During the World Humanitarian Summit’s Global Consultation in Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) hosted a side event on its 2015 World Disasters Report (WDR), titled “Focus on local actors, the key to humanitarian effectiveness”.
The panel discussion was moderated by Mr. Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary General, and included Mr. Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Ms. Degan Ali, Executive Director of Adeso, Ms. Nan Buzard, Executive Director of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), and WDR editor Professor Mo Hamza.
This event provided an opportunity to review the recommendations in WDR 2015, and to discuss the complexities and challenges local actors face on the ground before, during and after an emergency.
According to UN Under-Secretary-General, Stephen O’Brien, the World Humanitarian Summit consultation pointed to the need to enable first responders – usually local people who are at the scene of the crisis long before international aid arrives - to take leadership in emergencies. “Eighty per cent of humanitarian work takes place in areas affected by armed conflicts where nothing is straightforward. The default should be local leadership,” said Mr. O’Brien.
Ms. Ali, called for more resources and support for local and national humanitarian actors, and the establishment of a Southern network of local actors.
The panellists made a common call for the World Humanitarian Summit to encourage a review of how international aid is organised. The WDR presents “very good evidence of the essentiality of local and national actors,” said ICVA’s Nan Buzard, and the great capacity of local actors is often overlooked. “The humanitarian aid system is becoming extremely bureaucratic,” she said, adding that better ways to get adequate funding for local NGOs must be found.
IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy stressed the importance of inclusiveness to ensure that the needs of all people, especially the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach, are met. He called for a greater recognition of the heroic efforts of humanitarian volunteers on the frontline, a common view shared by all the panellists during the event. He also stressed the complementarity between local response and international support. “We all have work to do, a responsibility to share, and the accountability that goes with it,” he said.