This research was commissioned by the Accelerating Localisation Through Partnerships programme – a multi-agency consortium programme funded by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) over two years (2017-2019) – to establish what operational elements of partnerships between local, national and international NGOs are most likely to foster localisation of humanitarian action.
The research was underpinned by a mixed methods approach using qualitative and quantitative data collection approaches. In-depth consultations were conducted in three locations across South Sudan to reach a varied sample of local and national actors: Wau, Bor, and Juba City. In total, 96 NGOs were consulted for this research in South Sudan; 85% of which were local or national NGOs.
The findings reflect experiences from a rich diversity of local and national NGOs in South Sudan and provide valuable insights that can assist humanitarian organisations in ensuring partnership practices accelerate localisation of humanitarian action. Findings are also relevant for those funding humanitarian response, in particular signatories of the Grand Bargain. Local and national NGOs (L/NNGOs) in South Sudan believe their own organisations have only limited influence on humanitarian decision-making with donors and United Nations (UN) agencies.
Partnerships, while not perceived as equitable, are still seen by the majority as instrumental in meeting the needs of crisis-affected people in disaster response operations. Over half of the research participants believe there are better pathways to localisation than through partnerships.
The six core organisational capabilities important for effective partnerships in South Sudan ranked highest by research participants were: Financial management and reporting; Project design, planning and management; Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL); Human Resource (HR) management and skilled people; Fundraising; and Capacity building / organisational development. Examples of partnership practices which are most and least conducive to localisation are outlined in the report with relation to each of these six core organisational capabilities. Core values and principles highlighted as the most important for partnerships by research participants were: commitment to programme quality, humanitarian principles, and accountability to affected persons. Transparency also emerged as a priority for partnerships, and trust and respect were discussed widely.
National and local NGOs (L/NNGOs) should continue to play an important leadership role in project design and planning, financial management, and human resources management, while INGOs can make the most important contribution to partnerships by supporting L/NNGOs with fundraising, technical expertise, and coordination. The research highlighted that L/NNGOs feel excluded from humanitarian coordination mechanisms – commonly mentioned was the cluster system – in South Sudan, and efforts are needed to address this. Research findings suggest that longer-term partnerships between INGOs and L/NNGOs will result in partnership practices most conducive to localisation. Additionally, partnership practices should respond to the high-risk operating environment in South Sudan and make further efforts to support L/NNGOs in this.
Eleven key recommendations emerged from the research including: Jointly review research findings and recommendations; Identify external factors restricting localisation; Review partnership agreements;
Assess capacity strengthening needs of local and national actors; Assess capacity building skills of international actors; Support organisational / policy development; Hold discussions around understanding of humanitarian principles; Invest in disaster preparedness and risk reduction; Hold frank discussions on direct access to funding; Support linkages and understanding between local actors and funding agencies/mechanisms; Support local and national organisations to be financially sustainable.
The Accelerating Localisation through Partnerships consortium members will be testing these recommendations in a pilot phase; learning from which will inform a Localisation Framework for South Sudan and a global Pathways to Localisation report. The consortium are keen to hear from organisations and agencies with feedback or learning from their own experiences of implementing these recommendations.