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22 juin 2022

International NGOs as brokers of trust and control in the localization agenda: a case study from the Philippines

Les ONG internationales en tant qu'intermédiaires de confiance et de contrôle dans le programme de localisation : une étude de cas aux Philippines

Article rédigé par Marie-Claude Savard (UQAM), Nelson Duenas (Université Concordia) et François Audet (UQAM) au sujet du rôle des ONG internationales en tant qu’intermédiaires de confiance et de contrôle dans le programme de localisation, notamment avec une étude de cas aux Philippines.

In 2016, the confluence of state and non-state actors at the World Humanitarian Summit created a juncture for local and international organizations to devise more effective emergency relief responses and delivery mechanisms. Guided by several high-level charters and road maps such as the Grand Bargain, the humanitarian system has since embarked upon the localization agenda to enhance the vital role of local responders in the delivery of emergency relief.

As a political shift, localization has not only begun to destabilize the fundamental purpose and modus operandi of international relief actors; it is also destabilizing the broader patterns of aid governance. The Grand Bargain’s call for increased direct funding to local responders does not only imply a decrease in revenue for international NGOs (INGOs), but also a loss of power. INGOs’ claims to legitimacy in policy and standard setting are increasingly contested by actors from the South and transnational advocacy networks, who pressure states and international organizations to modify their practices. Meanwhile, the humanitarian system’s performance may be hindered by increasing competition between relief actors, and by market-based policies implemented by states in the Global North.

Thus, implementation of the localization agenda may be mired by conflicting rationalities and power dynamics that simultaneously aim to preserve INGOs’ long-term viability. As the humanitarian environment becomes increasingly marketized and densely populated, the need for organizational survival manifests itself through INGOs’ self-interested action, which includes bidding against local responders. Unsurprisingly, ALNAP’s extensive multi-year study reveals that INGOs and international organizations received 97.1% of funding in 2017, while the remainder was directly provided to local responders in the Global South. Funding that passed through only one intermediary, which corresponds to the Grand Bargain’s definition of direct funding, or “as directly as possible”, accounted for 3.6% of all humanitarian assistance to local responders. Meanwhile, Development Initiatives (2020) reports that in spite of a slight increase in the years following the Humanitarian Summit, funding to Southern responders has actually decreased to 2.1% in 2019, from US$782 million in 2018, to US$444 million. This is a far cry from the Grand Bargain’s target, which was to be achieved by 2020, of providing 25% of project funding as directly as possible to local and national responders.

Le texte complet (en anglais seulement) est disponible en format PDF.

Chaire de gestion de projet (ESG UQAM) Institut d'études internationales de Montréal (IEIM) Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC) Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines