The case for complementarity

Austin. L., and Chessex, S.
Publication language
Date published
01 Nov 2018
Research, reports and studies
Conflict, violence & peace

In the last five years, and particularly since the Grand Bargain commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in 2016, discussions on the localisation of aid in the humanitarian sector have abounded. In its message to the WHS in December 2015, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (the Movement) sent a strong message of support for strengthening the role of local and national actors in responding to humanitarian need, while affirming the importance of complementarity with international actors, notably in situations of conflict.

In order to better understand approaches to Movement complementarity and how they may inform the localisation agenda, the British Red Cross (BRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) selected three contexts (Colombia, Somalia, and Ukraine) to study how the ICRC and different Movement components work amongst themselves in armed conflict and other situations of violence that fall below the threshold of applicability of International Humanitarian Law, to enable principled humanitarian action.

In this research, the term “complementarity” refers to the interaction and comparative advantages between local, national and international components of the Movement, taking into account their respective mandates, the Movement’s Fundamental Principles and the operational settings in which they are working. Complementarity can be defined as the combination of strengths that each component can bring in a complementary way that ensures the ability of each individual component, as well as the Movement as a whole, to respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by conflict. The comparative advantages of each of the Movement’s components, linked to their distinct mandates and identities, form the basis for Movement complementarity. While there are some shared areas of expertise, each component also possesses very distinct attributes, which when combined can enable the Movement to meet the broad range of conflict-related needs of those affected.

The three contexts selected – Colombia, Somalia, and Ukraine – represent different operating environments covering active conflict; protracted conflict; and situations of violence below the threshold of armed conflict (e.g. urban violence). Visits were undertaken to each of the case study countries in order to hold discussions with different components of the Movement – the Host National Society (HNS); the ICRC; Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies supporting the HNS (referred to as Participating National Societies or PNS); and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Discussions were held with other non-Movement stakeholders in each country and internal and external documentation was reviewed.

The findings from the three country case studies have been used to inform this synthesis study and form the basis for the study’s own key findings and recommendations. Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of the content of the studies themselves, they have not been made available for publication.