Grand Bargain 2.0. Pro-Local Upgrade

Tomorrow, the 2021 Grand Bargain will kick off, launching the deliberations on Grand Bargain 2.0. That got me in a reflective mood and with it, my hopes for its real upgrade, being Pro-Local that is.

SEJAJAR, an Indonesian CSOs/NGOs network-of-networks, teaming up with OXFAM Asia, organises a series of three regional Asia Webinars on Local Humanitarian Leadership (LHL).  Hundreds of participants from the government, local and international CSOs, the business sector and more shared views, debated, and groped for practical solutions. It has been a good gig.

Nope, this is not a pity party where we have a cyclical diagnosis of what is wrong and then we all end up sad about the state of affairs. We said, “State the problem and together let us think of practical solutions that will have short and long term milestones..

In a way we are operationalizing and “testing” the dimensions of the Grand Bargain 1.0.

Some of “dramatic” reflections from the discussions are the following:

The Theatre. People attach different meanings to “local”, but they seem to agree that it is living life’s trials, surviving, and continuing to live with crises. Accidents, incidents, disasters and other crises happen here. These events are all local, some become national headlines, and a very few become international concerns, they become a “humanitarian crisis”, you call it such.

The Scenario. At the local level, emergency and crisis preparedness, response and recovery, even the so-called humanitarian crisis, overlap and interlink with climate change adaptation, peace building, social progress; all under a large tent of sustainable development. So, any “humanitarian action” in this regard, must take the whole spectrum approach, to be enriched by the complex perspectives.

The Plot. When a crisis happens, local government, organisations and communities are the first and frontmost responders; they organise themselves and do the best that they can, with whatever they have.  If – and if only, the situation is so grave, this otherwise local event is nationalised – or internationalised, into “humanitarian response”, usually with the arrival of external response capabilities.

The Actors. Here in the localities, there are governments, CSOs/NGOs and communities that are fairly organised. They might be shaken during crises, but more or less are stable and intact. They are our crisis responders. Most of them do not fit snuggle into the conventional categories and network of “humanitarian actors”.

The Twist. The international humanitarian actors bring in principles and standards, structure, resources and ways of working that are often alien to the locality.  They say that standards and accountability compel them to trust only local partners and leaders who look and do like them: large organisations, sophisticated, and even speak the same language and jargons.

So what does it have to do with the Grand Bargain 2.0.? Everything, really. This is the right time to reframe the humanitarian crisis, action, response, and actors. Participants of the Asia webinar series, plus my own reflections, reckon that Grand Bargain 2.0. will really be an upgrade into Pro, only when:

  1. You respect local leaders, whom you do not consider as local humanitarian leaders simply because they are outside of your network.  In Asia, humanitarian responses are led by the government and major local CSOs/ NGOs or networks whose portfolios are not humanitarian.
  2. You contribute to, and enrich, the coordination of national and local governments, CSOs/NGOs, and communities, in their comprehensive development spectrum spanning from peace time, crisis, and sustainable recovery using approaches like the locally-led Area Based Coordination.
  3. You strengthen local capacities through multi-year programming and invest more in their better preparedness and institutional strengthening to have better long term return of investments.
  4. You acknowledge and invest in local actors and leaders to be better organised, become more viable, and capable  instead of creating  or recruiting organizations in your image (Mini-Me)
  5. You  steer the clusters to adapt to the local and national leadership;  provide platforms for technical collaboration and enrichment of standards and practices grounded on localities.
  6. You help local leaders in the driver’s seat, yet still have the solidarity by means of funding through leveraging the years of expertise and lobbying power, network and international solidarity while also helping them mobilise local sources and pooled funding.
  7. You recognise and support women ‘s rights organizations as capable local humanitarian leaders; and  help  ensure that they have access to resources, have a voice and roles.
  8. You lessen your humanitarian bureaucratic system that is often based on distrust, hence the massive industry of accountability mechanisms with lengthy reports, etc., and, perhaps, you even let remote island people to report via a video clip or through a poem?
  9. You include downward accountability to communities as an integrated part of your stewardship of humanitarian imperatives, methods of doing, and its resources.
  10. You consider personnel of local CSOs/NGOs as much as you value your own personnel, in the face of this raging pandemic, and come up with an equal package and compensation for the risk and hazards in delivering humanitarian assistance.

When Grand Bargain 2.0 changes your mindsets, funding models and ways of working to appreciate this reality, then you – together with all of us at the local level, through various platforms such as the NEAR Network, could work more effectively in reducing the impacts of the crisis to humanity, just maybe.


Credit to the Author:

Puji Pujiono is a Senior Advisor to the Pujiono Centre, a founder and proponent of the SEJAJAR Network-of-Networks, a member of NEAR Network,  as well as the Indonesian Development-Humanitarian Alliance.

The Asia Webinar Series on Local Humanitarian Leadership is a collaborative activity of Indonesia’s SEJAJAR Network and OXFAM Asia. The series  aim to promote networking with other LHL allies and champions in Asia and beyond, and to jointly design actions plans and longer-term programs to transform the humanitarian system to be locally led.

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