On Thursday 7th May, the UN launches its new Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) framing global and country-level funding requests to support the Covid19 crisis response. 
Around the world, local civil society organisations are at the frontline of the Covid19 response to an unprecedented extent as many international aid workers have withdrawn and borders have closed. Yet the pace of efforts to get international funding or new kinds of partnership to local humanitarian NGOs is slow.
According to new analysis by Charter For Change of data available on the OCHA Financial Tracking System (FTS) as of Wednesday 6th May 2020, the level of funding to national and local NGOs stands at just 0.1 percent of total funding reported for Covid19 response to date. This is far below the global commitment by UN agencies, donors and INGOs to ensure that at least 25 percent of humanitarian funding reaches national and local actors as directly as possible.
Our analysis also illustrates significant gaps in the tracking of Covid funding to local actors. The FTS system captures direct grants to national NGOs and funding allocated through the UN Country-Based Pooled Funds. UN agency funding to local actors in the Covid19 response is not yet systematically captured on the FTS system, and some UN agencies either do not publish these figures in a clear, disaggregated fashion at all or only after a lengthy delay.
So the Charter For Change coalition calls on the international community to accelerate the flow of funding to national and local organisations at the frontlines of the Covid19 crisis, but also to find new creative and more equitable ways to partner with them.
The C4C coalition highlights the six priorities to empower national and local NGOs in the response:
- Provide greater direct funding to local and national actors, opening up calls for new partners, with simplified and fast-tracked partner assessment processes, wherever possible. Funds should be mobilised through existing global and in-country NGO consortia, networks (eg Start Network) and developmental civil society funds. ‘Pop-up’ UN Country-Based Pooled Funding mechanisms should be established with ambitious metrics to triple the level of CBPF funding to national/local NGOs.
- Provide flexible funding, including adequate and consistent support for organisational overheads and staff salaries. Local actors should be supported to keep high quality, experienced staff on-board, which is not possible with short-term, projectised funding.
- Require agencies funded through the GHRP and other processes to track the timeliness, quantity and quality of funding they pass onto national and local NGOs, and to demonstrate how they promote local leadership or co-leadership and effective models of partnership in consortia and programmes.
- Encourage unconventional, alternative and creative responses that go beyond standard sectoral approaches. For example, the Covid19 crisis brings into sharp focus the added-value of local actors who are often excluded from mainstream humanitarian processes, but have the trust of communities and can adapt global guidance into terms that resonate for local communities and specific at-risk groups, including local faith groups, women-led NGOs and disabled peoples organisations.
- Consult national and local NGOs on ways to engage them meaningfully in further revisions of country-level Humanitarian Response Plans and the global GHRP; recognizing that our perspectives and contributions are not always reflected in Humanitarian Country Teams, clusters and other inter-agency processes.
- Engage with local civil society in understanding how to best support national and local government authorities; to identify both challenges and opportunities in ensuring that humanitarian principles and standards are promoted.
Fie Lauritzen, Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor, Dan Church Aid, Denmark:
“Covid19 is an unprecedented global pandemic crisis for today’s international humanitarian system. The question that donors, UN and INGOs should be asking themselves is what kinds of new partnerships could they support to better get assistance and protection to where it’s needed? Local faith groups for example have the trust of the communities, yet all too often they are off the radar for the mainstream humanitarian system. The same often applies for local women’s groups. This needs to change in the Covid19 response.”
John Ede, President, Ohaha Family Foundation, Nigeria:
“National NGOs should have a seat at the table when decisions are made on priorities in the Covid19 response both at the global and country levels. We will be the ones implementing the projects on the ground, so we should also have a say in decision-making on the funding and strategic approach to this. For those national NGOs that don’t have the capacity to write proposals or meet the bureaucratic expectations of international agencies, then they should be given support to grow that experience over time.”
Gloria Modong Morris, Executive Director, Titi Foundation, South Sudan:
“To better protect women and girls in the Covid19 crisis, we need to empower them and local women’s organisations to have voice and influence in the humanitarian response. OCHA had previously started mapping some of these groups in South Sudan, but very few had accessed emergency funding from the UN until now. Local women-led NGOs have knowledge and expertise of relevance to saving lives in this crisis, but they need help to do so – including both financial and political support from international agencies. If the UN country-based pooled fund is topped-up or other new funding starts to flow, they should be prioritised.”
Howard Mollett, Head of Humanitarian Policy, CAFOD, UK:
“The Covid19 crisis is a wake-up call on localisation. It’s local groups who are on the ground, and it’s their local staff that stayed with their communities delivering aid and messages about how to keep safe. Supporting these groups is literally a life-saving imperative. If not now, then when?”
Dr. M. Ehsanur Rahman, Executive Director, DAM, and Chairperson of NAHAB (National Alliance of Humanitarian Actors Bangladesh):
“Coronavirus infections are already an all-too-vivid reality for us in Bangladesh. A practical response to this should build on the learning acquired over recent years in locally-led emergency response. This has demonstrated how investing in local organisations is an effective and efficient option. Through the national NGO network NAHAB’s initiatives for capacity strengthening of local NGOs and promoting coordination among actors, various kinds of locally-led consortia have been created to respond to different kinds of emergency from floods to urban fires to other emergencies. When donors decentralise funding opportunities to the country-level, this can really be transformative. Through the START fund, for example, national NGOs have engaged as equal partners, alongside international agencies, in raising alerts and decision-making on funding. That’s enabled a quicker, more efficient response. Our response to Covid19 should build on that trust and cooperation between international, national and local agencies.”
 The GHRP launch will take place on Thursday 7 May 2020 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EST and it will be webcast live on http://webtv.un.org/
 According to the FTS system, national/local NGOs have been allocated 0.1%, international NGOs 1% and UN agencies 92.4% of the funding to date. 6.5% is marked as CBPF funding where implementing partners are not yet determined or confirmed. Data downloaded from the OCHA Financial Tracking System at 17:15 on 06/05/2020. Funding flows categorised as ‘Commitment’ and ‘Paid Contribution’ were considered. The categories ‘national/local NGOs’ and international NGOs’ were manually coded. This figure reflects mainly funding provided directly to NGOs by bilateral donors and funding through the UN Country-Based Pooled Funds. At the time of gathering the data, UN agencies had not systematically published their pass-through to national and local NGOs for the Covid19 response on the OCHA FTS system.