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Achieving a more local, devolved response to humanitarian crises has emerged on the policy agenda as one possible answer to the problems besetting international humanitarian response. Making the best use of all available humanitarian capacity has become more important in an era of larger, more inconsistent and pernicious threats, greater donor and public demands for services and accountability and the growing use of remote management of operations in insecure environments. Both the Secretary-General’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit and the resulting Grand Bargain call for responses that are ‘as local as possible, as international as necessary’, with greater commitments by the international humanitarian system to invest in the capacity of local organisations to work in complement with international counterparts. At the same time, however, there is little consensus around what a genuinely local response actually means, either in theory or in practice, and there are very few incentives to promote it within a system structurally and culturally inclined towards centralisation.
The panel will explore the challenges and prospects of a more local, complementary and devolved humanitarianism. We invite papers diagnosing the obstacles to locally-led humanitarianism and offering pathways toward reforming the contemporary humanitarian response.