More Than 80 Major Local Aid Organizations in Nepal Left Out of Direct Funding
In the Flash Appeal for the Nepal Earthquake, 78 organizations have requested $422 million to lead the disaster response. Only 0.8% of funds are directed to organizations based in Nepal. Though this group funding effort is led by the United Nations, the process does not reflect a truly international approach. Local organizations are being used primarily as subcontractors instead of receiving funding directly.
Local organizations are essential to the earthquake response. In some cases, the foreign organizations who applied for funding have only a few employees on the ground. Foreigners will direct the projects and programs. Local organizations are listed as “implementing partners.”
Within the Flash Appeal, 83 leading Nepali groups are identified as “partners.” I was curious if there were some reason these organizations weren’t given the opportunity to apply for prime funding themselves: Were they inexperienced? Uninformed? Less professional? Collectively, they have more than 1,000 years experience in Nepal.
WHY DON’T LOCAL GROUPS APPLY FOR FUNDING?
I researched each Nepali organization mentioned in the Flash Appeal and was shocked by the depth of their experience and expertise. Most of these organizations have deep roots in their community but simply haven’t been in the business of raising funds from governments. Local groups may have trouble applying for a number of reasons: 1) they don’t know about the opportunity, 2) the deadline to apply is within days of the disaster, and 3) the application requires fluent, technical English-language skills.
The organization featured in the image at the top of this post is Shakti Samuha. They are an advocacy and education group that was started by former victims of human trafficking and their focus is on women and girls. Immediately after the earthquake, I saw them operating distributions in the hills of Sindhupalchouk, the most heavily impacted district, bringing rice and food to their constituents.
But as a result of being busy on the ground, they weren’t in meetings in the capital, Kathmandu. In the Flash Appeal, Shakti Samuha is listed as the implementing partner for Planete Enfantes, a French NGO, with whom they have had a relationship for several years.
WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS OF SUBCONTRACTING TO LOCAL OR SMALLER GROUPS?
Because international groups are funded first, individual donations to the Nepal earthquake relief won’t have the same impact. Aid is more expensive because donors will end up paying the administrative costs of both the prime contractor (international non-profit) and sub-contractors (local non-profits). Many projects in the Flash Appeal list four or more sub-contractors.
It isn’t only local groups who are left out of the consolidated funding process. Small international organizations are also used as subcontractors in most disasters. I asked a number of smaller NGOs why they didn’t apply to this funding opportunity. Some told me they had never heard of it. Other groups told me that they believe the process is “political” or “rigged” and wasn’t worth the bother.
By funding only large international organizations instead of local or small organizations, we rob those smaller groups of the opportunity to expand their capacity and managerial skills. We also make it more unlikely that the response will take a truly local approach to aid and recovery. Small groups that operate outside the bureaucracy are often young or new organizations using innovative methods to deliver aid. They deserve to be included.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS PROBLEM?
The problem needs to be addressed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), which leads the application process.
1. Advertise the opportunity to local organizations immediately after a disaster. In some cases, it may be helpful to educate them before a disaster hits.
2. Volunteers can offer to apply on behalf of local organizations. (In Nepal, IOM offered to apply for local organizations in the Camp Management category, where there is always a deficit of local and international support. It seems no one took them up on the offer.)
3. Make the online process easier and more readily available to people in their language.
4. Require organizations to identify the country where they are based when they apply.
5. Donate to local organizations instead of international ones.
List of Nepali Organizations Being Hired as “Implementing Partners”