February 23, 2017

Local and traditional knowledge Needs to Be Acknowledged in Humanitarian Work: PIANGO Tells Geneva Workshop

Date: 23 February 2017

Geneva – Humanitarian aid partners must be able to demonstrate their political will and appreciation for traditional knowledge and practices for disaster responses if they are serious about inclusiveness.

These sentiments were shared by Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) Senior technical Officer, Laitia Tamata at the Agenda for Localisation meeting in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.

Tamata told participants at the meeting that while inclusive participation has already been acknowledged as an approach in humanitarian aid circles, local and traditional knowledge are still being ignored.

The meeting discussed additional financing of humanitarian assistance which was referred to as the “Grand Bargain” at the World Humanitarian Summit in May of last year. “I had made an intervention in the morning session in which we reviewed the working paper, Grand Bargain Work-stream 2: Increasing support and funding tools for local and national responders. The paper was a rapid mapping exercise of humanitarian aid and initiatives of partners,” he said.

“I shared that inclusive participation was already a buzzword but what needed to be determined with humanitarian partners was whether they have the ears and eyes to hear and see local and traditional knowledge and practices and value them.”

Tamata said his comments generated interest with other international participants who sought time to discuss the issue with him during the meeting breaks.

He said the meeting which was convened by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Swiss government, discussed the findings of the mapping exercise which affirmed PIANGO’s position about the need for localization of aid.

“This rapid mapping exercise was done to inform the co-conveners coordination efforts on this agenda in 2017 and to also increase awareness of different initiatives as well as highlight opportunities to fill gaps and reduce duplication.”

An excerpt from the executive summary of the report states that, “A final and overriding conclusion from this rapid mapping exercise is that, with the exception of some of the capacity strengthening work, the localisation agenda and the majority of initiatives to date, appear to be driven by international, rather than national, actors. Many of the initiatives are devised and developed at headquarters level, with limited engagement of national and local actors.”

He said the report stated that interviewees from international agencies expressed concern about this and its implications in terms of ensuring the validity and credibility of what is agreed.

“It also stated that representatives of national organisations that participated in the exercise expressed major frustration at not having information on what was being proposed and agreed, and generally feeling sidelined from discussions. This is quite similar to what PIANGO affiliates experience throughout the Pacific region,” Tamata said.