Partnering with IKEA Foundation and local communities for effective emergency response

Oxfam Private sector


As world leaders and NGOs meet for the World Humanitarian Summit the importance of local organisations in responding to disasters is high on the agenda. Here Alex Lankester, Head of Corporate Partnerships, explains how Oxfam is taking its humanitarian work with local partners to a new stage, in collaboration with the IKEA Foundation.

With the global humanitarian system close to breaking point and unable to meet the rising needs of crisis affected countries (an estimated 125 million people are currently in need of aid), Oxfam is seeing an increased recognition of the need for a substantial shift of power and resource to local and national humanitarian actors (local community groups, small to medium enterprises, and government organisations). They are often the first responders when crisis hits and they know the local context better than international NGOs and donors,
and yet they receive a tiny fraction of international aid, currently only 0.2%. The vast majority goes to large organisations such as the UN and global aid agencies like the Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam, which are at present seen as better equipped to lead emergency responses.

To this end, Oxfam has developed a ground breaking partnership with the IKEA Foundation and local community organisations, to boost the ability of communities to respond effectively to emergencies. As a result, vulnerable people in disaster prone countries will benefit from better humanitarian response.

The £5.6 million programme, launched this week at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, will help build the resilience and expertise of local organisations to deal with crises from severe flooding to large numbers of refugees fleeing conflict.

Oxfam has a long history of working with partners on the ground to get rapid help to those in need and this new venture is part of our commitment to increase the share of our humanitarian funding going directly to local organisations from 20% to 30% by 2018.

Around 76,000 people will benefit from the initial three-year programme

The programme will initially focus on Bangladesh and Uganda, countries especially at risk from regular crises that often don’t make the headlines but play havoc with the lives of millions of people. Both countries are affected by floods and droughts, and climate change is expected to increase such extreme weather events and force more people to abandon their farms. Uganda is home to more than half a million refugees fleeing conflict in South Sudan and the DRC, while violence in Bangladesh has driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

This partnership with the IKEA Foundation will enable us to share our extensive operational experience with local humanitarian groups (for example through developing tools and resources or arranging peer learning and staff secondments) in specialist areas from delivering water in conflict zones to how to set up robust monitoring systems and manage finances. The collaborative process will also support local organisations to be recognised as vital partners at an international level. Around 76,000 people will benefit from the initial three-year programme but we hope that demonstrating the
effectiveness of transferring significant resources from global agencies to local groups could be a game-changer for the way that humanitarian aid is delivered.

As Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, said:

‘There’s huge potential for improving the efficiency and quality of disaster response by putting a stronger focus on empowering local actors and increase preparedness levels.  Local organizations are often better placed to provide immediate assistance because they are on the ground and understand the community and culture. 

We are really excited to launch this partnership with Oxfam, especially as climate change means that disasters are becoming more frequent, making it more important than ever to respond effectively. We believe this programme could help families get back on their feet more quickly and help restore a safe place to call home for all children impacted.’

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Author: Alex Lankester
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.