As local as possible, as international as necessary: Understanding capacity and complementarity in humanitarian action

Understanding these debates and issues is critical to understanding whether the current diagnosis and proposed solutions to support a more local humanitarian response are the right ones. This Working Paper takes a critical look at this discourse. It argues that defining and assessing capacity is not a technical exercise but a political one; that issues of capacity are not new to the humanitarian sector, but that past efforts at capacity strengthening have not necessarily resulted in more locally-led humanitarian action, in part because they have tended to focus on making local organisations a better fit for partnerships, rather than better or more effective humanitarian actors in their own right; and that, in exploring the interaction between local and international humanitarianism there is a need to identify those factors that support or undermine complementarity between local and international actors.

Resource Info

Resource Type

White Paper


Published by

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG)

Authored by

Veronique Barbelet


Humanitarian Sectors