Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, localisation has been firmly on the agenda. This conversation with Arbie Baguios explores the ethics of the localisation of humanitarian action.

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Local humanitarian actors are the first to respond when an emergency occurs and they are typically the ones that stay when international attention and funding shifts to other crises. But when the international response is mobilised, local actors are often marginalised. To make humanitarian action more effective and efficient, localisation thus calls for a better inclusion of local actors and the affected population in all phases of the international humanitarian response. So far, debates generally revolve around the best ways of implementing localisation within the existing humanitarian system.

To gain a better understanding of the challenges and ethics of localisation, this discussion explores the dynamics that unfold between local and international actors of humanitarian response. Can humanitarian action remain impartial and neutral when it is localised? Will a major transfer of funds truly empower local counterparts or turn them into puppets in a global humanitarian system? Is localisation primarily a moral issue or a political or economic one? How ethically do international donor governments and international humanitarian organisations behave in their relationships with local partner organisations and communities?


Arbie Baguios is a Doctoral Researcher at the London School of Economics and Founder of Aid Re-imagined.


Kristoffer Lidén is a Senior Researcher at PRIO and the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS). He currently leads the RedLines project.

See also Part 1 - a roundtable conversation with Kristina Roepstorff, John Ede, Sulagna Maitra, Ed Schenkenberg and Dennis Dijkzeul.

These discussions are part of a series on the ethics of humanitarian action organised by Kristoffer Lidén at PRIO and the NCHS in collaboration with The Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) and IFHV as part of the RedLines project. Others in the series include The ethics of humanitarian neutrality in Syria, Red lines for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, Engaging with the Taliban then and now: Lessons learned, lessons spurned?, and Ethics and the global distribution of vaccines during Covid-19.