Merve Erdilmen, McGill University

Witness Ayesiga Sosthenes, University of Dar es Salaam

The idea of strengthening local humanitarian actors’ capacities, and access to funding and information, as well as making local non-governmental organizations essential partners in strategic decision-making processes, has been around globally since the early 1990s. Localization efforts have gained momentum since the World Humanitarian Summit (2016), alongside other international platforms and commitments, including the Charter for Change (2015), the Grand Bargain (2016), and the Global Compact on Refugees (2018). Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the essential role local actors play in responding to the crisis.

Amid greater efforts to realize localization ideals in different parts of the world, many have raised concerns about the issues at stake in these initiatives, and the factors that affect their success or failure. Hence, it remains important to better understand localization efforts in various contexts, the opportunities they provide, and challenges they pose.

This paper provides a general overview of opportunities and challenges for localization initiatives in Tanzania. Our research has aimed to understand the impediments faced by local nongovernmental actors and the sources of impediments to localization of humanitarian assistance and refugee protection initiatives in Tanzania. During our five weeks of field work in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, we employed a mix of in-depth stakeholder interviews, participant observation and process tracing. Our findings show that even though the localization process has made important progress globally, it remains to be studied how international political economy concerns and power inequalities embedded in humanitarian action inform localization initiatives on the ground. Our paper provides the first analysis of this link in localization between global and local. Furthermore, we also provide several recommendations for policymakers and future research.

Read the full working paper here.