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Financing refugee leadership and agency

Hero image description: An illustration of various cakes, depicting how donor funding reaches RLOs (i.e. either directly or via an intermediary) Image credit:Illustration: Ada Jušić

Refugee-led organisations (RLOs) are a crucial cog in the refugee-response machine, providing essential services to their communities, as well as being more likely to lead responses that are accountable, legitimate, transparent, effective and impactful.

The failure to fund RLOs is a missed opportunity. They are not being given the funding and, by extension, the recognition and influence, they need and deserve.

Our research shows that just $26.4 million of humanitarian and development funding reached RLOs in 2022.

This failure to fund RLOs is symptomatic of a wider failure to localise humanitarian funding, all of which is at odds with principles of localisation, accountability and refugee leadership.

In spite of this, RLO experiences of receiving international funding arrangements remain performative and tokenistic. The international community must urgently start recognising RLOs as distinct and important actors within the localisation agenda and increase quality funding to RLOs.

While RLOs can advocate to change the system for the better, it is ultimately those at the top of the system that need to transform it from the inside.

Our research on financing refugee leadership and agency aims to identify and understand the barriers and challenges that RLOs and funders face, as well as shining a light on opportunities for best practice when these occur.

Project team