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Funding at the Sharp End: Investing in national NGO response capacity

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Deliver humanitarian funds to local aid agencies on the front line, says CAFOD

To tackle humanitarian emergencies effectively, the Catholic aid agency CAFOD has warned, the international community must end its bias against funding local aid agencies.

The report, ‘Funding at the Sharp End’, shows that only a small percentage of global humanitarian funding goes to local organisations. Of the total estimated humanitarian expenditure of $8.4bn in 2011, only $728 million – 8.6% – went to local organisations.

Anne Street, CAFOD’s Head of Humanitarian Policy, said: “Local aid agencies responding to crises are too often seen as ‘partners of last resort’, despite the fact that they are often the first responders in an emergency.

“Most of the funding they receive comes either from UN agencies or from international aid agencies. Many governments are ignoring them in favour of their ‘own’ national aid agencies. The biggest risk is that the humanitarian sector misses a major opportunity to respond to emergencies in a timely and effective way.”

Among the practical obstacles identified by local organisations consulted for the report, three major factors cited as problems were:

· access to information about funding opportunities;

· the need to comply with the priorities and regulations of international funders; and

· competition from international agencies who deliver direct humanitarian aid, rather than – like CAFOD – operating through local partners.

The report recommends ways to remove barriers to access to existing humanitarian funding and suggests new opportunities to scale up funding. One solution the report proposes is the creation of a cross-donor fund to support the work of local organisations in developing countries.

CAFOD works with local organisations responding to emergencies around the world, including Caritas Lebanon, who are responding to the crisis caused by the influx of refugees from Syria. Najla Chahda, Director of Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, said:

“Local knowledge is incredibly important when dealing with this kind of crisis. Grassroots organisations understand the culture, speak the language and have existing structures in place. Yet all too often they are marginalised. International aid agencies arrive and set up their own structures. They pay huge amounts to move expats here, and, even worse, they poach staff from local organisations, often offering triple the salary.”

Anne Street said: “Providing funding directly to local organisations improves humanitarian response. Working with local agencies can also help smooth the transition between emergency response and longer term development work, since local partners will generally be working on both. This leads to an emergency response that builds on existing work and knowledge and is more geared towards helping people rebuild their lives for the long-term.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. CAFOD is the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, which works with communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to tackle poverty and fight for justice. We work with all communities based on their needs, regardless of religion, gender or background.

  2. Read the full report: ‘Funding at the Sharp End: Investing in national NGO response capacity’

Nick Harrop
World News Officer
CAFOD | 020 7095 5479

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