I help them in my own way – exploring local humanitarian action in Burkina Faso and Mali

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This report focuses on local humanitarian action in Burkina Faso and Mali, in particular humanitarian action carried out by civil society organizations and individuals, and reflects on how local models for humanitarian action may inform longer term visions for humanitarian aid in these two countries. The report adds to the emerging bulk of recent reports that look beyond international humanitarian aid and explores how existing models for local humanitarian action and resources support people in crises.

This focus has come about through discussions in a research consortium with partners from the Global South and the Global North. Embedding the study in this consortium has resulted in findings that are not only relevant for Save the Children Denmark, but also for the partners in the research consortium from the Global South. The report is a desk study complemented by a survey of more than 50 responses followed up with nine interviews.

The report finds that there is a dearth of documentation about local humanitarian action in accessible literature in English and French. This documentation gap may reflect a documentation bias, as much of the accessible literature is commissioned and decided by initiatives led by the Global North. This may have led to research questions that primarily are aligned with the main interests and agendas of the commissioning institutions. An effect of this documentation bias may lead to simplified understandings of the complexity and diversity of local humanitarian action, which may hamper progress on localization of humanitarian aid.

The report also finds examples of existing local aid models that are supported and scaled up by international aid, such as Habbanayé. The learning potential from these models requires further exploration, in particular with regard to how these configurations support people in crisis and the role of international aid in supporting local aid models in the longer term. There are also examples of organizations in Burkina Faso that strategically work towards separating themselves from international humanitarian aid, and instead focus on how domestic aid systems and resources can be strengthened. Examples like this challenge international organizations to rethink aid modalities that also support national aid systems rather than primarily focusing on individual partnership and project modalities.

Finally, the report suggests that an inclusive nationally-led discussion of long-term visions for localized aid could be helpful in guiding international, regional, national, and local humanitarian actors in the same direction on localization, potentially within a national framework for localization. In such a process, key barriers to localization could be discussed and solutions to overcoming these barriers could be identified. If these solutions lie beyond what can currently be supported in current international-local partnership models, there is even more reason to pay attention to them. They may help push the localization agenda beyond incremental change within the international humanitarian system.

Published by: GFCF, NEAR Network, Save the Children Denmark, STAR Ghana FoundationWest Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI)

Published: February 2023

Download: ‘I help them in my own way – exploring local humanitarian action in Burkina Faso and Mali

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