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When Compliance Does Harm- New briefing paper

In complex emergencies like Myanmar’s, local aid workers and systems are essential to ensure

life-saving aid for civilian populations, whilst also contributing to longer-term civil society

strengthening, community development, and peacebuilding.

As well as being accountable to the communities they serve, local aid workers and systems must meet the compliance requirements of international funding agencies. But although compliance systems are

important to ensure the accountability and effectiveness of internationally funded aid

programs, international compliance frameworks are commonly experienced by local actors as

top-down, overly rigid, and unsuited to highly volatile and politically complex crises—and this

despite commitments made in the Grand Bargain to localise aid systems and to simplify and

streamline requirements like reporting.

Download full briefing paper below

Compliance Briefing Paper FINAL FOR DISTRIBUTION2
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Evidence from local actors in Myanmar demonstrates that, while established with good

intentions, international agencies’ frameworks and requirements can have unintended

negative consequences, causing harm for local systems and actors: they can impede funding

flows for essential aid delivery; they are often unfeasible in complex and unstable contexts;

they can undermine and divert essential resources from emergency responses; they can

increase security risks for local aid workers and vulnerable communities; they can preclude

local procurement and responses that strengthen local economies; they can erode trust in aid

partnerships; and they can push local actors toward ‘unethical’ practices.

These dynamics can in turn result in a situation where the primary imperative to ‘do no harm’ ends up being

subordinated to the compliance systems and fiduciary risk management of international

agencies. Additionally, top-down compliance systems can perpetuate unequal and unjust aid

relationships—ultimately, going against international commitments to localise aid systems and


As such, there is an urgent need for international agencies to apply a Do No Harm

approach in reviewing and imposing compliance requirements, to be more flexible, and to work

with local actors in developing compliance frameworks that strengthen rather than undermine

local systems and approaches.


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