A recent report has highlighted good practice by Islamic Relief in assisting local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to prepare and respond effectively to humanitarian emergencies.

Islamic Relief teamed up with the Humanitarian Policy Group from the Overseas Development Institute to launch a report showcasing the value of localising aid, drawing on our experience in Asia. The report, entitled ‘Localising emergency preparedness and response through partnerships’, was launched in an event held at Islamic Relief’s London office on 11 April.

The report assesses the outcomes of our innovative localisation and capacity building project in Asia.
The 33-month STRIDE project equipped local partners in Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Philippines with the tools and resources to lead local emergency response.

The head of Islamic Relief’s disaster risk management department, Mohammad Afsar, said: “Islamic Relief is committed to localisation: local partners are the first responders, they have local knowledge and greater awareness of community needs – and most importantly, they do not leave after the emergency is over.”

Islamic Relief’s Mohammad Afsar and Veronique Barbelet of the Overseas Development Institute.

Localising humanitarian aid increases positive impact

Islamic Relief has for 35 years been a direct implementation agency, delivering life-saving and transformative humanitarian aid and development projects across the world. Working through local partnerships in a fair and principled way is one of our commitments under the Charter4Change and the World Humanitarian Summit.

Localising aid enables us to increase the positive impact we make. It is an approach that is seen as essential to humanitarian system reform, with governments increasingly leading on emergency response and not always in support of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) intervening in relief operations.

Calls for humanitarian sector to replicate good practice

Dr Veronique Barbelet, senior research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, presented the report at Thursday’s event. She called for the good practice seen in the relationship between Islamic Relief and our local partners to be shared and replicated across the humanitarian sector.

The project saw Islamic Relief providing grants and advice to local partners, whilst they led on organisational development and strategy. We adopted a partner-centric approach to capacity strengthening, relevant to the context and the organisations. As Veronique Barbelet pointed out, “no local experience was the same, there were multiple approaches and programmes.”

With this support, local NGOs created emergency response plans and disaster response teams, and adopted policy and procedures that will enable them to respond to unfolding emergencies in a principled manner.

BATAS Foundation from Nepal had limited exposure to humanitarian response when it became an implementing partner for Islamic Relief’s response to the devastating Gorkha earthquake in 2015. Through the capacity building project, BATAS evolved into an equal partner well equipped to respond to small-scale emergencies, as Ananda Raj Batas, the director of the BATAS Foundation explained:

“Before STRIDE, we wanted to support people but we didn’t have policies, systems and technical knowledge in place.

“We now have allocated a budget of 1m NRP (approx. 6,800 GBP) and 34 staff members in our response team. We are able to respond to small scale emergencies, but for scale up we would still collaborate with larger partners such as Islamic Relief.”

The preparedness efforts of the project meant BATAS could effectively respond when a tornado recently struck a Nepalese village, destroying houses and injuring 17 people.

Islamic Relief is now using the lessons learned from the STRIDE project, which ended last year, to further increase our impact in assisting vulnerable people worldwide.