Global Southern NGO Network Lobby for A More Dignified and Equitable Humanitarian System


Somaliland sun – Adeso, with a group of Southern NGOs (SNGOs), is leading a movement to develop a Global Network for Southern national and local organizations working with communities to find durable solutions to alleviate suffering, build resilience and promote prosperity.

Adeso, in consultation with other national and local organizations from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, has developed a position paper to influence the future policy direction of the humanitarian system. The paper highlights the changes that need to be implemented from the perspective of SNGOs in order to create a more effective humanitarian system in the future. Some of these issues will be taken up as part of an advocacy agenda by the SNGO network.

The paper, “A More Dignified and Equitable Humanitarian System” calls for donors, International Non-government Organizations (INGOs) and policy-makers, to put people back at the center of our humanitarian system. It is an appeal to invest in the capacity of local southern actors in order to better prepare them to respond effectively to crisis affected communities around the world, and to recognize the valuable work carried out by national and local organizations. The rationale for the position paper is presented below:

Year-on-year, the world is experiencing disasters with increasing frequency, as well as a growing number of conflicts due to climate change, rapid urbanization, poverty, and environmental degradation, to name a few. More often than not, the international humanitarian system is asked to respond to these disasters and conflicts through the provision of life-saving aid, whenever and wherever it is needed. At the center of this system are the millions of people affected by crises that the system seeks to serve.

However, a growing disconnect between the needs of disaster-affected communities and the actions of those who define the terms of the humanitarian system is compromising the effectiveness of that system. Currently, global humanitarian policies take little account of the dependency of disaster affected populations on local actors, including local government, civil society, and SNGOs, who are usually the first on the ground in the wake of humanitarian crises. These entities as well as local businesses and the national private sector play a vital role in responding to emergencies and post-crises rehabilitation.

The current humanitarian architecture invests very little in the sustainable capacity building of local actors, a factor which is driving an escalating culture of dependency on international NGOs and other international agencies. These actors in turn often sideline local actors, treating SNGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs) as sub-contractors rather than partners. This capacity shortfall limits the effectiveness of first-responders in the immediate wake of disasters, reconstruction or recovery efforts and isolates them from policy and planning dialogue in which critical decisions that affect them as well as affected communities are taken. In some countries, tensions also arise between the national government and the international humanitarian system, especially when the international humanitarian system works in isolation of the government.

There is now a growing consensus that the humanitarian response needs to be more locally rooted. “One that leverages the responsibilities and capacities of states, civil society and affected communities, supported by international actors, is one which will be more effective in responding to and mitigating the risks of crises.” In addition, the focus on resilience requires greater engagement with local and national institutions because of its core emphasis on strengthening local systems in advance of future shocks.

The position paper proposes four principal reforms that will promote a more effective partnership between local actors and the international humanitarian system led by the UN and INGOs. These reforms will encourage greater equity in decision making, as well as more open and transparent communication, in addition to supporting more ethical and transparent expenditure and the capacity building of local actors.

Click here to download the full Position Paper
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