Media CenterDuring Congressional Hearing, CRS Highlights Importance of Local Leadership on Humanitarian and Development Outcomes

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Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(978) 884-0003

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, March 10, 2023 – During a Congressional hearing Thursday about the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) localization strategy, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Executive Vice President for Mission, Mobilization and Advocacy, Bill O’Keefe testified about the importance of local leadership while urging lawmakers to shift more funding directly to local organizations.

“Humanitarian and development assistance are at a crossroads. In one direction, we can continue to do what we have done for decades – underestimating and underinvesting in local organizations in favor of international organizations, INGOS and contractors. In the other direction, we can seize momentum and advance more locally led development and humanitarian response,” O’Keefe said. “Rooted in our values, CRS encourages the U.S. government and other bilateral and multilateral donors to take the second path, which we believe will vastly improve aid efficiency and effectiveness…”

During his testimony, which was delivered before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on State Department and USAID Management, O’Keefe highlighted the importance of strong local organizations in leading development initiatives, and shared CRS’ extensive experience in supporting local actors. To prove his point, O’Keefe described CRS’ experience successfully transitioning U.S. funding from CRS to local organizations, including President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) funding.

O’Keefe emphasized that supporting local organizations can help advance the relationship between the U.S. and other countries and can help hold the public sector accountable. He also acknowledged that organizations like CRS will continue to have an important role to play in locally led development through capacity-strengthening – a vital tool in changing systems.

“Some argue that local organizations lack capacity to lead or are too risky to engage. We firmly reject this assertation. While every country is different, responsible, capable local organizations are ready to take on more leadership roles,” O’Keefe said.

To read the entirety of CRS’ written testimony on localization to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, click here.

To watch a recording of the hearing, click here.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Nikki Gamer

Senior Public Affairs Manager

Nikki Gamer
March 10, 2023

Based in Baltimore, MD

Nikki is the Senior Public Affairs Manager for CRS and connects journalists to regional stories and sources related to the agency’s life-saving development work. Previously, Nikki worked as the Communications Officer for the Middle East, Europe, and Central Asia. She has covered CRS’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the mass displacement...More