Community Engagement and Localization in Humanitarian and Peace building Interventions

In 2022, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee reformulated the priorities on the realization of the Grand Bargain. Priority II now focuses on Localization and Participation. Localization of humanitarian action is a critical approach that emphasizes the meaningful involvement of local actors and communities in humanitarian response and related initiatives. It emphasizes the primacy of Affected Populations and calls for their inclusion in humanitarian and Peace building action.

Some of the initiatives that support localization include availing funds for local and national NGOs, mainstreaming conflict sensitive approaches, multi-stakeholder engagement and the inclusion of local leaders in decision making and coordination bodies as well as amplifying the impacts of local actors involved in the humanitarian, peace building and developmental initiatives.

Why should community engagement take precedence in interventions?

  1. Community Engagement is one of the most effective means of ensuring partnerships with local stakeholders and affirming their value as equal partners. It supports Localization and has direct positive implications on the triple nexus approach. community mapping and an analysis of the dynamics between various local groups has also been pivotal in negotiations for humanitarian access. Additionally, in instances where there are community-led peace building initiatives often times, there are also positive resulting humanitarian impacts such as reduced violence and reduced protection risks. As such, promoting and strengthening community engagement can ensure better outcomes for crisis-affected populations and other vulnerable groups while optimizing resources, ownership of interventions and supporting long-term sustainability.

2. Supporting and strengthening the capacity of communities to engage with armed groups, through nonviolent methodologies, not only complements humanitarian interventions by other stakeholders, it creates room for community leaders to actionize existing systems and cultural norms for better protection outcomes. This factor derives from the pre-existing relationships between armed groups and local communities. Community members often have first-instance contact with armed groups and at times, they share commonalities such as religious beliefs, cultural and social norms and belief systems and lineage ties which can be used to negotiate for reduced violence against civilians and humanitarian access.

    3. Community engagement has also been pivotal in post-conflict contexts; in transitional justice and reconciliation processes. A good example is in Rwanda where Gacaca Courts played a critical role in the reconciliation and retribution process. While some argued that the Gacaca court system countered the doctrine of the rule of law and the right to fair trial, it would be hypocritical to deny the power of a community that comes together to solve its own problems by its own rules. Outside the humanitarian setting, many societies continue to use alternative justice systems to resolve conflicts- especially those relating to property rights, which is an issue of cultural significance in many African contexts.

    In conclusion, Community engagement and localization can ensure that the root cause of both conflicts driven and environmental shocks are effectively addressed, therefore supporting the sustainability of solutions, increasing accountability and lessening the dependency on aid.

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