New IFRC Report calls for greater recognition and support for local humanitarian actors

Published: 24 September 2015

Local actors are often the most effective in conducting humanitarian operations. However, despite their critical role, they struggle to attract the funding and support they need.

The 2015 World Disasters Report – launched today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) – examines the complexities and challenges local actors face in scaling-up and sustaining their humanitarian response. 

Although widely recognized, the effectiveness of local or national humanitarian organizations is not reflected in humanitarian financing trends.  The Report found, for example, that of the total funding given to international, regional, national and local NGOs between 2010 and 2014, only 1.6 per cent of these funds were channeled directly to national and local NGOs. 

The report calls on the humanitarian community to work together to ensure more equal partnerships with local actors and efficient financing flows, including at the community level, where humanitarian needs are the greatest and development impacts are felt the most.  

It presents the case for a shift towards the “localization” of aid and a more equal partnership between international and local actors.

“Local actors are always the first to respond. In 2015, we saw local people and organizations at the centre of operations rescuing thousands trapped in the rubble after the earthquake in Nepal, setting up evacuation centres in the wake of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and on the frontline of the protracted conflict in Syria,” said Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary General. 

“But their effectiveness goes beyond their proximity. Local groups, including National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, are effective because of the perspective they bring, their understanding of language and cultural norms, and because they are permanently present in communities and able to accompany them to address risks before disaster strikes.”

The IFRC is calling for more resources and support for local and national humanitarian actors.

“Responsibility for responding to large-scale disasters should, however, not be transferred entirely to local actors. A better balance must be struck,” said IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy. “International partners still have a critical role to play, including in the provision of specialized resources and expertise, and surge capacity when local resources are overstretched. But such support should be brought with humility, trust and respect, and with a commitment to building local capacity.”

Earlier this year, the IFRC announced the One Billion Coalition for Resilience – a new partnership to lift, by 2025, one billion people out of situations of risk and vulnerability and to become more resilient in the face of shocks and hazards. This can only be achieved through partnership with, and greater support to, local actors.

Background: About the report

The World Disasters Report is an annual independent publication commissioned by the IFRC, contributing evidence-based research on the challenges, trends and innovations in disaster risk reduction and crisis management. The report is an important body of research, which builds on discussions at the 2015 UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. It makes a direct contribution to next year’s World Humanitarian Summit where the localization of aid is one of the key thematic areas of focus.

Background: 2014 disaster data 

315 natural disasters reported worldwide in 2014, affecting 94 countries, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). The number of natural disasters was the lowest of the decade, 17 per cent below the average.

Almost 107 million people are estimated to have been affected by disasters in 2014, a relative increase on the previous year. There is little doubt that climate change will lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of hazards and the number of people exposed to them.

In 2014, disasters caused 7,963 deaths worldwide. Nevertheless, the mortality level was almost 90 per cent lower than the decade average. 2014 was also the year with the lowest mortality rate since 1986 (7,303). On the other hand, the death toll of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa (8,600) is higher than the total mortality rate of all natural disasters in 2014. 

48 per cent of all disasters occurred in Asia in 2014. Over 85 per cent of those killed and 86 per cent those affected globally were also in Asia. The higher attribution of deaths in Asia comes in a year, which also saw a lower mortality rate in the Americas where 8 per cent were killed compared to the 25 per cent average.

China was the most disaster-affected country, with drought, storms and flooding affecting more than 58 million people. An earthquake in August 2014 killed 731, attributing the highest mortality rate for a natural disaster in any country in 2014 to China.

In 2014, 87 per cent of disasters were climate-related.  This continues a 20-year long trend of climate-related disasters outnumbering geophysical disasters in the ten most disaster-affected countries in the world.

Floods and landslides accounted for 49 per cent of all natural disasters in 2014, causing 63 per cent of the total number of disaster related deaths and 34 per cent of the total number of people affected by disasters, floods in India, Pakistan and the Balkans were among the most severe. Drought affected 39 per cent of the total number of people affected by disasters.

5,884 people were killed by technological disasters. The event, which resulted in the highest number of deaths, 304, was the sinking of the Sewol ferry, in the Republic of Korea. Nine other technological disasters caused more than 100 deaths each, for a total of 1,537. Transport accidents accounted for 74 per cent of deaths from technological disasters.

In 2014, economic losses were estimated at $99.2 billion US dollars well below the annual average of $147 billion US dollars seen in the past ten years. The floods in Jammu and Kashmir along with Cyclone Hududh in India were the most costly events at $16 billion US dollars respectively. For the first time since 1980, the world experienced a consecutive decrease in economic losses over the last three years. 

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The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies. As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright