The drive towards localization

Are international non-governmental organizations ready to surrender control to southern partners? Along with accountability and effectiveness, localization – essentially the process of handing over of control of programmes to locally based actors – dominates the discussions about how international NGOs (INGOs) should behave. And it is easy to see why; the issue of localization affects all INGOs whether working in development or humanitarian contexts. At the recent World Humanitarian Summit, yet again calls were made for INGOs to support southern-based national actors to play an increased and more prominent role.

Localization HaitiThe Charter for Change, signed by many of the big players in the sector including Oxfam, Christian Aid and CAFOD, outlines several reasons why localization is necessary – suggesting it not only increases local ownership and engagement with programmes, but also maximises the impact these programmes are likely to have. Many INGOs work alongside local partners, accepting that is both a necessity and adds value, but that is not the same as localization – giving control of programmes to national players.

The result of this heightened focus on localization is that partnerships between INGOs and local actors are under increased scrutiny from all corners – from the INGO themselves, from their partners, and also the broader community, including donors – who are all interested in knowing how the INGO communicates and interacts with local partners. The localization agenda shines a light on the role of non-financial support and exit strategies within partnerships, as well as the broader level of partner involvement in decision-making and strategy design process.

localization partnersINGOs who understand these issues, and take steps to improve how they work locally are likely going to be the ones moving beyond rhetoric to implementation. One of the key ways to understand a relationship is to ask those involved in it – to ask the local partners about how they view their interactions with an INGO and the extent to which the INGO is delivering on the promises to invest in local capacity and to work with not through local actors.

This is something that Keystone Accountability has been focussed on for several years. We have surveyed thousands of partners from nearly 80 INGOs and developed detailed reports on the state of their partnerships. INGOs use this information to improve their work. We believe that partner feedback is vital and this survey is a robust way to measure partnership quality and push towards true localization.

The anonymous survey enabled us to validate with robust data what we had only been able to get glimpses of previously through anecdotal information. The sector benchmarking really helped us to affirm our strengths and highlight areas for further improvement.” – Carol Miller, Oxfam Canada

“The survey provided us time to reflect and assess our partnership with [NGO]. (We recommend) that this survey does not only happen occasionally. That its results are appropriately disseminated for all actors.” – local partner surveyed

For more information about Keystone’s Partner Survey click here or contact

Leave a Reply