USAID’s First Localization Progress Report: Four Highlights
Sarah Rose is USAID's Senior Advisor for Localization.
In November 2021, Administrator Samantha Power set forth in a speech, “A New Vision for Global Development,” two ambitious goals for supporting locally led development. First, by the end of FY 2025, USAID will channel 25 percent of its funding directly to local partners. And second, by 2030, at least 50 percent of USAID programs will create space for local actors to exercise leadership over priority setting, activity design, implementation, and defining and measuring results.
USAID recently released a new Localization Progress Report providing the first update on the Agency’s localization progress since the Administrator’s speech. Here are four highlights.
1. Committing to Direct Local Funding
A key component of USAID’s approach to localization is to channel more funding directly to the local actors who are positioned to drive change in their communities. In FY 2022, direct local funding—to individuals, organizations, or corporations based and legally organized in a country where USAID works—reached nearly $1.6 billion, or 10.2 percent of obligations. Over the last year, direct local funding increased by $623 million, a 66 percent year-over-year increase in dollar value and a 38 percent increase in the percentage of funding going to local partners. This is the highest level and percent of direct local funding in at least a decade. USAID’s Missions and other overseas units are leading the way, having collectively directed 18 percent of their funding to local partners in FY 2022. USAID also provided another $57 million to partners working regionally (see the full report for more details on how direct local funding is measured).
2. Partnering with Governments
Partnerships with governments are another important element of localization. USAID partners directly with select governments to help strengthen their systems and support their capacity to deliver public services. In FY 2022, USAID provided $199 million in government-to-government assistance to 17 countries, the overwhelming majority of which (77 percent in FY 2022) supported health objectives.
3. Measuring Local Leadership
Equally important to USAID’s goal of providing more direct funding to local partners is the goal of shifting power and enabling more local leadership of USAID-funded programming. The Localization Progress Report outlines a new way to track progress toward this objective across the many ways we engage with local actors, whether they are recipients of direct funding, subcontractors or subrecipients to an international partner, participants in a USAID program, or members of a community affected by USAID programming. The indicator, which was developed based on input from local partners and community-based organizations, U.S.-based implementing partners, and USAID staff, will track the use of 14 good practices across four categories: (1) working directly with local partners, (2) creating effective local partnerships, (3) recognizing, leveraging, and strengthening local capacity, and (4) engaging communities directly.
4. Looking Forward on Localization
In the year-plus since Administrator Power’s announcement, USAID has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to localization—and made important initial strides. The Agency released a new Acquisition and Assistance (A&A) Strategy that outlines the ways we are shifting our business practices to advance sustainable, inclusive, and locally led development and become more accessible to local actors. These efforts are supported by the Agency’s revised Risk Appetite Statement that articulates a high appetite for taking smart and disciplined risks when it comes to working with local partners because of the opportunities these partnerships bring for more equitable and sustainable outcomes. USAID also created a first-of-its-kind Local Capacity Strengthening Policy that commits the Agency to supporting local priorities for capacity strengthening, building on existing skills and expertise. And USAID is integrating localization into Agency guidance, training, and resources to equip staff with the information and skills necessary to advance locally led development.
Underpinning all of these efforts is a concerted investment in USAID’s workforce, recognizing that localization is time and staff intensive. With support from Congress, the Agency is growing its staff numbers, while focusing on retention and expanding leadership opportunities for Foreign Service National staff, who are central to advancing locally led development.
All of these efforts will set the stage for continued progress toward the Agency’s localization objectives in the coming years. To be sure, there is still more to achieve. But early signs of progress show that USAID is headed in the right direction.
For more information on USAID's localization efforts, visit the Agency's localization page.