By Diane Vioujard, Project manager (Coordination SUD) 

As part of its mission dedicated to deciphering the changes happening in the international solidarity sector, Coordination SUD commissioned a study in 2018 of aid localization, via its  ONGLAB. Its goal was to better understand this concept whose first formulation goes back to 2012, following reflections on the efficacy of the aid and resumed again at the time of the Grand Bargain signed in 2016. 

The notion of aid “localization” these past years plays an ever increasing role in the debate about international aid. It’s part of a larger debate about the transformation of the means of development funding; and a willingness to think and take urgent action and development on the advice of those who are “closest to the ground”. A “closer” aid, “without intermediary”. The aid stakeholders are asking themselves today, each in their own way about the interests and limits of this perspective of aid localization and on the possible consequences of such a dynamic on the practices and organization of the NGOs in the north and south. 

This study revisits the terms of this debate and “tests” localization based on practices in the field. It questions the gap that can exist between rhetoric and reality; and investigates the hypothesis that a closer “proximity” of aid to where it’s needed makes greater efficacy possible for projects being implemented.  

Several successive steps of reflection, exchange and production have been conducted to carry out this study: an initial analysis of the issue of aid localization, based on existing literature, from a dozen interviews (national and international NGOs, donors, resource persons, etc.); country case studies, in Burkina Faso and Bangladesh (conducted by national consultants) in order to better document the “experience” of localization in actual cases; additional interviews, organized at the headquarters of a series of French NGOs to supplement the viewpoints on the dynamics of localization in the field and to enrich reflection; a collective workshop, May 28, 2019, bringing together about thirty people representing French NGOs, in order to spark a discussion and enhance the analysis and feedback from the field. These successive phases have allowed for the creation of a report and the current summary, between June and August 2019. 

If ONGLAB is a new mission for Coordination SUD, the findings that result do not constitute the official stance of Coordination SUD. Last February, the leadership of Coordination SUD met to debate the lessons and recommendations from this study. The result was the project of reflecting about creating a renewed vision of international solidarity, by freeing itself from concepts like the localization of aid from donors. If Coordination SUD is advocating for growth of funding development, it has never yet engaged in advocating for a transformation of the aid system or its agreement mechanisms – that would allow us to regain control of the localization debate, according to our way of understanding international solidarity. 

 It seems that for Coordination SUD, the time is right to redefine together and in depth what international solidarity means for our sector – Work conducted within the framework of the Prospective 2030 has made it possible to outline the first elements. In fact, under the surface, the understanding of international solidarity remains quite diverse among members. Beyond the vision, it means going farther with the declination of a renewed international solidarity in terms of positions and practices by re-questioning in particular the sharing of power as well as specificities within fields. 

 For this, different actions have been pre-identified:  

  • Starting a discussion during the General Assembly of Coordination SUD by convening a debate workshop proposing interventions with diverse views of a renewed vision of international solidarity, in the post-Covid-19 crisis which will have accelerated trends already occurring. 
  • During this General Assembly, organise discussion times and work with the members of Forus on a proposal for a new vision of international solidarity. 
  • Establishing spaces for the exchange of practices concerning building strategic partnerships.  
  •  Organizing workshops about exchanging practices for reinforcing actors in the countries of intervention.  
  • Bringing this new vision in dialog with the French Development Agency to the working group dedicated partnerships. 
For more reactions to this Coordination Sud study and other members of Forus, see the webinar organized by the British platform Bond and Forus: