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Protection in local response to disasters: challenges and insights from the Pacific region

Working papers

Written by Larissa Fast

Image credit:Rehabilitating coastal livelihoods in the Pacific Islands. Alexander Tewfik/World Fish Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Much debate about reform and improving the effectiveness of humanitarian aid in recent years has revolved around ‘localisation’, a prominent theme of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS). As humanitarian agencies implement the localisation commitments they articulated at the WHS, examining the impact of a localised response for protection outcomes has emerged as a topic deserving greater attention.

This research initiative seeks to understand the impact of localised humanitarian protection in disaster preparedness and response, including identifying both the opportunities and challenges for effective protection in a locally led response. This initial paper explores the existing literature on protection and localisation in disasters as the first stage of a joint research initiative of the Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG), the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) and the Australian Red Cross.

The research initiative intentionally focuses on disaster contexts, where humanitarian needs are significant, but the complexities associated with conflict environments are typically diminished. It considers both sudden or rapid onset disasters such as cyclones, as well as slow onset and climate change-induced disasters including drought and sea-level rise. Although the importance of protection in disaster contexts is generally accepted, questions remain about which actors are best placed to provide protection and how international protection mechanisms can complement, rather than undermine, existing local initiatives.

This framing paper and subsequent research aims to advance a collective understanding of the operationalisation of localisation in the Pacific and its implications for protection.

Larissa Fast and Kate Sutton