Localisation Approach of Humanitarian Protection Responses in Myanmar - HARP-Facility


This case study has been written by HARP-Facility (HARP-F), bringing together perspectives from the local protection organisations HARP-F partnered with in Kachin state, experiences of the national Technical Assistant (TA) hired by HARP-F and the HARP-F regional programmes team. This case study aims to showcase how the HARP-F localisation approach was applied in the protection sector through partnership with two local organisations. The case study discusses the localisation context at the time of partnership and HARP-F’s approach, both the broader approach HARP-F took and specific approach within protection in Kachin state. Finally, the case study discusses achievements, lessons learnt and emerging recommendations from the experience of HARP-F and the partners.

Localisation Context: Protection Sector Experience

Humanitarian protection response is one of the main humanitarian-thematic responses in Myanmar as identified in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). Housing, land, property, general protection, women’s protection, and child protection are notably the key protection clusters that have been implemented across Myanmar. The implementation modality most applied is through INGO partnership with local protection organisations. This is due to access restrictions and the sensitivities of engaging with ethnic armed organisations, particularly in Kachin state. Some INGOs apply direct implementation, though this is more common in Rakhine state than Kachin state.

Transparent, professional, and friendly relationships between INGOs, UN Agencies, intermediaries and local partners are the foundations of achieving localisation partnership objectives. However, as was observed by some protection stakeholders, many local organisations were continually reluctant to share challenges and difficulties with upstream partners. This occurred as a result of two main beliefs; first, that their own funding could be impacted as the result of sharing challenges faced in implementation, and second, that the upstream partner might be monitoring them under the guise of technical assistance and support. These perceptions resulted in less openness from local organisations with their partner organisations, despite efforts by INGOs and UN Agencies to ensure that strong partnership foundations were properly communicated and maintained.

Another challenged by local protection organisations is the varied standards of training and technical guidelines, as well as on-the-job learning opportunities provided by international organisations to their local partner organisations. This was due to the structure in which protection projects were implemented through. Generally, technical staff and experts were managed by protection INGOs and intermediaries, while field implementers were managed by LNGOs. As those two workforces are distinct from each other and physically located in two different areas, several challenges emerged. Firstly, protection technical staff have only filtered knowledge, as they rely on updates from implementing organisations. These updates were often limited to project-only information and lacked the broader contextual and organisational information. This made it difficult for technical staff to provide effective protection and technical inputs, or to prioritise the protection issues for programming as they couldn’t ascertain all the difficulties that the partner team were facing. Secondly, the protection technical staff based in INGOs offices had multiple tasks and had to cover wider project areas. This limited their capacity to spend sufficient time with partners, at partner offices and in the field. Thirdly, many protection technical staff from INGOs had a dual role of technical support and grant management of the partners. This meant LNGOs were reluctant to be transparent with them due to concerns of monitoring by the INGO.

Despite several years and different forms of support from international protection agencies, local protection organisations still had a high level of technical dependency for project implementation. Due to the nature of protection interventions, as a service provided to beneficiaries, rather than an item that is distributed, it is almost impossible to maintain a project without high quality staff. However, staff retention for local protection organisations was a challenge as many found it difficult to keep staff members once a certain level of skills and experience had been achieved. In addition, local partners were unable to provide long term growth and learning opportunities to skilled staff nor competitive benefit packages. Therefore, local organisations rely on the international protection organisations to fill technical capacity gaps within their humanitarian protection projects.