The real working of localization and the co-governance of humanitarian aid

Keywords: co-governance, humanitarian aid, localization

Since the World Humanitarian Summit of 2015, one of the magic words in the humanitarian world is ‘localisation’. The localisation agenda aims to decentre internationally-led aid responses and focuses instead on the roles of national authorities, aid agencies and affected populations. The Grand Bargain that was launched during the WHS, turned localisation in a high and tangible priority.

Localisation during the WHS quickly came down to a discussion on the percentage of aid budgets that will be made available to national players in the years to come. Debates were also rekindled about the possibilities and impossibilities of localization, where agencies were quick to take entrenched positions. What seemed to be missing in the debate was a recognition of ongoing practice and a contextual discussion about its parameters in different scenarios of aid.

Localisation should be about more than just reducing the middlemen and allocating resources directly to aid providers in situ. It is also about the co-governance of aid, or the manifold ways in which international actors, national authorities, local aid providers and civil societies negotiate and work out the conditions and practices of service provisions to communities in need.

Discussions on aid are often held in general terms, even though the conditions of aid delivery and the room for collaboration is fundamentally different in different scenarios, such as aid in complex emergencies, in countries with authoritarian regimes, in fragile settings, in case of socio-natural disaster or in case of refugee care.

This panel welcomes contributions on local co-governance of aid that are specific to the scenario that is discussed or the scenarios that are compared with each other.

Panel Chair

Dorothea Hilhorst, ISS. ​​​Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid & Reconstruction at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Hilhorst’s research interests concern aid–society relations and development aspects of disasters, conflict and humanitarian aid, and the interactions between them. She chairs the International Humanitarian Studies Association ( Contact:; @hilhorst_thea