Image by © Hazara Kültür/TMK
  • Report
  • 22 November 2022

Funding to local actors: evidence from the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye: Chapter 6

Conclusion and recommendations


International humanitarian and development grant funding has significantly contributed toward the government-led response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Türkiye. The increased availability of funding and presence of international donors and organisations has also undeniably supported the development of L/NNGOs. Local actors have expanded their activities and gained greater know-how and experience. Coordination and networks between LNAs and international partners have improved and promoted greater collaboration among L/NNGOs, strengthening local leadership.

LNAs, especially the GoT and the TRC, are increasingly responsible for implementing most internationally funded programmes in Türkiye. However, donor funding instruments, regulations and preferences mean that LNAs are still unable to access much international donor funding directly. This challenge is more acute for L/NNGOs than it is for national government institutions, which receive the majority of this direct funding. Nevertheless, considering that Türkiye is a higher middle-income country with a strong state tradition not historically reliant on external grant funding, the direct funding that is currently available to the government is notably low. Some significant shifts from humanitarian budget lines – from which most funding to L/NNGOs comes – to development ones, suggests that access to funding for L/NNGOs may require development of mechanisms to increase funding directed to LNAs, especially L/NNGOs. Our research found that local NGOs, refugee-led and women’s organisations in particular received a very small proportion of international funding, both directly and indirectly.

Access to quality funding is both a criterion and enabler of localisation, as well as indicative of its nature and extent in practice. However, localisation is about more than funding: it is also about interrogating and breaking down broader power relations between donors, international organisations, intermediary organisations and local actors. Localisation needs to be seen as a framework which recognises the experiences and leadership of local actors rather than focusing solely on funding transactional relationships. How funding is organised, prioritised and accessed needs to reflect this. While there are examples of strategic partnerships in Türkiye, the widespread dependence on short-term, projectised humanitarian funding was found to reinforce a ‘subcontracting’ relationship between international and local actors in some cases. This model treats L/NNGOs as implementing partners only and highlights a disconnect between the increasing support for localisation at the global level and the reality at country level.

Türkiye remains a complex political environment to operate in for both international and national actors. Calls to increase funding ‘as directly as possible’ to LNAs are valid – direct funding is a more cost-effective way of delivering assistance and links donor funding decisions more closely with those who know the context and needs best. However, many donors have limited capacity, or are unwilling, to manage large numbers of grants – a reality reflected throughout the humanitarian system. Funding which passes through an intermediary therefore needs to be based on improved partnerships, enhanced coordination and complementarity, joint planning and prioritisation and equitable cost and risk sharing.

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Recommendations for donors

  • Donors should increase direct funding to LNAs wherever possible and actively encourage their international partners to pass on more funding. Despite LNAs now implementing the majority of programming to support Syrian refugees, they still receive most funding through an intermediary organisation. Türkiye has strong and well-established public institutions and a civil society with humanitarian and refugee response experience that predates the Syrian crisis. Properly resourcing and investing in LNAs to optimise the experience and capacity that already exists is critical for expanding and sustaining long-term, effective support to disaster and crisis-affected populations as well as at-risk communities.
  • Donors need to commit to ensuring that the localisation of funding in Türkiye includes different types of LNAs, and that there is genuine involvement of local actors in determining funding priorities. While direct funding to LNAs in Türkiye seems to be growing, it is mainly directed at government actors. L/NNGOs play an important and complementary role to the state and also need to be supported. The increasing role of IFIs and development agencies in the refugee response risks less funding reaching civil society as these actors typically provide little or no funding to L/NNGOs, with diminishing opportunities for civil society to influence funding priorities, especially in the context of strong government leadership. In particular, groups such as local NGOs, refugee-led and women’s organisations are at risk of being left behind, and with them the marginalised communities they support. Wider risks around the politicisation of refugees reinforce the need for civic space to be strengthened and for L/NNGOs and their networks to be properly resourced.
  • Funding mechanisms need to be more accessible to a diverse range of L/NNGOs. Funding instruments should be better adapted to different types of organisations, including the levels of experience, the administrative size of organisations and capacities (e.g., language). While the exact shape of the post-FRIT funding is not clear, it provides an opportunity to reshape how funding is channelled to Türkiye and to remove prohibitive eligibility regulations for L/NNGOs. Funding processes should also be streamlined to address the administrative burden L/NNGOs face in applying for and managing funding grants. The LIFT, co-funded by BMZ and ECHO, is a good example of a funding instrument that addresses some of the barriers local actors face in accessing international funding. With no other pooled fund in Türkiye, there is space for the scaling up of this type of multi-donor funding mechanism, with support from other donors. While development funding, which typically has longer-term horizons, would appear to be increasing, most of the funding which L/NNGOs receive still comes from humanitarian budgets. There is therefore a need to expand the accessibility of development funding and mechanisms for L/NNGOs to ensure the decrease in humanitarian funding does not cut off funding opportunities for civil society-led initiatives. Nexus approaches also need to be implemented in funding mechanisms to holistically address converging humanitarian, development and peacebuilding priorities.
  • Donors need to realise commitments made around quality funding and to provide multi-year, flexible funding that covers the overheads of all recipients. Many donor-funded programmes are well established yet run on one-year cycles. Short-term grants limit programme impact, weaken relationships between aid organisations and refugees and host communities and perpetuate fragile existences for many L/NNGOs. While there remains a need for humanitarian assistance, better-designed humanitarian funding would support both international and national actors to better respond to the medium-term needs of Syrian refugees. Multi-year funding would help enable a transition to longer-term resilience programming.
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Recommendations for intermediaries

  • International organisations that act as intermediary funders to LNAs should increase the volumes of funding they pass on to LNAs. They also have a critical role to play in ensuring L/NNGOs have access to quality funding. Intermediary organisations should increase provision of multi-year, flexible funding to partners, as well as advocate to donors to increase both the quantity and quality of funding provided. Intermediaries must also commit to providing indirect costs on all projects to local partners. Intermediaries also need to create space for L/NNGOs to directly access decision-making spaces. High-level refugee response coordination in Türkiye remains closed to L/NNGOs, and intermediaries should advocate for L/NNGOs in these spaces not open to them. International actors also need to continue to build on efforts to meaningfully include local actors in setting strategies and priorities for funding and lend their international funding networks to local actors to support better long-term outcomes for refugees and host communities.
  • Intermediaries should continue, and enhance efforts, to develop strategic partnerships with L/NNGOs, including local NGOs, refugee-led and women’s organisations, and address deep-rooted power dynamics. Some progress has been made to ensure participation of L/NNGOs in programme design, but there is still a long way to go to move away from ‘subcontracting’ models, and to live up to commitments made around transparent, open and equitable partnerships. As the refugee response in Türkiye continues to evolve, longer-term, strategic partnerships would allow for more honest conversations about the different roles international and national actors should play, including around the role of intermediaries, as L/NNGOs continue to implement a large share of refugee response programming.
  • Provide support to growing local networks. Growing networks like the TMK and the Localisation Advocacy Group have a clear role to play in coordinating and representing the interests of different L/NNGOs in international coordination mechanisms and wider collaboration around localisation. The formation of a National Reference Group in Türkiye as part of the Grand Bargain 2.0 provides an opportunity to support and facilitate locally led, multi-stakeholder action around localisation. Furthermore, as development funding increases as a proportion of overall refugee financing in Türkiye, the need for joined-up ‘nexus’ coordination mechanisms are even more important. L/NNGOs need to be front and centre of these coordination mechanisms and discussions.
  • Intermediaries committed to the localisation of aid have a critical role to play in changing the narrative in the humanitarian aid sector. International organisations should ensure that mainstreamed throughout their work and partnerships with LNAs is a conscious commitment to challenge the concepts, language and theoretical frameworks that tend to reproduce discrimination and exclusion.