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Localising Protection – Making Global Frameworks Work for Local Actors

I was recently asked to produce a short guidance for local actors on integrating global protection frameworks into national disaster preparedness plans.

What I soon learnt was that for all the protection guidance and tools available for international actors, resources specific to the role of local or national actors are scarce.  While there is nothing stopping local actors from localising global protection tools there is also not much supporting them to do so.

The World Humanitarian Summit called for a new way of working that recognises and reinforces the capacities and role of national actors. With data revealing only 0.2% of global humanitarian funding goes directly to national actors, this seemed to be an overdue change to the way the system was working. However, the practical implications of these commitments are far-reaching – affecting humanitarian financing, partnership models and how we prepare for and respond to disasters.  The localisation agenda also has the potential to influence how we roll out global humanitarian frameworks, including global protection frameworks.

So when it comes to rolling out the Centrality or ProtectionRights Up Front or protection mainstreaming – are we walking the talk? How are national actors engaged in the development and the roll out of global frameworks?  How do local actors implement, test and adapt these approaches in their own contexts? And critically, how do international actors support the leadership of national actors in these processes?

As an international community, we have made significant progress. We now have global guidance on protection and clear standards and indicators for how each sector can ensure more protection-sensitive programming.  In 2016 the top global humanitarian coordination group (IASC) introduced the ‘IASC Policy on Protection in Humanitarian Action’ guiding international actors on processes for implementing the Centrality of Protection frameworks at the country level. This policy is supplemented with almost step-by-step guidance for Humanitarian Coordinators, Humanitarian Country Teams and Inter-Cluster groups on how to roll this out.  Guidance and frameworks are established. Steps are being taken to roll them out.

But for national actors these processes are lacking. We don’t seem to have step-by-step guidance for national actors – government agencies preparing for response to natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies, civil society organisations that want to participate in or lead protection responses. We haven’t invested in locally developed tools and approaches –based on the multitude of ways national actors are already applying global protection frameworks in their own contexts.

In the context of localisation, and in the context of the Asia Pacific where disaster response is largely led by national actors it seems we are still operating the wrong way around – focussing on how the international community can do better instead of building guidance and tools to support national actors. This is not to say that the global guidance and tools on protection are not adaptable to local contexts. In many ways, they can be. But then aren’t we again missing the boat – by continuing to operate in a humanitarian system geared towards supporting the roles of international actors? A localised humanitarian system in the Asia Pacific requires international actors to shift to the side a little and to understand what is required from national actors to carry these global agenda’s forward.

In a few weeks, I will be co-facilitating a workshop on how protection can be mainstreamed into disaster preparedness planning in the Philippines. We are hoping this provides further insight into how global protection guidance and frameworks can be rolled out nationally and led by national and local actors.

As a starting point, we can learn from national actors on the multitude of ways they are already planning for better protection outcomes in their disaster planning processes – through the enactment of protection-sensitive disaster laws, training of government officials and introducing policies on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. And moving forward, we can support collaboration among national actors in the region to share and develop these critical lessons.

As we start to walk the talk, and localisation becomes meaningful and actionable, understanding how the nuts and bolts of international protection frameworks can be rolled out locally will be critical.

Watch this space.