Charter 4 Change: 2017 Progress Report highlights success and challenges

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In July 2015, 3 INGOs opened the conversation with a national NGO about what new approaches they should be taking to strengthen the role of local humanitarian actors. Riding the momentum towards the World Humanitarian Summit, this initiative soon became known as the Charter4Change. Today, nearly two years since its inception, C4C boasts 29 organisations that have signed up to 8 core commitments, all aimed at delivering a more equitable and fair humanitarian delivery system. A further 150 national organisations have endorsed the Charter.

Today Charter4Change is one of the strongest driving forces behind much of the work that is taking place on localisation. For example, it was name checked in the Grand Bargain GPPI progress report as being a key influence in the Grand Bargain’s strong commitments under its workstream on More Support and Funding Tools for Local and National Responders[1].  The collective voice of southern and northern actors is working hard to hold traditional power brokers to account, and making the case for a more equitable aid architecture, and for locally-empowered humanitarian response.

But the C4C was always much more than advocacy initiative aimed at influencing the sector. First and foremost, it is about a group of international NGOs committed to working individually and collectively to change their ways of working with national and local actors.

Commitment 1:

Increase direct funding to southern-based NGOs for humanitarian action

Commitment 2:

Reaffirm the Principles of Partnership

Commitment 3:

Increase transparency around resource transfers to southern-based national and local NGOs

Commitment 4:

Stop undermining local capacity

Commitment 5:

Emphasise the importance of national actors

Commitment 6:

Address subcontracting

Commitment 7:

Robust organisational support and capacity building

Commitment 8:

Communication to the media and the public about partners


As it has moved forward, C4C’s mandate has adapted to keep up with the external environment. Not content with simply drawing attention to the disproportionate and unequal status quo of the aid sector, the C4C is becoming increasingly important in crafting the tools and outputs needed to guarantee that real and effective localisation is achievable. There is an increasing movement within the Charter’s signatories towards bringing local actors directly into high-level debates, meeting with key decision-makers on the international stage, and sharing learnings and experiences with the wider aid sector.

Charter4Change is a collective, and it is only as strong as the sum of its parts. Over recent months the Charter’s signatories have tested themselves against their own commitments through an in-depth interim reporting process, marking their progress at the one-year point between the WHS and the deadline of May 2018 (that signatories set for themselves to achieve progress against the 8 commitments). The feedback demonstrates examples of progress and good practice, but also flags instances where signatories have yet to achieve their ambitions. On the positive side, for example, one organisation reported that it is introducing and adapting policies to guarantee that ethical recruitment practices are put into place. Some signatories are taking positive steps to ensure that the role of local, ‘southern’, actors is more prominent in key discussions and debates. But in other instances, signatories will face considerable challenges over the next 10 months if they are to achieve the goals that they set for themselves. For example, with regards to providing (and evidencing) direct funding to local actors as a proportion of total humanitarian expenditure, these figures ranged from as high as 80% for some signatures, to 5% for two others. Similarly, signatories reported particular challenges around capturing the amount they dedicated towards capacity strengthening, and evidencing the impact of these interventions.

But this sense-check also highlighted challenges that Charter4Change signatories will have to address over the coming months. Signatories are going to have to be realistic about what the commitments mean for their operating models and ways of working. There is still a lot of work to be done, to ensure that the right systems and guidelines are in place to see them through the process of implementing the commitments. For some, particularly organisations that are traditionally more operational and less partner-focused, the changes must go beyond updating systems and address wider issues such as organisational culture and identity.

Read the 2017 Progress Report here

[Photo credit: Photo: Louise Norton/ CAFOD, April 2015]