Localizing Humanitarian Action

Around 2015, the humanitarian aid sector set two important goals in motion — the 2030 Agenda and localization. The circumstances surrounding them are distinct; the 2030 Agenda brought gravitas and momentum to the Sustainable Development Goals, and localization embedded within The Grand Bargain helped humanize it and elevate its propensity for systems change. The two goals are important, yet they seem to require an almost opposed approach to their pursuit. The overarching approach conceived towards the 2030 Agenda is acceleration, which capitalizes on the enduring/durable institutional structures within which it was conceived. On the other hand, localization cannot move quickly, nor should it, as it lacks a similar institutional pedigree — from various indications, localization is still an aspirational way of working among humanitarian institutions. Are these competing priorities, or could both be achieved without sacrificing aspects of their essence? In doing both at the same time, some things will have to give. This research brief focuses on localization in the context of humanitarian aid. The brief opens by surfacing the contrast between localization and the 2030 Agenda, compares and synthesizes several definitions of localization in use, and then analyses the progress made with localization across different spheres since 2015. Lastly, it closes off with recommendations for continuing the pursuit of localization that could lead to desired change across a broader spectrum.