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Urban webinar #9: Engaging local governments in urban humanitarian response

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The audio of this webinar is also available below.

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Presented by MercyCorps, this webinar focused on the topic of engaging with local governments in urban humanitarian response. Andras Beszterczey shared Mercy Corp's lessons learned, outlined recommendations and answerd questions sent in by viewers.  

Mercy Corps engaging with local governments:

Andras Beszterczey

Recommendations when engaging with local governments:

• Select community leaders who are recognised and trusted by their community, and train them in negotiation, mediation and non-violence communication

• Enable community leaders to act as a conduit. Encourage them to communicate with their communities on a regular basis.

• Collaborate with municipalities to design and implement projects that address resource-based tensions in the area

• Connect municipalities to external resources by increasing their access to regional and national government and NGOs

• Establish conflict prevention mechanisms so that they can share their best practices. This will help to enhance adaptive capacities of municipalities and communities to respond to local tensions.

Lessons Learned:

• Transparency in community mobilisation is key when addressing sensitive issues in local communities, and ensures decisions are made in a socially responsible way.

• Personal and political issues between stakeholders (municipalities, unions, governors etc) may change the role your organisation takes when implementing your project. Be prepared to take a more active role if necessary.

• Having a broad scope for the community leaders is likely to increase project success.

• When designing a programme, the theory has to be supported and put into practice. However there may be outcomes that disconnect the theory from the local needs.


Q&A Snapshot:

Does risk of corruption/clientelism limit how humanitarians can engage with government?

AB: A level of type of engagement must be formulated to correspond to the level of corruption in government. In general, we need to be aware what this level of corruption is and what level of our work will be hijacked or jeopardised as a result of the corruption in clientelism. With the people you hire and your local partners, you have to be aware of their local biases. You should be aware of corruption/clientelism but shouldn’t see it on a black and white scale.

How do we know which level of body of government to engage?

AB: As an NGO, we feel quite comfortable with interacting with local government. Targets of our programmes are usually the local population. We are less comfortable with working with national governments because we don’t have the links or the durability.

What advice would you give to those looking to support connections between municipal and national governments?

AB: My advice is to partner with organisations that have a very sophisticated understanding of the government structure. As an NGO you’re normally working at the local level, I don’t feel we have the best understanding of this compared to UN agencies. The need to partner with these agencies is very important; you can call together meetings, and try to facilitate dialogues. Unless you have this higher sustained interaction with the national government, your impact will decrease.


Andras Beszterczey

Project Manager

Mercy Corps

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