As the predominant global development and humanitarian donor, the U.S. government will shape the global response to COVID-19, helping to save lives and curtail economic losses across the world. The United States leading an effective COVID-19 response in the developing world will protect the American people by limiting the resurgence of the disease, mitigating the destabilizing economic and political effects of the pandemic, saving lives, and preserving long-term U.S. investments and gains in partner-country development.
There are six areas that the U.S. government should focus on in order to lead a successful pandemic response globally. One of these critical areas is working directly with local governments and civil society organizations. Local actors have the knowledge and access to guide U.S. assistance to aid health systems and the economy in the places where it is needed most. They should be the partners of choice, particularly with transportation routes closed and supply chains disrupted. Successful COVID-19 responses will require effective local solutions that engage both governments and local civil society organizations in decision-making.
Working locally means that U.S. government and other aid donors should coordinate programming with country-led COVID-19 response teams; prioritize partnerships with local organizations; invest in innovative solutions; and support civil society and civic space. Following this guidance will invest U.S. taxpayer dollars in the most effective global response to the pandemic.
Local organizations and INGOs are already charting the course for implementing these best practices. From USAID-funded 3-D printers producing face shields in concert with local engineering firms, to NGOs coordinating with education ministries to advance national education priorities during the pandemic, these principles are being put to practice for results.
Local organizations, which should be the preferred partner of USAID, are showing capability to respond to the pandemic-related needs of their communities. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an international NGO, is partnering with local organizations to support their ability to meet immediate needs in their communities. In Lebanon, CRS is supporting Sisters of the Sacred Heart to provide education materials to Syrian refugee children amid school closures, and with Imam Sader Foundation in its awareness campaigns to encourage families to stay at home.
USAID should look to these examples as a model for how it can strengthen its local engagement as part of the COVID-19 response. See more about how local organizations and INGOs are putting these pandemic response principles to practice here.