Promoting localisation in humanitarian assistance

Literature study

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Refugees Fled Kule Refugee Camp Ethiopia
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Results – Literature study on promoting localisation in humanitarian assistance

IOB commissioned the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG) to conduct a literature study on local humanitarian action. After assessing the existing evidence base on local humanitarian action, the study makes a number of strategic recommendations for the Netherlands and other donors. This literature study supports the ongoing evaluation of humanitarian assistance of the Netherlands, funding and diplomacy between 2015 to 2020.


Understanding the impact of ‘localisation’ on strengthening effective and efficient responses to humanitarian crises continues to be a key policy and practice concern for donors and the broader sector. Criticisms of a ‘broken’ humanitarian system dominated by international actors has led to commitments, such as those in the Grand Bargain, intended to bring transformational change. These include promises to address inequalities in the system, such as the inequitable recognition given to local actors despite their frontline role in humanitarian responses. Donors play a critical role in creating effective policies and incentives to support localisation. However, the existence of an evidence gap on the impact of local humanitarian actions in combination with the persistence of power imbalances between international and local actors has resulted in a fundamental lack of clear strategic and policy direction for most donors on localization. This literature study consists of a systemic review of the localisation literature and aims to inform specific recommendations to donors on how to promote localisation.  

Key question

What added value does localisation of humanitarian assistance bring in the pursuit of Dutch policy objectives and what are effective ways for the Netherlands as a donor and diplomatic actor to promote local humanitarian action? 

Key findings

Strategic recommendations

Strategic recommendations for donors and diplomatic actors.