Building Civil Society Through Humanitarian Assistance
The Importance of Capacity Building in Localization
The Investing in Syrian Humanitarian Action (ISHA) program is unique for its strong emphasis on strengthening local Syrian NGOs capacity to provide humanitarian assistance in the immediate term, and to continue civil society work in the long-term. As an externally evaluated pilot, funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance; ISHA provides proof of concept for its novel approach which expands funding localization, to include capacity building components alongside equitable partnerships built on mutual trust.
ISHA operated from 2015-2019, and competitively selected local Syrian NGOs as sub-grantees to provide humanitarian assistance. Partners expressed that ISHA was the first international partner to engage in “real” capacity building that was multi-modal and holistic, and that targeted individuals within organizations and the entire organizational structure.
The results from ISHA are promising. We find that strong partnerships with local CSOs benefited aid recipients and strengthened civil society in a rapidly narrowing civil space. Local partners were uniquely integrated into affected communities, allowing them to understand and respond to humanitarian crises. Finally, investments in their capacity have long term implications as local NGOs represent a stable humanitarian presence.