Tell it to SunStar: Localization of disaster aid slow

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
·2 min read

A study by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) has found a reliance on international actors within the disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) system in the Philippines. A continued reliance on international aid agencies means the Philippines is not realizing its full potential for utilizing local organizations to bolster the country’s DRR and CCA system.

Local community-based organizations (CBOs) and national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as national and local government units are best positioned to respond to disasters. Our research points to the continued central networked role international aid agencies play in the Philippine disaster system.

Further progress is needed to ensure that local agencies are empowered to respond without international support.

The study, published on 29 October 2020, involved face-to-face and online surveys from 2017 to 2019 and a network mapping among 501 international and local organizations with disaster and climate-related projects in the Philippines.

The study participants were NGOs, CBOs or people’s organizations (POs), local government units (LGUs), government agencies, schools or research institutions, faith-based organizations, private organizations or companies, and affiliates of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The findings of the study suggest that there is preferential attachment toward international actors within the Philippine DRR system.

In the study, international actors were found to be the top “influencers” or those well-connected organizations that spread information quickly across the network. They were also cited by most network actors as the top “brokers” or those that facilitate interaction between big and small actors in the system.

A shift in the role of international actors within the system is expected over time. It is common for international actors to eventually transfer their roles of fostering local system connectivity to a range of emerging local leaders at all levels. This process, called “localization,” puts local actors in the forefront and supports them to lead humanitarian efforts.

Eventually, we would want to see more local to local ties fostered between sub-national and national actors, government, and other local institutions.