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Localization of Humanitarian Response – a proven frontier for BRAC

Localization of Humanitarian Response – a proven frontier for BRAC

The pre-discussion and debates on developing sustainable development goals (SDGs) highlighted a common learning. And it was around localization. During the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) 2016, the idea of localization becomes more clearer among the government delegates, donors, philanthropists, civil society organizations and representatives of vulnerable communities. Localization becomes the backbone of argument of civil society organizations during grand bargain. At the summit delegates of states and representatives of international organizations and donors have accepted localization as a key principle of humanitarian response. Civil society organizations moved one step ahead and demanded that at least twenty five percent of the response fund should directly go to local organizations.

In a simple word, localization means strengthening system, procedures and capacity of the vulnerable communities, local governments, first responders (including volunteers, fire service & civil defense, armed force divisions), civil society organizations and state authorities so that they are able to respond to
disasters, manage crises and play significant role to build back better.

Is localization a new thing for BRAC? The answer is – No. BRAC is one of the good examples of localization that should be replicated to other countries. Let’s use the recent largest humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh as a case to see why and how BRAC would be a model of localization in humanitarian response.

When the forcefully displaced Myanmar nationals have started taking refuge in Cox’s bazaar of Bangladesh, BRAC was able to start response within the shortest time period, along with the local governments, local communities, volunteers and philanthropists. Why – because BRAC is a Bangladesh based organization. It has programmes all over the country, it has dedicated human resources. BRAC has been able to reach the big portion of the forcefully displaced Myanmar nationals. Why – because BRAC has a dedicated human resource locally. BRAC has been investing on building the capacity of the human
resources so that they can adopt crises and contextualize their programmatic experience to response to humanitarian response. BRAC has been able to build long term response approach. Why – because, BRAC has proven models of development with most vulnerable and marginalized groups. Quickly the
models have been designed to be contextualized in the crisis situation and increase out reaches. There are challenges and there are learning from the challenges to move forward, for BRAC and for all other Humanitarian and development actors.

BRAC’s ability to response to refugee crisis in Bangladesh is a proven fact that strengthening localization works better than SURGE capacity building. Globally, “surge” means the swift deployment of experienced experts and specialized humanitarian personnel from head or central offices and other offices
to a country or region when there are unforeseen emergencies and disasters, when a crisis deteriorates, or when a force majeure affects an office. Investment to strengthen surge capacity has been a key agenda for donors in last one decade. Surge capacity does have a tremendous value in large crisis or disasters; however, strengthening localization has more significant value and impact in the long run, as BRAC has shown in Cox’s Bazar.

Based on the experience of Bangladesh, BRAC has started building local capacity on emergency response in three countries – Myanmar, Uganda and Sierra Leone, with support of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The agenda is pretty clear – strengthening localization to foster effective preparedness for
humanitarian response and build resilience. Although within BRAC there is a consideration to build surge capacity to respond to similar crisis in other countries where BRAC is working or not, Bangladesh case proves that localization is the proven frontier for BRAC and it can be the model for others. Investment to strengthen localization could be our most appealing point nationally and globally as we have evidences to show to the donors, foundations, CSRs and philanthropists.

N.B.– This Article was first published in www.brac.net as blog.

Author

Shashanka Saadi
Shashanka Saadi
Head, Emergency Preparedness & Response Programme, BRAC International