Localisation in Practice
Emerging indicators & practical recommendations



The concept of localisation of aid has been present in the humanitarian sector for decades in the form of ‘building on local capacities.’ However, in regional consultations prior to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, it came to the forefront in the bid to find solutions to the shortfall in global humanitarian funding. Before and after the Summit, there have been many discussions about making the humanitarian system more effective and relevant, by ensuring that humanitarian preparedness and response capacity sits with those nearest to the crisis affected-populations as they are best placed to respond quickly and appropriately – and stay longest. The Grand Bargain Commitments agreed at the Summit are a landmark attempt at reforming the international  humanitarian system.

The Start Network has also made some specific commitments to localisation. The Start Network’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) was a multi-stakeholder, three-year programme that has invested in building national capacity for disasters and emergencies preparedness in 11 countries made up of 14 projects overall. This report was commissioned by the DEPP Learning Project to contribute to learning on best practice for localisation, and to move forward the discussions on localisation. The research had two primary purposes:

  • • Test, refine, deepen and where needed adapt, a framework developed in 2017 for the Start Fund and Network, commonly referred to as the ‘Seven Dimensions of Localisation
  • • Reflect whether and how DEPP projects have contributed to ‘localisation’ and provide tips or recommendations for further similar preparednessstrengthening work, without duplicating the already extensive reviews and evaluations of the various projects and bearing in mind that the framework did not exist when the projects were designed. The research was undertaken between mid-November 2017 and end March 2018. Financial limitations only allowed a few days of direct conversations with DEPP and non-DEPP agencies in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), several more days in Bangladesh (Dhaka and Cox Bazar district), and sessions at DEPP conferences in London and Geneva. Other conversations were led by members of the DEPP Learning team in Kenya, Pakistan, the DRC and at a conference in Bangkok. Reports from the DEPP, as well as others related to the topic but not produced under DEPP, were also consulted. This report also draws on a rapid, real-time review of the overall response to the Rohingya influx in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh (February 2018), and on GMI’s longstanding and ongoing engagement with local, national and international actors around issues now grouped under ‘localisation’, since the 2005 Tsunami Evaluation Coalition study of the ‘Impact of the International Response on Local and National Capacities.


Localisation has been debated and researched for a full two years now. While there are many laudable small examples of change, a lot remains to be done. Overall progress remains slow and there is little evidence of structural or systemic change. Local and national actors who were present at the World Humanitarian Summit are becoming sceptical, wondering whether it was more than an expensive public relations event. It is not acceptable that so many in-country decisionmakers and advisors, including from agencies that have signed up to the Grand Bargain or the Charter for Change, are still unclear about what that means in practice. Details may remain that need further reflection and discussion, but there is sufficient clarity now about what the justifications and motivations are for localisation, what the overall intent is (‘reinforce’ rather than ‘replace’) and how that translates into operational practices. This report offers a provisional set of indicators that enable detailed assessment and planning. We know enough to start applying this with confidence, as individual agencies but also in a collective response, particularly in contexts with favourable conditions. The donors also need to create an enabling environment and prioritise investment in local and national actors, which will permit a faster pace of localisation.