Remarks at the Transformation from the Ground Up: Acting at the Local Level at the 2023 High-Level Political Forum

Michele Sumilas
USAID Assistant to the Administrator of the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL)
New York, New York
July 11, 2023


Thank you Mr. Chair and thank you to today’s panelists.

The complex cycles of crises facing the world today require new, more locally led approaches. Local actors are present before, during, and after a crisis, and are therefore well situated to take a more nuanced and integrated approach to humanitarian, development, and peace programming.

As part of our commitment to implementation of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and our determination to uphold the inherent dignity of every human being, the United States prioritizes engagement with local organizations and fosters locally led development solutions to advance the SDGs.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power has reaffirmed USAID’s commitment to locally led programming, based on the belief that when programs are locally owned and led they are more effective and more sustainable.

The United States has learned several important lessons through our locally led programming in support of the SDGs.

First, we have to change the way that we do business in order to be more responsive to rapidly evolving local realities. This includes actions like reducing barriers to entry for local partners and creating opportunities for local partners to engage in these processes in languages other than English. Expanding and diversifying our partnership base helps us collectively strengthen local systems and ensure our investments reach the right communities at the right time and in the right ways.

Second, while these partnerships are an important aspect of local ownership, localization is not only about directly funding local actors. Locally led development requires equitable and inclusive engagement of local stakeholders, using local knowledge to drive program design, and respecting local actors’ right to exercise influence over how change happens in their own communities.

Through consultations with more than 300 organizations across 50 countries, USAID has identified good practices that meaningfully create space for local actors to exercise this leadership. We will incentivize and track the use of these practices across our activities.

Third, full implementation of the SDGs in this era of polycrisis requires more strategic investment in the long-term resilience of local actors and local systems. Capacity strengthening efforts must be demand-driven and context-specific, and designed and implemented in ways that promote peace and stability rather than exacerbate conflict dynamics.

Ultimately, the United States is working to meet partners where they are and to come to the table with patience, humility, and flexibility. We commit to continuously learning and adapting together as we jointly advance the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you.