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Accountability of ‘intermediaries’ for localisation - Perspectives from the Charter4Change

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In June 2021, the Grand Bargain process launched a Caucus on the role of intermediaries. Charter4Change (C4C) members welcomed this; having advocated for more robust and systematic accountability of humanitarian agencies on their approach to localisation. Since then, C4C members have gathered more perspectives on the role of intermediaries through an online workshop in December 2021i, and a survey of INGO members of C4C in spring 2022, which gathered responses from 18 INGO global headquarters and their 135 country offices around the world.

Key over-arching findings include the following:

  1. There remains a significant gap between intermediaries’ endorsement of localisation commitments at global level, and implementation or accountability for these in practice. For example, less than 40% of the C4C survey respondents had yet established a systematic or clear approach to performance management of their Country Programme Managers for their contribution to localisation. Over 50 percent of surveyed C4C signatory country offices, believe that donors and inter-agency processes, such as aid coordination structures in their context, are weak or absent, therefore not effective in holding international agencies systematically accountable for localisation commitments.
  2. The most important and effective means of influence on the accountability of intermediaries is the role played by donors. A more aligned and harmonised approach to the accountability of intermediaries by institutional back donors would help greatly. Several INGO members of C4C who had weaker or no global Key Performance Indicators or systematic policies on issues like provision of overheads to local partners pointed to how greater clarity and incentives from their institutional back donors, would help them to make progress.
  3. Accountability mechanisms are ad-hoc and unsystematic. The willingness and interest from donors to hold their international intermediaries accountable for localizing their response is ad-hoc and limited, particularly in emergencies. International agencies are allowed to make vague statements about their commitment to localization, and they are not held accountable for quality of their partnerships with local actors or their overall percentage of funding going to local actors. Furthermore, most of the intermediaries/UN agencies do not have local partnership selection criteria/policy or do not follow those guidelines.
  4. Lack of recognition of local responders’ capacities and risks impedes accountability. Accountability by donors and international agencies remains skewed towards managing their compliance and risk management imperatives in ways that are not proportionate and run contrary to accountability for localization. In some contexts, local NGOs are expected to deliver the vast majority of programming – including in areas out of reach to international agencies – and yet they remain trapped in a ‘high risk’ category. Recognition of the importance of ‘risk sharing’ and the importance of having organizational capacity development plans, based on findings from due diligence and organisational capacity assessments is yet to translate into practice e.g., most NNGOs have no budget for insurance policy, and few NNGOs receive admin fee/overhead to support their institutional capacity strengthening, including security management.
  5. The past two years has seen exciting and encouraging new developments in terms of both donors and intermediaries themselves adopting new measures and processes to promote accountability for localisation. The USA, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, the EU are amongst the donors who have either adopted new requirements over the past two years or are developing new ones. Those donors and intermediaries who have not started to go on this journey should do so.