Locally-led development

RDI Network
August 2021
6 min read

Localisation in the humanitarian sector

  • In the humanitarian sector, localisation involves strengthening the leadership of local authorities and the capacity of local civil society to address the needs of populations impacted by conflict and disaster, and to prepare national actors for future humanitarian responses. 
  • The Grand Bargain captures the commitment of donors and humanitarian organizations to localising humanitarian response, and the Localisation Performance Measurement Framework (LPMF) by NEAR has been created to track its progress in key areas. These are partnerships; funding; capacity; coordination and complementarity; policy, influence and visibility; and participation.

Locally-led development programs and processes

  • The promotion of locally-led social change processes has also grown in the development sector as a response to the problems of top-down development institutions and power inequities in development practice. This includes international development agencies running local programs, as well as locally-led processes. 
  • For instance, research on locally-led development in the Pacific looks at how local actors identify and address development challenges. These processes apply local understandings of leadership, ways of thinking and working, that are often at odds with the practice of international development agencies.

The impact of COVID-19 and opportunities for locally-led development

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in shifts towards locally-led development. In the Pacific, foreign aid workers were required to leave and international assistance pivoted to online methods. 
  • This has created space for local leadership, collaboration among local actors, and local ways of working. Remote support has allowed local staff to access technical assistance, without creating relationships of dependency and reduced the sense of being surveilled. 
  • However, remote support relies on access to digital infrastructure and  strong relationships and trust being in place. In addition, funding for local and national actors continues to be channeled through international mechanisms. More needs to be done to continue to move towards locally-led development in the long term.

Locally-led development research

  • The move towards locally-led development in research is concerned with decolonising the process of knowledge production and addressing imbalanced power relations. International development researchers from the Global North, and researchers in the Global South who are engaged in field research. 
  • While local research assistants facilitate access to data, and contribute their context specific knowledge to the research, they are often not viewed as full collaborators. This can take the form of a lack of recognition of their contribution to the research, limited role in analysing and writing up research, and limited influence over disseminating and publishing data. This can negatively impact the quality  and ethics of the research produced, and even endanger the lives of local research assistants.

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