State of the Humanitarian System 2022 | Briefing: Locally-led action

20 Dec 2022

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2018-2021 was a story of missed opportunity when it came to supporting a shift to locally-led humanitarian action. Local actors rose to meet the challenge of COVID-19 - running services in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and distributing PPE and healthcare messaging in the Philippines - but these changes were not maintained or consolidated after the immediate crisis had passed. Total funding (indirect and direct) for local actors remains stuck at around 3% of total funds reported to FTS. 

High-level context and key stats 

Donors don’t always have the capacity to manage direct grants to smaller local and national organisations.  

  • However, ambitions are increasing. The US, the largest humanitarian donor, is committed to giving 50% of all funding to programmes which ‘place local communities in the lead’ 
Partnerships and capacity strengthening remain largely defined by international priorities 
Coordination structures are opening up to more local actor engagement but leadership roles are rare 
  • NNGOs comprised 44% of cluster coordination membership globally in 2020 and in Turkey LNGOs reported being actively encouraged by internationals to join coordination meetings.  
  • There were also improvements in the use of appropriate local languages in coordination meetings, with 74% of clusters using an official or local language of the country of operation. 
  • But in 2020, L/NNGOs occupied just 11% of co-chair positions in the cluster system and only 6% of HCT membership positions. 
Survivor and community-led response (sclr) 

During COVID-19 lockdowns, large international aid agencies relied on highly localised community groups to deliver vital support.  

  • But beyond COVID - with the exception of the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s volunteer movement - large international agencies have been slow to recognise and support community organisations. 
  • Local and international staff involved in the 2021 Haiti Earthquake response reported a lack of engagement by international actors with local people and networks. 



About ALNAP’s State of the Humanitarian System report 

Humanitarian action can be a lifeline to people experiencing the worst that conflict and disaster can inflict. For over a decade, ALNAP’s State of the Humanitarian System report (SOHS) has provided a unique, evidence‑based understanding of the system and how well it works for affected people. Based on a huge body of evidence including exclusive research with crisis-affected people and practitioners, SOHS addresses key questions about performance and effectiveness in areas such as hunger and mortality reduction, as well as giving a comprehensive picture of funding, resource flows, staffing and organisations. Consultations with people affected by crises were central to the research from the outset, and shaped the focus of the report. This edition of the SOHS looks at the period from January 2018 to December 2021 - a period that encompassed the global COVID-19 pandemic as well as multiple armed conflicts - and draws comparisons with previous editions to take the long view on trends, accomplishments and challenges in the humanitarian system.