An event on the margins of the opening of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Monday, September 19, brought together key perspectives in the conversation on localization and afforded an opportunity for USAID Administrator Samantha Power to update the group on the Agency’s ongoing commitments and to point to an exciting new localization initiative in Africa.
The International Peace Institute (IPI) hosted the discussion on “Doing Aid Better: Actions to Support Local Leadership in Policy, Funding and Practice,” which was held as an in-person roundtable and livestreamed on their website.
A highlight of the conversation, which was moderated by Elana Aquino, U.S. Executive Director of Peace Direct, was Administrator Power’s announcement of a new Africa Localization Initiative, based in part on the successful Centroamérica Local initiative launched in November 2021.
“Based on what we’ve learned in Central America, today I’m announcing a new, similar regional approach in sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa Localization Initiative. Working with our partners in Congress, we intend to set aside funding exclusively to work with local organizations across the continent and elevate their leadership as we work to achieve shared goals. We’ll be announcing more details about this initiative in future months, but we are excited about the new partnerships it will generate,” stated Administrator Power.
The session included frank discussions about challenges, including barriers to accessibility, and Administrator Power cited the WorkwithUSAID.org platform as one of the Agency’s efforts to simplify and streamline processes for potential and new partners.
Participants in the roundtable stressed a desire for continued dialogue and assessment of the policies and practices that may hinder localization. They urged a shift in mindset that was summed up at the end of the session by Peter Laugharn, President & CEO of the Hilton Foundation, who suggested reframing development efforts “not [as] aid but resourcing.”
Throughout the conversation, participants from Civicus, NEAR, the Skoll Foundation, the Hilton Foundation, and others voiced a shared desire to see localization commitments upheld, urgent pleas for improved processes, and strong reminders that shifting toward local leadership is not a zero-sum game for those involved, whether they are established partners or new to USAID.