Shifting the Power pushing the Localisation agenda in the Democratic Republic of Congo through the Charter for Change

Project: Learning ProjectShifting The Power 13th September 2017

“We believe that now is the time for humanitarian actors to make good on some of the excellent recommendations arising through the WHS process by committing themselves to deliver change within their own organisational ways of working so that southern-based national actors can play an increased and more prominent role in humanitarian response.”

Such is the statement of the Charter for Change and one of the first messages that meets you when landing on their website. The topic of Localisation of Aid seems to be on everybody’s lips these days, however this message does not always reach some of the key players in the debate. One of them was Mr Babi, chair of the Forum des 0rganisations NationalesHumanitaireset de Développement (FONAHD) in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“For many of the participants at the FONAHD platform meeting it was the first time they had heard about Localisation and the Charter for Change, as well as to discover that these were taken as commitments following the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. We are happy about the Localisation debate as it complements what we have claimed for so long. We seem to be ignored, our role in humanitarian response is undermined, although we are the ones at the front line with the affected communities. So we are happy to see that the discourse is meeting what we have claimed for so long.”

Mr Babi shared his views, hopes and plans of pushing forward the Localisation agenda in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an interview with the DEPP Country Learning Advisor Yves Ngunzi Kahashi. When reading the Charter for Change Progress report for 2016-2017, he was surprised to find the low figures on local endorsement of the Charter in the DRC:

“[…]of the more than 100 local NGOs that have endorsed the Charter, only two are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, among them one partner of the Shifting the Power project”.
It was clear to him that this needed to be addressed, and after contacting the Shifting the Power project team working in the DRC a meeting was arranged with members of the national NGO platform FONAHD to increase awareness and engagement with the Charter for Change. At the time of writing, more than 15 organisations in DRC have signed up to the Charter for Change.

After this meeting Yves followed up with the FONAHD chair to discuss more around his expectations and next steps:

“We are dreaming to see how the commitments will be put into actions. For example to see what the 25% of direct funding to Local and National NGOs means in practice – will this be separate funding where only local NGOs can compete among each other? Or will it be that local and international NGOs compete using the same criteria for a part of the full funding pot? What will our role in this process be? We know that we will not be given a blank cheque, we have to play our role.”

Before these commitments can be put into action, however, the Charter for Change also needs to be endorsed by the national NGO members of FONAHD, but what does this actually mean?

“For us, endorsing the Charter for Change means we need to agree where to start from on the 8 commitments.” says Mr Babi. “What should we focus on first? We need to make a SWOT analysis identifying the Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of these and then agree on a roadmap, both for the Charter for Change and for the Localisation agenda as a whole. We have already started engaging with the Charter for Change administrator, and very soon we will endorse the charter.”

Endorsing the Charter for Change is not the only steps that Mr Babi, FONAHD and Shifting the Power are taking towards improving humanitarian responses by localisation of aid. Mr Babi shares some of the areas where they are already focusing their efforts:

“Advocacy for pushing the government to vote for a humanitarian law and subsequent decree for funding humanitarian work. We have already drafted something to this effect which is under analysis by an expert that we have consulted. Together with the Shifting the Power project we are also planning a workshop from 4th to 9th September 2017 to work on a policy paper, among other things.”

The Shifting the Power project is one of 14 projects that make up the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP). The project aims to support local actors to take their place alongside international actors in order to create a balanced humanitarian system involving a shift of power towards locally owned and led responses, already putting into actions many of the commitments of the Charter for Change. It will strengthen local and national organisational capacity for decision making and leadership in humanitarian response, support local organisations to have greater representation, voice and recognition in relevant networks and platforms, and at the same time influence international organisations to promote the role of local and national actors.

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