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International humanitarian system must shift from global to local: Oxfam report

International humanitarian system must shift from global to local: Oxfam report

February 6, 2012

Not enough emergency aid reaches local response groups that undertake the bulk of the work in a disaster, says a new report from Oxfam.

In Crises in a New World Order, Oxfam says that great strides have been made in delivery of international humanitarian assistance, but the future requires a shift of resources to ensure local governments and civil society partners are equipped to prevent, prepare for and save lives during disasters.

The United Nations and international non-government organizations will remain as vital as ever, Oxfam says. “But their contribution will increasingly be measured by how they complement and support the capacities and efforts of crisis-affected countries.”

The international agency says the demand for humanitarian action is likely to increase significantly. A growing number of vulnerable people are exposed to disasters. Weather-related disasters are on the increase. Competition for scarce resources will deepen amid violence and conflict in fragile and failed states.

Robert Fox, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, said:

“The ones who respond first and best in an emergency are nearly always local, be they government, NGO, church or volunteer citizens. International agencies like Oxfam have increasingly shifted efforts toward strengthening the capacity of these local actors. We need to accelerate that shift." 

“International aid agencies cannot just pitch up, patch up and push-off. They have to ensure people and countries are better prepared to withstand future shocks. Having local organizations already on the ground and primed to go will increase both the speed and impact of the aid effort and ultimately save more lives.”

Too little has been done to prevent and reduce the risk of disaster. Aid to programs that reduce the risk of disaster stood at only 0.5 per cent of total aid spending in 2009. National governments have committed themselves to this work by signing international agreements, but too little effective action has been taken.

Lives and money will be saved if more emphasis is placed on preventing crises from escalating. The UN estimated that in Niger in 2005 it cost $1 to save a malnourished child’s life. Once Niger’s food crisis was in full swing it cost $80. 

For more information please contact:
Juliet O’Neill
Oxfam Canada media officer
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