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Local leadership

Local leadership is based on the idea that local, national and regional actors should be at the heart of humanitarian responses. As these actors are present before, during and after a humanitarian crisis, they act as the first responders. Because of their rootedness, they have better access to places as well as people affected by crisis, have a better knowledge of the history and culture, and have a better sense of the needs in the country. A locally led response thus increases the effectiveness and sustainability of humanitarian aid.


Localization requires a shift in the humanitarian ‘system’, placing more power in the hands of local actors. There are different dimensions to this, relating to funding, more equal partnerships, capacity of local actors, participation and inclusion, coordination mechanisms, visibility of local actors, and policy. Such localization objectives are not new to the humanitarian field but have been part of the aid agenda for years. There is now a trend of national governments increasingly taking responsibility for their own crises and resisting an international response in favour of a locally led response (i.e. the Sulawesi response in 2018).

With the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, localization has been given renewed attention in the international aid community as an important way to enhance the effectiveness of aid and address the funding gap in the humanitarian sector. The commitments made in the Grand Bargain working stream for localization seek to:

  • address barriers for partnerships between donors and local actors;
  • increase and support capacity strengthening efforts; support national coordination mechanisms and include local actors in international coordination mechanisms;
  • include people affected by crises in the decision-making processes;
  • address the funding mechanisms within the sector (target 25% of humanitarian funding to go as directly as possible to local actors; measure the direct and indirect funding streams; make greater use of existing funding tools aimed at local actors).

Learning agenda

KUNO facilitates learning and reflection on the topic of localization by exploring good practices and blockades to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges for the localization agenda. With practitioners, researchers and policymakers, KUNO will search for ways to overcome blockades and explore innovative and concrete solutions that can be applied in daily humanitarian practice. Furthermore, KUNO will draw up an inventory of innovative ways of financing humanitarian action more specifically for local actors. Finally, KUNO will seek ways to bridge the knowledge gap between INGOs that are well informed about the Grand Bargain and its commitments, and local actors who seem unaware of the opportunities the Grand Bargain offers them. KUNO will do so by providing a platform for representatives of local organizations at KUNO meetings.

Further reading

Theme articles