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Local initiatives moving up the agenda

  • Published

    7 March 2012
  • Written by

    Peace Direct

Two recent reports have stressed the importance of providing support to local organisations when allocating development resources.

In a February briefing paper Oxfam states that ‘…too little international aid maximises impact by working with local organisations on the ground.’ Their view is that ‘… the future of humanitarian action lies in the diverse array of local, national and religious organisations in the countries where conflicts continue and disasters strike.’

Support local organisations

The report stresses that building the capacity of local organisations must be central to humanitarian action, given how much difference there is between the abilities of different countries to respond to crisis.

Whilst some states are steadily improving their ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies, in almost all cases they lack the necessary capacity or use their resources in a partisan way.

Oxfam shows the importance of action at the local level by describing the frontline of humanitarian action as families, friends and neighbours, followed by faith groups and civil society.

However, as the Haiti 2010 earthquake revealed, there is a tendency for governments and international organisations to overlook local government and civil society and fail to take into account the views of people on the ground.

Meanwhile the British Government’s Development Select Committee’s report published in January relates particularly to the Department for International Development’s (DfID) work in DR Congo and Rwanda.

Changing priorities

The report states that DfID’s work in this area is currently focused on formal institutions and processes, and recommends that the department’s priorities and investment should move towards ‘community-led, local initiatives’.

The report explains that when local people have greater responsibility for programmes this encourages accountability and increases political legitimacy, which is a key aspect of peacebuilding in post-conflict societies.

In particular the report recommends that in contrast to current plans DfID should continue to invest at least 10% of its budget in the DR Congo in bottom-up community building programmes.

This mirrors Peace Direct’s own submission to the Committee that ‘… a proportion of funding to fragile states is given specifically to support genuinely locally led initiatives. The amount may be specific to each country, but might comprise for example 10%.’

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