Localisation in emergency response: What CARE learned from our cyclone response in Tonga

by 12th Jun 2019
CARE and MORDI staff preparing for community consultations CARE and MORDI staff preparing for community consultations

When Tropical Cyclone Gita struck Tonga on Monday 12 February 2018 it affected 80,000 men, women, boys and girls – roughly 70% of the entire population. CARE formed a partnership with Live and Learn and MORDI to respond to the immediate needs of those affected on both ‘Eua and Tongatapu. So for others wishing to take this approach, what can be learned from the partnership’s application of localisation principles?

Working in partnership resulted in significant benefit for partners and the effectiveness of the response. The partnership supported significant national actor engagement and leadership in the response by providing substantial funding and capacity support to MORDI as a national NGO. And the response was evaluated as being very effective – more than 10,000 individuals received shelter, WASH, food security and livelihoods support.

Tropical Cyclone Gita response partnership graphic

What did we learn?

  • Local actors can significantly contribute to efficiencies in a response operation by accessing networks and relationships that international actors cannot.
  • If local partners and communities are to be involved in design processes for humanitarian programming, there needs to be more flexibility with initial proposals to allow field teams to engage in more detailed design and planning processes at a later stage.
  • To ensure transparency and accountability in response distributions, local partner insight should be supported by sharing best practice and learning about feedback mechanisms.
  • Respect and trust between partners are an important basis for international NGOs to introduce international standards and best practice concepts.
  • Respecting and recognising the role of national and local government requires international NGOs to invest resources into processes that may not necessarily promote their own brand.
  • Partnerships where one actor is not primarily reliant on the other for its sustainability are more equal and therefore create space for more honest conversations without the possibility of money being used as a bargaining tool.

Want to learn more?

Read the full evaluation and summary.

Jenny Conrad

I coordinate communications for CARE's Made by Women strategy, which promotes dignified work for women in the garment industry. I joined CARE in 2013 as Communications Advisor for the Cambodia office. During my time with CARE I have supported CARE Cambodia’s private sector engagement with a focus on the garment industry and led strategic communications for CARE Australia's International Programmes team.

Having started my career in marketing, prior to joining CARE I was leading communications for a global philanthropy publication. I hold a BA in English from the University of Bristol.

Email: jenny.conrad@careint.org

Twitter: @jennyeconrad