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"Local is more effective, say disaster relief experts"
A recent article on Alertnet echoes a key finding of the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition:
"When a disaster strikes, international relief agencies receive the bulk of media attention and donor funding but experts say it is actually the people living in the damaged areas who save the most lives and help survivors long after foreign aid workers leave."
The article goes on to highlight a number of improvements that international agencies should try to put in place.
- "International aid agencies can... support local relief efforts better. They could work more closely with the local government and NGOs to avoid duplication and waste"
- They should "maintain a good relationship with local officials who have the power to determine whether or not foreign aid workers can be present in crises"
- They should run meetings in local languages, and "hire more local staff who have better connections and understanding of the local culture"
- They should "share contingency plans with local organisations and do joint simulation exercises to make sure they can work smoothly together when a disaster strikes"
- They should [develop a] "good overview of what problems the local government and NGOs can deal with themselves and what will require outside help."
All of which makes an interesting comparison with the findings of a 2005 ALNAP study on capacity building in humanitarian action, which suggested that at that time, international agencies were failing to live up to their commitments to build the capacities of their local partners:
- "Headquarters’ declarations of the importance of developing and utilising local capacities were being quietly forgotten in field-level operations. With some notable exceptions, there are few indications that the ‘business as usual’ of humanitarian operations led by international staff, is actually in question. Local institutional capacit[ies] are not a central feature of humanitarian action today because, although local capacities are useful, they are generally not thought to be essential."
I wonder if this has changed significantly in the past 4-5 years? Are international agencies who do make the effort still 'notable exceptions'? Are effective local capacities restricted to natural disasters, or do they also play a role in complex emergencies such as Sudan, DRC and Somalia? And are there any good examples of the kinds of improvements called for in the Alertnet article? It would be good to know.
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