distinctively stood out was the discussion on the human factor in localisation whereby interventions for affected populations should not be decided in far away detached board rooms but rather allow for the incorporation of community decision making and cultural dynamics to ensure that the needs on the ground are met effectively. The need for decentralise decision making processes that incorporate the knowledge and skills of locals, and a two-way information flow between the global north and south which will not only give a vote to communities in the global south but also a voice to the most affected communities.
This was echoed by the Academy’s CEO Saba Al Mubaslat who shared the Academy’s vision on localisation: “Localisation means empowering individuals, showing that locals are effective and can solve their own problems.”