Anchored in Local Reality: Case Studies on Local Humanitarian Action from Haiti, Colombia, and Iraq

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Critiques of international humanitarian aid have long suggested that it needs to be more inclusive of actors from crisis-affected countries.  Increased attention to this issue over the past decade or so has coalesced into a set of agendas often referred to as the “localization” of humanitarian assistance, “local humanitarian leadership” (LHL), and “local humanitarian action” (LHA). However, there is little consensus about key definitions and concepts related to these terms. What does “local” actually mean? Who qualifies as a “local humanitarian actor”? What are the goals of these agendas? In general, these conversations have been led by and focused on the experiences of international humanitarian actors, which in turn has shaped the discourse about both the status quo and necessary reforms. Recently, there have been increased efforts to re-center the voices of local humanitarian actors in these conversations. This paper offers deep insight into fundamental questions of this discussion in three different contexts: a region of Haiti recovering from a hurricane, displacement and political crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the overlapping pressures of migration, conflict, and climate change in Colombia.