Why is localisation an issue? The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Asia Regional Learning Conference held on July 18 and 19 provided the space for sharing of learning and experiences around this issue with about a hundred participants from Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan: countries most at risk of natural and conflict-related emergencies.


While coordination mechanism, social accountability, culture, practices, local processes, fundraising mechanisms, access to funding and resources are among the challenges to localization, there are promising initiatives that demonstrate that localisation is possible.


On localising disaster emergency preparedness


Mark Bidder, Head of the UNOCHA in the Philippines traced the journey of localisation from the adoption of General Resolution 46182-1991 (Strengthening the coordination of humanitarian emergency response of the UN) as basis for international architecture and making it imperative for organising an international system. He said that it is important for the humanitarian system to work and be effective through translation to action to see the benefits and replication of the good practices.

DEPP projects in the Philippines as shared by Jing Pura, Senior Programme Manager of Christian Aid, demonstrate collaboration among key stakeholders and localised response.

The learnings and experiences of Bangladesh emphasised the importance of building and sustaining partnership between humanitarian response and social development network. Involving local organisations in decision-making makes “affected people receiving assistance with dignity”. Shamina Akhter, Programme Manager of Shifting the Power reiterated that learning by doing and project complementing another project contribute to localisation as shared capital.

Sana Zulfiqar, Humanitarian Coordinator Officer of the National Humanitarian Network (NHN) based in Pakistan shared that localisation was adopted into their organisation mandate. While NHN was not a registered entity but was able to sign partnership/agreement with the government. However, clear road map on localisation agenda, the need to be inclusive and localisation markers are the challenges they are facing.

Angela Rouse, Senior Programme Manager shared the learnings of Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) Network. She said that feedback mechanisms empower people; people could co-design projects; put effective people at the center; connect people; raise dialogues and people need organisations that can be immediately “there”. Interestingly, she said that these leads to participation revolution where the system is transformed with people at the center; community voice is included in decision-making platform and   technology is utilise to enhance participation.

Regionalising Surge where select INGOs come together for cross-learning proved that there’s enough capacity in the region, that it is cost effective and quicker in providing support in terms of cost, skills and appropriateness. Localisation mainstreaming was however identified as one of its weaknesses. Connecting regional localisation to national localisation was noted as one of its methodological learnings.

While there is no common understanding on localisation although it is not a new phenomenon, it has gained interest from international agencies. Accountability is an important element in localisation.

DEPP localisation, particularly for the Shifting the Power Project in Ethiopia identified the key issues on localisation which include not contextualizing policies in humanitarian work, support structure/network to influence power dynamics, global commitments not translated to local level, country-specific regulations and not focus on system level preparedness.

In Kenya, identified challenges on localisation include local organisations are not well placed and contingency fund for disaster emergencies are not or difficult to access. The organisations present in the conference were saying that local organisations should be able to access resource directly and support for policy formulation should be available.

In DRC, there is capacity development and strengthening on key humanitarian competencies and there is increasing local voice and influence.  They find it important to get more funding information, to have good collaboration with organisations and community leaders, to have joint advocacy plan and to engage with government with one voice. They believe that localisation is a progressive journey.

Localisation has a different context in different countries. It involves government and systems. It is about contextualising what we do.


On external perspective to localisation


Non-DEPP organisations were invited to also share their experiences and learnings on localisation.

Louie John Aguila, Learning and Quality Specialist of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy in the Philippines talked about the Academy, and particularly Kaya as an online platform and other technology – based learning tools and resources and how it contributes to localisation.  A Kaya booth at the conference lobby made it possible for interested participants to register to access courses and access information and reference materials. The livestreaming of the DEPP event on the Academy’s Facebook page also helped ensure that learning would be extended to the general public.

Ecoweb’s Survivors Lead Response (SLR) presented by Nanette Salvador-Antequisa, Executive Director gained attention and interest among the participants.

Forecast-based financing was shared by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

ICVA’s Regional Representative for Asia, Jeremy Wellard shared his global and regional perspective on localisation. Rolling out localisation he said should take place at the national level, identifying localisation mark ups and supporting network through transforming systems, shifting powers and investing on national network to engage more easily with government. He added that localisation is about systemic shifts involving external partners.


Highlights of the two-day event include the following:


  • Localisation places the community at the center. It is affected by power dynamics and policy links at various levels.


  • Capacity is required from local responders thus the local responders should be identified, what are the skills they need (these skills should be contextualised); funds and coordination they need and the need to adopt the minimum standards. These should be put in place on risk assessment and contingency plan.


  • Participatory process links all stakeholders.


  • There is a need to build up contingency fund with government as primary contributory; funds should be community-based.


  • There should be a continued advocacy to funders.


  • Need for more effective collaboration


  • Channeling of funds for localisation – there should be a mechanism at the national level. Factors to consider include differing context.


  • It is important for actors to change their mindset and how to prepare the communities.


  • Financing mechanism should include guidelines on accessibility, flexibility, cutting layers of bureaucracy and risk management. We should look at predictability in planning and programming.


  • Pressure lobby and advocacy to work on changes and define mechanisms.


  •  Measuring success:
  1. Community capacity – degree of competence, level of confidence, level of mobilization of local resources
  2. External actors – availability and willingness to support communities
  3. Timeliness of assistance


  • Engaging non-NGO actors by:
  1. building on existing relationships
  2. continuous engagement/create opportunity on platforms for non-NGOs
  3. why private sector would be interested I bringing knowledge and continuity
  4. issue of access – how to create platforms in these locations
  5. proximity


Localisation is working with governments and communities. It is a complementation and partnership because complex situation requires multi-actors. It is echoed by external partners. It is about accountability, reaffirmation of commitment. It is the voice and influence of organisations.

Regina Florendo
Partnerships and Engagement Lead
AsiaBangladeshDisaster preparednessEast AfricaHumanitarianLearninglocalLocalisationPhilippines
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