HelpAge International and Locally-Led Development

16 February 2024 | Luke Tumelty
We catch up with our 9th Programme Associate, Luke Tumelty, who started his placement with HelpAge International last year.

Ukraine refugees in Moldova at MoldoExpo, a centre hosting refugees in Chisinau - HelpAge International and Israel Fuguemann


I am now almost halfway through my six months with HelpAge International's global team in London, after which I will travel to Addis Ababa and work for Help Age International’s country office in Ethiopia for another six months.

A key aspect of Help Age's global strategy is the organisation's commitment to localisation. This means actively working to shift power away from country offices managed by HelpAge International and give more decision-making authority to national partner organisations. This move represents a significant paradigm shift in the development landscape, one with the potential for far-reaching benefits and I am pleased to be a part of this endeavour for change.

The kinds of tasks and projects I have been working on so far have covered all three of HelpAge’s core functions of supporter, convener and thought leader - set out by HelpAge to embrace locally-led development. On the ‘supporter’ side, I've taken part in capacity-strengthening workshops, most recently a training session on stakeholder mapping with HelpAge Tanzania as well as HelpAge International’s country office in Kenya. These sessions are a great example of how this global network of organisations can mutually benefit from knowledge sharing and ultimately improve the situation of older people in all regions of the world.


HelpAge India


Another way this global network can bring far-reaching benefits is as a platform for collaboration at all levels of society, with HelpAge working as a ‘convener’, assisting smaller local organisations and larger global organisations (like the UN) to come together and increase their impact. I witnessed this first hand on a visit to Moldova where HelpAge has been involved in the formation of a Platform on Active Ageing, made up of civil society organisations covering abroad range of niches within the field of humanitarian aid and development, including tackling gender-based violence, providing emergency and long-term assistance to Ukrainian refugees and advocating for improved pensions. Bringing these organisations together helps those fighting for change to see more clearly where and how the voices of older people can be amplified and where there may be gaps that need to be filled to ensure that their rights may be fully enjoyed while holding to account those who may be preventing this.

The third core function is ‘thought leader’ which refers to the role of HelpAge to collaborate with others and develop new thinking, matched with practical solutions. I have recently had an opportunity to do this through my work on the HelpAge Climate Change Portfolio, part of which has involved a report on climate change and human rights which has been submitted to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The aim of this report was to gather testimonies from our network members on how communities they work with have experienced loss and damage from climate change. In putting together this report we received unique stories from India, Thailand and Mozambique which were unified by a shared commitment by local communities to fight against climate justice and stand up for their human rights. Throughout the responses I was inspired to see innovative examples of the way in which the civil society space can act as a vital lifeline achieving positive outcomes in tough situations and I’m proud to have been involved in amplifying these voices to the level of the UN.

I have no doubts that the months ahead will be filled with lots more opportunities whilst I begin to prepare myself for the next exciting new challenge in Ethiopia.


Ukrainian refugee at the Palanca border, Moldova - HelpAge International and Israel Fuguemann


Applications are now open for our next Programme Associate internship beginning in May, so if gaining programmatic experience like this – which is so vital to getting your first job in international development – appeals to you, read more about the role here.

2024 Programme Associate Internship