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Beyond local and international: humanitarian action at the margins

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Larissa Fast

Hero image description: Community representatives visit a family on the outskirts of Beni, DRC to raise awareness about Ebola Image credit:World Bank/Vincent Tremeau Image license:CC-BY-NC-ND

This briefing note synthesises research from HPG’s two-year project ‘From the ground up: understanding local response in crises’. It focuses on the different roles of intermediaries in humanitarian assistance to further explore the nuances of local action. 

It uses the metaphor of ‘space’, particularly the grey spaces of the middle and the margins, to capture the richness and variety of functions and roles beyond the categories of local and international humanitarian action. The note focuses first on intermediary actors and their roles, followed by a discussion of those operating in the marginal spaces of humanitarian response. Such spaces stretch our understanding of terminologies and can shift our perspectives. Moreover, examining roles instead of actors can promote inclusiveness and offer ways to expand our conceptions of complementarity.

The note draws upon research corresponding to the four themes of HPG’s local humanitarian action agenda – capacity and complementarity, dignity in displacement, humanitarian financing, and the protection of civilians – with the aim of exposing pathways to implementing a more effective and locally led humanitarian response.

Larissa Fast