The localization surge
From Humanicontrarian (March, 2017):
MSF used to run an ad: “The world is our emergency room.” Snappy, no? Raises an eyebrow or two if wiped over a photograph, say, of dusty civilians shouldering a wounded neighbour, or starving children swallowed by their swaddling. It also raises an important challenge to the implementation of the “localization” agenda. By definition, responding to crisis – to extraordinary levels of need – requires some form of surge, a capacity to scale up aid operations in response to crisis. The UN- and Western NGO-led humanitarian system already struggles in this regard (see, e.g., MSF’s “Where is Everyone”). Local organizations might struggle further. In how many nations could even the combined NGO community open and maintain 19 surgical theatres, as MSF did within weeks of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, or mount 53 million Euros of operations in about 4.5 months?
The general view seems to be that local organizations can surge, but to a lesser degree. As Schenkenberg’s study explains, local NGOs often have a very limited ability to scale up. He goes on to describe the causes, such as difficulties in attracting/receiving funds or the unhelpful reality that in an emergency, newly arriving international agencies will often Hoover up staff from the local NGOs. Management capacity for rapid growth poses another stumbling block. While the World Humanitarian Summit’s Grand Bargain and the general strengthening of local NGOs may address some of these issues, they do little to address constraints in the model itself.
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