Localisation in Humanitarian Leadership: Profiling national NGO engagement in international Humanitarian Coordination Structures in the MENA region

Clements, A.J., Mohammed, E.I.A., Yousef, S. and Wellard, J.
Publication language
Date published
01 Jan 2021
Research, reports and studies
Leadership and Decisionmaking, NGOs

In the years since the Grand Bargain was signed, national NGO (NNGO) engagement has expanded significantly within international humanitarian coordination structures across the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). In many countries, NNGO representatives have begun to play an increasingly influential role as decision-makers who shape collective response strategies. But whilst national NGOs regularly hold a proportion of seats on high level strategic humanitarian forums, they rarely enjoy the same level of influence as their international counterparts. And although the impact of national actors is felt particularly at the technical and operational level, they seldom lead technical coordination platforms themselves.

Research and recommendations on localising aid have tended to focus on the international level, leading to more general findings or have generated context-specific policy prescriptions for individual countries. There is, however, limited data on the regional experience of localisation and on progress towards enhancing the role of NNGOs within humanitarian coordination structures. 

To better understand and address these issues, this project aims to map and document the extent of effective and meaningful national NGO engagement in international humanitarian coordination structures. It focuses on HCTs, Country-Based Pooled Fund (CBPF) Advisory Boards, and sector or cluster coordination platforms.

Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data, section 1 briefly profiles national leadership within seven responses across MENA. Section 2 outlines the state of NNGO engagement across the region and identifies themes that recur between contexts. It also analyses the role and limitations of CBPFs in enhancing NNGO engagement. Section 3 draws on this analysis to outline the primary obstacles to NNGO participation and engagement, including the accessibility of coordination structures to national actors, the lack of incentives to participation, capacity limitations, and resource constraints. It also identifies some of the structural challenges that impede NNGO leadership, including a frequent lack of political will, concerns over the ability of NNGOs to adequately adhere to humanitarian principles, questions over the representativeness of national actors, issues related to structural inequality, as well as internal competition among national actors. Section 4 offers a conclusion. And section 5 advances a series of recommendations for improving the participation and engagement of NNGOs, targeted to NNGOs themselves, donors, the HC, OCHA and the coordination secretariat (a national or sub-national administrative structure that supports humanitarian coordination), clusters and sector leads, UN agencies and international NGOs (INGO), and NGO coordination forums. These recommendations are intended to share risks and enhance accountability related to enhancing NNGO humanitarian leadership. A series of case studies are also spread throughout this report that detail steps undertaken by NNGO leaders to amplify national voices within key coordination structures, the role and importance of pooled funds, and the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on local leadership. Certain details that could identify the individuals or agencies involved have been removed.