Localization in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a long way to go!

Project: Learning Project 1st March 2018

How do we best involve and build capacity of local actors (individuals, governments, organisations and systems) in order to promote long term sustainability? How should approaches to localisation happen at the international level versus the country level, and what are specific examples of what works and what doesn’t work? To what extent are the debates and approaches to localisation at the difference levels aligned? What does this mean for global policy and designing preparedness programming?

In the upcoming global conference ‘Preparing for Shock: Is Preparedness the New Frontier?’ taking place in Geneva on 14th and 15th March, we will explore enabling approaches and obstacles to sustainable preparedness programming and hear from local implementing staff, national networks, global programmers and researchers who have first-hand knowledge on these areas. For more information about the conference, please visit our event page here.

In this blog-post leading up to our conference, Yves Ngunzi, Country Learning Advisor for the Democratic Republic of Congo reflects on the localisation consultation that took place in January of this year, as well as how the concept of localisation and localisation initiatives still have a long way to go in his country.

A new concept with little consensus – a key challenge

“If I’m not wrong, it is about one year since I heard talk about the concept of localization” said one participants during a localization consultation in Goma in January 2018. Roger Kayenga is not alone to say that. As a concept, localization is still new among humanitarian actors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with everyone from local actors, government representatives as well as donors. One staff of a UN agency said that he doesn’t have much to say about localization, a donor representative said that “the Grand Bargain questions exceeds me”.

In fact, there is not yet a globally accepted definition of aid localization 

During the localization consultation, however, there has been a consensus on localization as meaning: “A process by which actors and resources are brought closer to the areas affected by disasters or emergencies where local actors play a significant role for accountable, effective, efficient and sustainable action”.

In DRC, it is not only lack of information or lack of clarity about the concept of localization that makes me say that we still have a long way to go. It is also because of how it so closely links with the transferring of power, making broader transformations or decentralization. The proverb saying that “the hand that gives is always above the hand that receives” was repeated several times during the localization consultation process in DRC.

Additional challenges

Despite the many initiatives with a focus on or an aim of localization, such as the Charter for Change, the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme, and the START Fund initiatives, have been implemented in the country, there are still many challenges to making real progress in this area in DRC.

These include:
– Low involvement of the State in funding preparedness, prevention and response activities, with no clear budget lines for emergency preparedness and response at national and provincial levels.
– NGOs for most cases are created for a reason of survival: to create employment than to assist communities, creating financial dependency of NNGO to the INGO partners, resulting in weak bargaining power
– For the reasons of organizational survival, NNGO leaders accept any type of partnership, sometimes even knowing from the outset that they will not achieve the results to which they are committed. Not only does this undermine the image of all the NNGOs but also opens the door to the corruption orchestrated by the INOGs through the NNGO
– INGO behavior as superior to NNGO (INGO acts as  lesson givers and does not accept comments from their partners or give less space for partnership review exercises, thus, a one way evaluation)
– Underestimation of the added value of the local partner, thus low respect of the partner
– Partnerships principles are less well known by many INGO staff who either do not have partnership policies or communicate less about the partnerships. “Partnership is in fashion, so you have to go in that direction”. They then make up to 10 years of partnership agreements but the local partner is still does not able to stand on their own, as said by one interviewee.
– Lack of partnership policies by many INGOs and donors.
– INGOs want to be the risk owner as far as they are the one to account to the donors
– Low capacity building in fundraising. In most cases, NNGOs do not have a clear fundraising and reserve policy. This means that administrative costs are allocated to expenditures that do not support the sustainability of the NNGOs.
– Legal/administrative barriers to directly funding national / local actors

Moving forward the localization agenda in DRC

It was noted that, although effective localization will take time, it would not be approached the same way in all contexts. “It would go to per palliate before reaching the critical mass”, said one participant during the consultation. However, this requires a clear vision and a common roadmap by all stakeholders at different levels (Local Authorities, N/LNGOs, INGOs, UN System Agencies and Donors in the DRC). For example, some countries would focus first on the nationalization of some posts within INGOs, in others, strategizing for mobilizing local financial resources would be the driving force.

In DRC the localization agenda can be moved forward by:
– Supporting the capacity strengthening of communities and local humanitarian systems and actors with a clear roadmap for the realization of the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and other related commitments. (INGO signatories of the Charter for Change and other INGOs involved in local capacity strengthening)
– Advocating for the reform of the humanitarian system: review of the TORs of HCT, CPIA and Clusters to make it more inclusive for Local/National NGOs and State structures
– Revitalize community structures for balanced participation of women and youth in governance structures

Start Fund visit – an opportunity to increase the collaboration with DEPP in DRC

I want to thank the Start Fund for their visit to the DRC, which enhanced the collaboration between Start Fund and the DEPP. From the 19th to 23rd February 2018, the Start Fund team visited Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The objective of the visit was two-folds:
– to facilitate the induction of the Start Fund Regional Advisor for West and Central Africa;
– to inform the DRC decision making group members and others stakeholders about the Start Fund.

CAFOD coordinated the visit and as the Learning Advisor for the DEPP Learning Project based at the CAFOD Office, I was nominated by the Country Representative of CAFOD to coordinate the visit. The choice made for making me the coordinator for the visit was relevant as my position has enabled me be connected to many stakeholders working in disaster and emergencies preparedness in the DRC, both DEPP and non-DEPP partners.

During their visit, the Start Fund visitors’ team and I had space to discuss collaboration and the missed opportunities between DEPP and Start Fund projects in country. Among these were advancing the localisation agenda at a country level. More efforts should have been made to align these projects, as both Start Engage, which the DEPP is part of, and Start Fund are both Start Network initiatives.  During their visit, the Start Fund visitors’ team and I had space to discuss collaboration and the missed opportunities between DEPP and Start Fund projects in country. Among these were advancing the localisation agenda at a country level. More efforts should have been made to align these projects, as both Start Engage, which the DEPP is part of, and Start Fund are both Start Network initiatives.  

We found that going forward there are still opportunities and possibilities for collaboration that we can take advantage of, such as:
– Involvement of the DEPP Learning Advisor into the in-country decision-making initiatives and activities
– Pushing the Walking the Talk and Advancing the Localisation Agenda initiatives, especially the implementation of  the management, a recommendation of the localization review commissioned by the Start Fund in 2017.


What can you expect from the conference? Who will contribute and what will we be talking about? You can hear more from our organisers, participants and speakers to get you in the mood for the discussion at the conference here

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