Aid groups call for radical change to deal with rising crises

Monday, 4 November 2013 14:57 GMT

A man pushes a toy boat as he wades down a flooded street with a lifebuoy after Typhoon Fitow hit Tongguang village of Yuyao, Zhejiang province October 9, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

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International aid agencies must stop sidelining local organisations if they are to cope with the expected rise in increasingly complex emergencies

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – International aid agencies responding to major disasters are missing chances to improve the way they help survivors by failing to partner with local organisations, says a report by some of the biggest names in aid.

The study calls for a radical shift in the way aid operations are organised, saying the current system will not be able to cope with the expected rise in increasingly complex emergencies.

"Local and national organisations play a crucial part in saving lives and rebuilding communities after disasters, but are too often sidelined by the international humanitarian system,” Christian Aid’s Alexander Carnwath, who managed the research, said in a statement.

“This research provides strong evidence of the benefits they bring following emergencies and calls for a fundamental change to the humanitarian system, to strengthen their role."

The report, Missed Opportunities, which was commissioned by ActionAid, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam and Tearfund, draws on research into the agencies’ response to four crises: the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Kenya food crisis and Pakistan floods.

It says when international aid agencies partner with local and national groups their efforts tend to be more effective and appropriate to the people they are trying to help.

Local organisations can respond more immediately to a sudden emergency like an earthquake or cyclone.

Their knowledge of the affected area and local culture also makes them often better placed to identify who is most in need and how to help them.

"We are seeing, and will continue to see, an increase in the number of people affected by disasters. We cannot possibly respond to this increase without a radical shift in the way we do things,” Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director, said in a statement.

Oenone Chadburn, Tearfund’s head of humanitarian support, said working through local and national partners, including networks of churches, had proved much more effective for getting straight to the people who most needed help.  

Another big advantage to partnering with local organisations was that they remained on the ground after the immediate crisis was over and could help people rebuild their lives.

CAFOD said strong local partnerships, such as the ones it is relying on in Syria, could give unrivalled access to those most in need during conflicts.

Local partners’ understanding of the relationships within and between communities meant they could also play a role in supporting peacebuilding following a conflict.

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