Spread the love

Achieving the Vision of Localisation Through the Private Sector

By Marcel Van Dapperen

Localisation has to be the way of the future for humanitarian and development action. But how can we make it happen, today? Look to the private sector for hiring capacity, says Marcel van Dapperen.

localisation through the private sector


The discussion around “Localisation”, that began in the lead up to and following the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit is almost at the same place it was when it started.  The Humanitarian System has yet to find the right mix of policy, administration and trust to allow for the Agenda to take hold. While there are many parts to the Agenda, one important section relates directly towards ensuring that the local cadre of humanitarian agents are trained and capacitated to the level that is required to provide top quality assistance at scale — with the long-term goal of limited or no intervention from international actors.

International NGOs and the United Nations system have not yet developed a methodology that can ensure that this cadre is prepared for the challenge, both to manage the sizable funding allocations or to implement standardised protocols across a large humanitarian crisis. “The business model of the humanitarian industry is compounded by the contentious role played by UN agencies,” wrote Admiral Ncube, a humanitarian and development practitioner, in The Global in September this year. “These agencies within their mandated sectors are responsible for assessing needs; defining the response strategy; serve simultaneously as fundraiser, intermediary donor, and project implementer; monitor and evaluate their own activities, all measured against technical standards that they maintain.”[1]

Building Trust & Quicker Response Times

It is clear however, through a large amount of research and reports by the OECD, OCHA, IFRC, DRA and others, that localisation is not a concept but is a practical approach towards humanitarian action for the future. It is also clear that localisation starts with the people. “Building local partnerships is about decreasing the delay in response time during emergencies through the creation of sufficient mutual trust and operational and administrative capacity for local humanitarian responders,[2] states an OECD report.

Somalia food aid inspection

The current modus operandi of the humanitarian sector sits squarely in the play book of corporations throughout the 20th century: fly in international staff with strong capacities and corporate trust to manage the national staff that will implement the tasks required. However, the difference today is that corporations have made a strong shift in the opposite direction in the last 20 years.  “There are number of fundamental drivers behind the move to localize key management positions,” state the authors of a paper titled Is Localisation a Strategic Response to Workforce Globalization. “These include issues around the cost effectiveness and performance of expatriates, concerns about the ability of expatriates to establish local contacts, political and ethical pressures to employ local citizens and the impact on the morale and performance of local staff of having foreign nationals in senior management positions.”[3]

The Goal is Set: How to Reach it

To reach not only the goals of the World Humanitarian Summit, the Grand Bargain, and the Charter for Change, but to reach the efficiencies required to ensure peoples’ lives are saved and that donor funds are spent in a timely and trusted way — localisation is a must. In the context of this article, localisation is centred around ensuring that the teams that are hired locally have the capacity to address the relevant concerns laid out by the INGOs and the UN as well as the donors.   

Manpower agencies provide three key areas of assistance at scale in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC) environments that INGOs and the UN can not do at the speed and efficacy required: Talent Resourcing, Talent Management and Talent Development.

It is too costly for the humanitarian sector to build a new cadre of staff on its own and provide all of the required training, administrative management and support needed to cater for a huge uptick in local hiring.

localisation and hiring capacity for INGOs

International hiring and manpower organisations have the ability to help with this.  They carry with them the know how of over a century of work — staffing organisations with the best and the brightest at the highest level of management, to the worker on the ground.  Humanitarian organisations rely heavily on rosters of deployable staff (that sit on a number of organisations’ rosters) that aren’t always available or willing.  By utilising a more professional approach to scale up staffing, humanitarian organisations can have a more reliable pool to draw from at a moments notice. 

The humanitarian system must look at a new way of working in Human Resources Management, away from the traditional methods and modes that they employ, and look towards the private sector for the help it requires. 


[1] https://theglobal.blog/2020/09/09/localization-of-humanitarian-action-from-grand-bargain-to-grand-betrayal/

[2] https://www.oecd.org/development/humanitarian-donors/docs/Localisingtheresponse.pdf

[3] Bose, Indranil & Dey, Subhendu. . Is localisation a strategic response to globalsation: Some reflections. Pacific Business Review International Volume 11 Issue 3, September 2018. Pg. 61.