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How is direct support provided to local humanitarian responders?

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Direct donor support to local humanitarian rescuers might be hampered by a number of issues. Donors should instead explore aiding local humanitarian responders “as directly as possible” if these conditions cannot be accomplished. Here are 6 essential factors that influence the support provided to humanitarian responders;

  1. Donor analytical capacity

Donors must guarantee that working directly with national actors will produce the best, most efficient results before proceeding. Donors will need capability in their embassies and offices to interact with local humanitarian responders, including the ability to assess their financial, administrative, and operational capabilities. If donors don’t have the resources to conduct these assessments themselves, they can rely on existing capacity assessments when they are available.

  1. Donor structure

Direct support to local humanitarian responders necessitates donor capacity on the ground, as well as local staff support. To do so effectively, the donor must guarantee that their field employees have adequate decentralized decision-making authority and capacity to engage with local humanitarian responders, analyze the situation, and administer these types of awards.

As a result, proper training for embassy staff on humanitarian concerns before deployment, as well as ongoing technical and administrative support from headquarters, will be essential.

  1. Grant Flexibility

A national or local actor who is already collaborating with a donor on development programmes can also help with humanitarian relief efforts. This necessitates the donor’s willingness to put crisis modifiers into the grant with its local development partner. Crisis modifiers are terms in a grant agreement that, in the event of a crisis, allow a national or local actor to shift funds from development to crisis response and/or allow the donor to provide additional cash for crisis response without changing the grant agreement.

  1. Donor administrative capacity

Directly collaborating with local humanitarian responders necessitates rigorous selection and contracting processes that do not place an undue administrative load on local humanitarian responders or donor humanitarian workers. Donors can accomplish this by modifying and repurposing existing contractual relationships with their local or national development partners.

  1. Long-term investment

Building local partnerships entails establishing sufficient mutual trust as well as operational and administrative capability for local humanitarian responders in order to reduce response times during disasters. Trust takes years to develop, and many donors have already established a strong local partner network as part of their development efforts. As a result, some donors may wish to begin providing direct assistance to local humanitarian responders in priority partner countries where development partnerships already exist and can be adapted to prepare for humanitarian response, or in countries where the donor has previously supported humanitarian action.

  1. Addressing legal restrictions

In countries under crisis, national legislation or political constraints may hinder local NGOs and CSOs from receiving foreign funds, making direct funding impossible. Donors may instead use their diplomatic clout to try to overcome domestic legislative impediments in such circumstances. Anti-terrorism legislation is being enacted by an increasing number of donors in order to ban material support for identified terrorist organizations. This form of law can make it difficult to offer direct or “as direct as possible” financing to local emergency responders.

Complying with the legislation and associated vetting mechanisms — which often collect personal information about each grantee’s workers, trustees, and partners – can be a significant administrative burden for the local organization. Furthermore, local organizations are concerned that if this information falls into the wrong hands, it may jeopardize the safety of their employees, limiting the scope of their programme; as a result, they may refuse to work with the donor, even indirectly. Furthermore, anti-terrorist legislation may require additional work for staff in donor organizations, who must clarify and clear grants with other government departments such as the Ministries of Finance, Interior, and Justice, creating significant disincentives for collaborating with local humanitarian responders.

Anti-terrorism sections in grant agreements can help with this problem by providing clarification on how the laws should be interpreted and applied to humanitarian operations. Donors can still use other avenues if they lack the necessary capacities, legal frameworks, organizational structures, or instruments to engage directly with local humanitarian responders. In such instances, donors may rely on international partners, pooled financial channels, or delegated collaboration with other donors. These procedures entrust the selection of local partners and risk mitigation measures to trusted international partners with the necessary contextual knowledge and oversight capabilities. To learn more, our Disaster Risk Reduction & Management course covers this and more in detail.


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