InterAction’s 2024 Forum Promotes Localization in International Development

PA StaffThe 2024 InterAction Forum, held in Washington D.C. on June 26-27, brought together leaders, practitioners, and advocates in the field of international development to discuss latest trends, challenges and best practices. Planet Aid is a longtime member of InterAction, the largest U.S.-based alliance of international NGOs and partners. InterAction mobilizes members to think and act collectively to serve the world’s poor and vulnerable, with a shared belief that we can make the world a more peaceful, just, and prosperous place—together.

Over two days, attendees and presenters discussed a host of issues, including artificial intelligence, world crises, and the need to coordinate and collaborate among non-government organizations (NGOs) to advocate donors and the U.S. government for continued funding and the right courses of action to ensure development programs are effective and efficient.

The importance of the development community coordinating to advocate with consistent messaging was stressed in fireside chat sessions with former USAID Administrator Gayle Smith and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Another theme during the forum was the importance of localizing international development, an approach long-supported and implemented by Planet Aid. Presenters underscored the critical importance of empowering local communities to drive their own development initiatives and how transitioning to this approach presents challenges to the development community. This focus aligns seamlessly with the values and mission of Planet Aid, which has supported and fundraised for locally-led  development for nearly three decades.

The Economics of Localization

One of the standout sessions at the forum was "The Economics of Localization," presented by Courtenay Cabot Venton, an international development and environmental economist. The session highlighted findings from the "Passing the Buck" study conducted by The Share Trust in 2023, which revealed that local intermediaries could deliver assistance 32% more cost-efficiently than large international organizations. Despite these compelling findings, the transition toward localization remains challenging. The interactive session provided attendees with practical, actionable ideas to help international NGOs (INGOs) shift processes, power, and funding to local partners.

Driving Sustainable Growth: Lessons from Africa

Dr. Robert Chiegil FHI 360Dr. Robert Chiegil of FHI 360 led an insightful session titled "Driving Sustainable Growth: Localization Lessons from Africa." Dr. Chiegil shared success stories from the Achieving Health Nigeria Initiative (AHNI), Goldstar in Kenya, and Pakachere in Malawi. These examples demonstrated how local organizations could evolve from proposal writing to grant implementation, driving sustainable growth and maintaining positive influence in their communities. FHI 360's commitment to localization was evident in their collaborative efforts to identify challenges, set priorities, develop solutions, and secure appropriate funding.

Locally Led and Globally Scaled Digital Innovation

Kyle Duarte from CARE presented the session "Locally Led and Globally Scaled Digital Innovation," which explored how CARE Somalia partnered with the GSMA Foundation and local Mobile Network Operators to develop a Biometric Beneficiary Registration System (BBRS). This system uses beneficiaries' voices as biometric identification, significantly reducing registration times and administrative burdens. The innovative approach saved CARE Somalia 12 person-days of work per disbursement cycle and allowed them to reach 440,000 individuals. This session exemplified how digital innovation, when led locally and scaled globally, can enhance efficiency and impact.

From Rhetoric to Action: Localizing Humanitarian Responses

Mark Johnson & Rachel Isely Concern Worldwide"From Rhetoric to Action: Localizing Humanitarian Responses," presented by Mark Johnson and Rachel Isely of Concern Worldwide, shared key lessons from a two-year global research project on localizing humanitarian action. The research focused on funding, human resources, and power dynamics in partnerships across five diverse contexts: Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Syria, and Somalia. The session offered attendees actionable recommendations and practical tools derived from the study's findings, highlighting the importance of localizing humanitarian efforts to improve effectiveness and sustainability.

Locally-Led Advocacy: Tools for Mapping Progress

The session "Locally-Led Advocacy: Tools for Mapping Progress," led by Jake Palley and Bintou Camara Bityeki, showcased tools developed by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) to help local civil society organizations track their progress in advocacy domains. The workshop emphasized the crucial role of locally-led advocacy in ensuring the adoption, funding, and implementation of policy solutions that support development goals. GHAI's collaboration with local partners has enhanced their advocacy capacities, promoting policy changes that drive sustainable development.

Planet Aid's Commitment to Localization

Planet Aid's participation in the InterAction Forum underscores its long-standing commitment to locally-led development. For nearly three decades, Planet Aid has championed and raised funds to support grassroots initiatives that empower communities to take charge of their development. The forum's sessions and discussions reinforced the importance of localization, aligning with Planet Aid's mission to foster sustainable development through local leadership and innovation.

The 2024 InterAction Forum was a testament to the growing recognition that locally-led initiatives are key to effective and sustainable development.