Policy Note: COVID-19 and the Critical Need to Support Local Leadership in This Unique Humanitarian Crisis

Executive Summary

The unprecedented COVID-19 global humanitarian challenge will require comprehensive and extraordinary responses from everyone, including national governments, public and private donors, international aid agencies, multi-lateral coordination bodies, and local civil society and communities. People around the world are experiencing a call to solidarity in the face of great challenge, and it is critical we respond quickly to protect life, care for those affected, especially the most vulnerable, and ensure human dignity, while securing a path to recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic also raises new challenges to the global humanitarian systems. With the necessary travel limitations, as well as potential disruptions to aid supply systems, this humanitarian response will rely especially heavily on local actors to lead in new ways and meet community needs. Effective COVID-19 responses will require effective local government as well as strong local civil society organizations to design and implement humanitarian and development programming responses. It is critical that international actors – donors, multi-laterals, and INGOs – support local leadership through quality partnerships, effective capacity strengthening, flexible and adaptive funding, fair multi-stakeholder risk sharing, and reasonable and realistic compliance requirements.

Against this backdrop, CRS makes the following recommendations:

  1. Ensure funding and compliance systems are flexible, accessible, well-financed, and can be managed by local leaders with less capacity.
  2. Encourage, support, and fund local institutional participation in decision-making and coordination processes related to the COVID-19 response.
  3. Develop and fund strategies with local actors to manage risk and risk transfer, and empower local institutions to develop, fund, and manage their own pandemic plans.
  4. Ensure donors and the international community to regularly and proactively communicate around decision-making and the response with the full range of response stakeholders.