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Protecting people in locally led disaster response

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Executive Summary

The known

Implementing more locally led humanitarian action raises challenges and opportunities for protection. We know that within the international humanitarian system international actors still dominate protection discourse, implementation and funding. Yet, at the same time, the role of national and local actors in protecting communities before and after international actor presence is increasingly documented and supported. What we don’t know is how the shift to increased national and local leadership in humanitarian response will influence protection outcomes for affected communities. Will it reinforce negative gender and cultural biases and leave marginalised groups without adequate protection? Or, will it strengthen protection outcomes as local, national and international actors better recognise and strengthen each other’s complementary protection roles and responsibilities? Both negative and positive consequences have been outlined in previous research, including ‘Going local’, which identified the need to further understand the impact of locally led humanitarian action on gender equality, and the preceding paper in this series ‘Protection in local response to disasters: challenges and insights from the Pacific Region’.

The new

This research affirms that there are distinct and important continued protection roles for national, local and international actors in the Pacific. National and local actor roles are identified in the research as “core”, recognising their ongoing, mandated and indigenous engagement with protection issues in context. International roles are identified in the research as “complementary”, recognising their potential to support on particular technical and capacity issues. However, this research finds that in current protection programming actors are not consistently recognising and respecting each other’s roles, which is undermining complementarity and protection outcomes for communities. This paper unpacks this overarching finding into key thematic areas, as presented in Figure 1 below.

A note on methodology

Primary data collection was undertaken in three Pacific case study countries: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga. National researchers led the research process and analysis of data. The research was qualitative; data was drawn from interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) with a range of protection actors in country including national and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs), communities, international NGOs, government actors and regional actors. The findings are based on the experience of protection programming to respond to recent emergencies in context: Cyclone Gita in Tonga; Cyclone Pam and the Ambae volcano in Vanuatu; and both the 2014 flooding in Solomon Islands and Category 1 out-of-season cyclone Liua in 2018. The findings may resonate with other Pacific stakeholders, but cannot be directly extrapolated or assumed to apply across all Pacific countries.

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